Bathroom and kitchen paint buying guide

Bathroom and kitchen paint buying guide

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

71 guides

Bathrooms and kitchens require the use of a specially formulated paint designed to cope with condensation, high temperatures and splashes. From acrylic, oil-based and alkyd paints to fungicidal treatments and colourants, we'll talk you through your options for painting a bathroom or kitchen.

Important features

  • Oil-based
  • Acrylic
  • Alkyd
  • Coverage
  • VOCs
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What is paint made of?

Paint is made up of a number of components, each of which plays a special role.

Binders or resins


Provide adherent properties to paint and makes it harden on contact with air. Binders ensure that the paint sticks to surfaces, and that all the components of the paint combine properly.


Pigments are the particles that provide colour. They are typically solids meaning that they don't dissolve; instead, they are suspended in the paint which means that they tend to settle. That is why it's important to mix paint before application.


Adds extra material to paint either to provide certain properties or for economical reasons.


Solvents are mixed with binders and pigments to create a thinner solution; they are essentially used to liquify the paint. The time the paint takes to dry depends on the type of solvent used. Solvents can also be added to paint to thin it out. Be careful: some, such as white spirit, are flammable!


For added properties such as better surface penetration, improved adherence, better coverage or an anti-mould treatment.

What is oil-based paint?


Oil-based paints contain either natural or synthetic oils. These paints require the use of white spirit for diluting or cleaning. They offer extremely good coverage, have a very smooth appearance and are resistant to boot! Over the last decade or so, oil-based paints have been gradually phased out in favour or acrylics, due to their high solvent content.  It is important to ventilate the room properly both during and after application. And be sure to wear a mask!

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Oil-based paints

Acrylic paints


Acrylic paint is the most popular type of water-based paint. Acrylics boast lower solvent contents and faster drying times (around 30 minutes to the touch). Some of the best acrylics even have an EU ecolabel meaning they are free from Volative Organic Compounds (VOCs). Water-based paints are also very easy to wash out of brushes and rollers! And, of course, they are suitable for use in any room.

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Acrylic paint

Alkyd paints: advantages and disadvantages


While acrylic paints do have a lot of benefits, they don't provide the smooth finish offered by oil-based paints. Alkyd paints offer the best of both worlds: they are easy to clean with water, have short drying times and great coverage. These paints offer a lacquer effect and will last longer. They are also less toxic!

Choosing a finish for your bathroom or kitchen


This finish you choose is as much about style as it is about necessity. Matte paints are more sensitive. However, as they don't reflect much light, they tend to conceal flaws. Matte paint is therefore a great choice for older ceilings as more light-reflecting paints will draw attention to any unevenness. For walls, it's best to use a paint with a satin finish as these paints are generally more durable. Finally, you have gloss paints which are even more resistant and are recommended for door and window frames. They help to make small rooms appear larger and allow more light to enter dark rooms.

Volative Organic Compounds (VOCs)


VOCs are chemicals that circulate very easily in the air. Products containing high amounts of VOCs are thought to betoxic and carcinogenic. You should therefore avoid using any paint with a high VOC content. Paints are graded from A+ (low VOC) down to C (high VOC). However, you must air out the room properly during and after paint application regardless of the paint you use. Wearing a mask will help to protect you from any lingering VOCs!

Why apply an undercoat?


Undercoats have been formulated to do a specific job. They are designed to prepare the surface for its top coat by evening it out and sealing it. Even though you won't directly see the undercoat, it will have an impact on the finish and should be chosen to match the surface:

  • universal undercoats or primers: for plasterboard, plaster, concrete or wood (inexpensive);
  • special plasterboard primer: specifically designed to protect fibreboard;
  • hardener: to harden delicate or brittle surfaces;
  • adhesion primer: used for tough-to-paint surfaces (such as plastic).

It's also worth considering a special bathroom or kitchen undercoat!

Why do bathrooms and kitchens require special paints?


Bathrooms and kitchens both contain a lot ofhumidity and heat, which speeds up the ageing process of paint. These rooms frequently have to deal with splashes of substances like soap, grease and detergent, and surfaces need to be cleaned regularly. Most standard paints will not be able to withstand regular cleaning.

How to reduce condensation


Condensation forms when water vapour turns back into liquid upon contact with a cold surface. Kitchens and bathrooms both contain a lot of water vapour. Condensation issues are therefore not uncommon in these rooms and this can have an impact on the cleanliness of these spaces. Special condensation paints contain microbeads to help reduce this cold wall effect and slow down the appearance of condensation. However, these paints are not a substitute for proper ventilation and good insulation. Be sure to air out your room every time water vapour is created!

Fungicide paints 

Mould is another problem that affects homes. It sets in due to condensation and can lead to respiratory issues, particularly among vulnerable people. If you have a mould problem, you can use special paints containing fungicides to help prevent mould growth on certain surfaces. These anti-mould agents are effective against mould marks. So, even if you can't stop condensation you can at least limit the consequences.



Fungicidal and anti-condensation paints have complex formulas and, as such, don't generally come in a wide range of colours. Their colour selection is usually made up of neutral tones. Basically, you won't have a lot of choice. If you're looking for bolder colours, you might want to consider using colourants. But be careful: you won't need much product to get the desired result! You'll also have to pay close attention to your doses if you have to mix your colours in several pots.

Choosing a paint

Kitchens and bathrooms both require the use of special paints that have been designed to work with these specific environments. If you don't want to have to repaint sooner than you'd like, you will have to use kitchen or bathroom paint. Of course, you can paint your bathroom with the first oil-based paint you find – but don't say we didn't warn you! 

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Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton, 71 guides

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical works. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about but are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!

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