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Tips for Long Lasting Wall Coatings

Stuck inside most of the winter? That's when you notice how dingy, stained, and scratched your walls look. But repainting is hard, tedious work. If you have to do it anyway, you might as well do it right so the paint lasts as long -- and is as easy to maintain -- as possible.

Is Painting Necessary?

Are the walls just dirty? Maybe a good cleaning is all that's needed.

A mild soap-and-water solution is the most effective cleaning agent for painted walls. If the paint is stained, clean with a diluted mixture of one of the off-the-shelf household cleansers. Water stains cannot be cleaned from painted surfaces.

If the stains, discolorations and/or scratches cannot be cleaned, repainting is required.

Clean Before You Paint

  1. For the longest lasting paint job, start by washing the walls with a mild soap-and-water solution.

  2. Before painting, prime stains appropriately. Oily or greasy stains should be covered with a water-thinned primer. Water stains can be prevented from bleeding through new paint by covering them with two or three coats of an oil-based primer.

  3. Mold and mildew must be eliminated by applying a bleach-and-water solution over the mold and mildew, scrubbing with household cleaner, and then wiping the area well with clear water.

Paint Options

Paint is either water-based (latex, vinyl, or acrylic) or oil-based (alkyd).

Water-based paint is generally more permeable, quicker drying, less durable, and shows streaks more readily than oil-based paint. However, today's water-based paints, especially all-acrylic paints, have improved significantly, and are the most commonly used paints because they are easier to maintain, quicker-drying, and do not require thinning agents for clean-up. They are also generally much lower in volatile organic components (VOCs) than oil-based paints, which means they produce less odor during the painting and drying process.

Acrylic paints are more elastic, hold color better, tend to crack less, and are easier to apply and clean up. Water-based paints can be applied over either oil- or water-based, coatings, but oil-based paints should generally only be applied over bare or oil-based surfaces.

Especially for winter applications, when windows are generally closed and less ventilation is available, low VOC or no-VOC paints should be strongly considered.

Related Information

Earth Friendly Cleaning Supplies

Safety with Paint Strippers

Content updated on 8/3/2006

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