How to get rid of those nasty stains for good!


Effective Pro Tips for Covering Unsightly Stains  

Maybe it was a burst pipe that wreaked havoc on the ceiling in your dining room, leaving behind an ugly yellow stain. Perhaps the previous owners of your home were heavy smokers and signs of their habit are seeping through on the ceilings and walls throughout your new home. Possibly your Crayon wielding child discovered the blank canvas that used to be your Dover White living room wall.

Many of our customers call us after they think they have taken care of the problem by repainting the affected area, only to discover in a few weeks the stain has magically reappeared. Stains are like bad habits. They have a way of creeping back in when you least expect it. Simply slapping a coat or two of paint over a stained area is usually not the best approach to make a problem go away for good. Using the correct primer specifically-formulated for locking away the specific kind of tough stain you’re covering is essential.

Water Stains 101: Applying a Permanent Fix

It might have started as a tiny drip that went unnoticed for years until it began soaking through the ceiling. Or it could be a burst pipe that sends a waterfall of fluid from the upstairs bathroom into the dining room below. Whatever the cause, following these tips can rid your home of water stains.

Tip #1 – Stop the leak

It goes without saying that if the ugly stain was caused by a water leak that you should make sure the leak is fixed before repairing and repainting the wall. Leaky pipes are usually the culprit when it comes to water stains that appear on the ceiling, especially on the first floor of a two-story home. If a bathroom is located directly above the leaking area, check there first. If there is not a bathroom above the affected area, the leak could be from the siding or roofing. Sometimes the most frustrating thing you’ll deal with is finding the true source of a leak. Water travels, and determining the path can be quite a challenge.

Tip #2 – Check the drywall

There is no point in wasting good paint on water-logged, crumbling drywall. Once the leak is fixed, give the affected area ample time to dry out. We recommend waiting at least a week. Then, push on the area with a finger. If it is swollen, or feels hollow or spongy, you will want to replace it with new drywall before painting for the best results. Read/watch our drywall patching blog/video here. If you are able to repaint the existing drywall, priming before applying any patching compound will keep the stains from bleeding through the patch.

Tip #3 – Use an oil based (alkyd) stain-blocking primer

This is perhaps one of the most important steps involved in fixing a stain. Not all paint products are created equal and using the wrong ones can provide disappointing results. Treating the water stain with an oil-based primer is the surefire way to keep stains locked away behind a fresh coat of paint for good. Several name brands offer an oil-based primer, including the popular and highly effective Kilz Original. Kilz is available inexpensively at most big-box stores. PPG Paints makes yet another popular and efficacious oil-based product named Seal Grip (17-941NF), which along with stain blocking is also an excellent bonding primer over most surfaces. Aptly named Zinsser Cover Stain is also a readily available stain blocker that pros have trusted for decades. If you have a local Sherwin-Williams store, SW’s new Extreme Block is a very effective water stain blocking primer. All of these primers (and many more) listed above share the commonality of being alkyd resin (oil based) primers, and all do their jobs well when blocking water stains. Unfortunately, they also share the undesirable trait of exuding unpleasant (sometimes intolerable) odor. If you’re painting in an occupied space and odor is an issue, Zinsser Odorless Oil Primer (sold at PPG stores and other specialty paint stores) works very well and truly lives up to it’s name. For most homeowners, Zinsser Odorless is a great option.

For more information, check out our blog dedicated to water stains here.

Smoke Stains 101: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

Smoke can leave nasty areas of discoloration and bothersome odors. Maybe your home was owned by heavy smokers at one time. Maybe there are soot stains from a frequently used fireplace in the family room. Small house fires also can result in smoke damage to walls and ceilings that require restoration. Whatever the reason, if your walls and ceilings are stained with soot, smoke, or nicotine, there are steps you can take to remove the sight – and smell – of those stains for good.

Tip #1 – Sponge affected areas

Chemical sponges, sometimes referred to as dry cleaning sponges, are the first tool to use when ridding your home of smoke stains. They remove most of the soot or smoke stain without smearing it across the rest of the wall or ceiling. Despite their name, there are no chemicals in these sponges, so they are safe to use. They are made of vulcanized rubber, which is great at lifting and absorbing residue from surfaces.

If there is still some stubborn staining after the chemical sponging is completed, you may need to do a wet cleaning to remove it. Using just any cleaning product will not work. We highly recommend Trisodium Phosphate (TSP). This stuff is legendary for its ability as a heavy-duty cleaner. If it is not available in your area, it can be substituted with a phosphate-free version. Follow-up by wiping down the area with clean, warm water to remove all cleaner residue. Then let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Tip #2 – Apply a stain-blocking primer

No matter how well you clean, when it comes to smoke, some staining is going to be impossible to completely remove. That is why it is imperative to use a stain-blocking primer. Unlike with water stains, smoke stains can be a little tougher to conceal. Some painting companies recommend the use of oil-based primers like the ones we discussed earlier. However, oil-based primers may not be as effective at keeping the color and smell associated with smoke stains at bay. A tried and true primer we like to use is B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer and Sealer. B-I-N is an alcohol based product that has been around for ages, and is the gold standard when it comes to blocking stains and odors caused by smoke damage. B-I-N is used nearly exclusively by fire and water restoration companies, who face the worst of the worst stains on a daily basis. B-I-N also acts as a vapor barrier and boasts an amazing permeability rating of less than 1 – which sets it apart from all others when it comes to its ability to hold out stains and odors. The caveat is that B-I-N is messy to work with because of its thin consistency, and due to its alcohol base it is even worse smelling than its oil based counterparts. Make sure you have adequate ventilation and wear a high-quality respirator.

For more information, check out our blog dedicated to smoke stains here.

All those other miscellaneous Stains 101: Stuff happens…..

Crayons… pens… markers… tannin bleed… ketchup from your three-year-old… A million things can happen, and at some point in time we know they will. Whatever the stain may be, we will leave you with a couple general rules and observations.

Tip #1 – Determine your primer resin type

The general rule in covering stains is that if you have a water-soluble stain use an oil based stain blocking primer, and if you have an oil soluble stain use a water based primer. In general, if you are not sure of what you have, oil primers are going to work more often than latex primers. You’ll notice that there weren’t many (any) latex stain blocking primers mentioned in this writing. Others will certainly disagree, but in our opinion, there is good reason for that.

Tip #2 – The paint golden rule

To ensure your new primer and paint is going to stick to your wall, the golden rule of surface preparation is to ensure that your surface is clean, dry, and dull.

Tip #3 – Finish strong

After cleaning and priming, regardless of the stain you’re dealing with, finish the job with a high quality latex wall paint. For all the trouble you’ve gone to, the last key detail that is essential to your post-project happiness is to finish the job with the best paint you can reasonably afford. High quality paint applies better, looks nicer, cleans better, and lasts longer. Looking for tips on how to DIY? Check out our previous blog on interior house painting for tips and tricks, or visit our previous blog on mastering the art of touch-up painting. It is chock full of helpful advice to get the best results.

For more information on choosing the right primer, check out our YouTube channel here.


Calling in the Pros

DIY stain removal and painting is not for everyone. It requires a lot of knowledge, patience and persistence. If you live in Western Pennsylvania area and would like some assistance with your project, reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.

Contact the Pros

Ready to get started with your next painting project but unsure if it is in your budget? Reach out to the expert painting team at ImageWorks Painting to schedule a free consultation today. Give us a call at 724-898-2446, or request a visit online.