What causes surfactant leaching and how to clean surfactant leaching from your walls.
Bathrooms are a common place for paint failures. Surfactant leaching, while it doesn’t look great in your bathroom, isn’t a failure of the paint. Learn how it’s actually designed to help you and how to remedy the streaky mess that’s left behind.
1- What is surfactant leaching?
Surfactants are necessary water-soluble ingredients of latex paint. When paint dries in dry, well-ventilated conditions, those surfactants slowly rise to the surface. However, when those surfactants are exposed to moisture or humidity in the air while drying, they rise too quickly to the paint surface and settle, resulting in wall and ceiling stains, or surfactant leaching.
The stains left behind from surfactant leaching, also known as streaking or weeping, can be oily, glossy, or sticky. It appears frequently in bathrooms and other humid environments on ceilings or walls. It is important to note that the discoloration from surfactant leaching is not the same as water stains or spots and should not be treated as such. See Benjamin Moore bathroom paint’s article here.
2- Is surfactant leaching a Paint Failure?
Peeling ceiling paint, blistering paint and chipping ceiling paint failures can be caused by excess moisture in places like a bathroom. In the case of surfactant leaching, however, it is not considered a paint failure. The paint is designed to act this way and even the best bathroom paint to prevent mold can have this issue. Darker paint colors tend to show the surfactant leaching streaks and stains more than lighter colors too.
3- Why do I get surfactant leaching?
Surfactant leaching paint can look pretty bad, especially in the first few weeks after painting. Even though paint dries fast, as fast as an hour, it takes about 30 days to cure and harden. In the manufacturing process there are surfactants added which aid in the spread of paint as you apply it. These compounds typically rise to the surface slowly over time and dissipate. In the case of a steamy bathroom, they are raised to the surface, since they are water-soluble, very fast. Every time you take a shower and get condensation on your walls it causes the surfactants to leach to the surface. They then run down the wall with the condensation and the concentrated drop of waxy/ oily surfactant can make your freshly painted walls look terrible. Good thing you can clean it off. Read further to learn how.
4- Is surfactant leaching toxic?
Surfactant leaching is an aesthetic concern, and not harmful to the paint nor the surface it is on. As with any paint product you shouldn’t consume it. Sherwin Williams.
5- How to remove surfactant leaching on walls
While you can’t stop surfactant leaching, you can clean it. You may have tried to wipe the sticky residue off your walls and while some of it comes off it doesn’t quite all come off. Want to know how to correct surfactant leaching on walls? Take a hot shower! Yes, that’s right. In order to clean up the surfactant leaching, you have to mimic what caused it in the first place. You want to cause it to get wet with condensation and then wipe the walls down with a soft cloth. Pssst!- just use your bath towel. In most cases, this will do the trick and take no extra time at all. It may take a few hot showers to get the surfactant out of the paint.
6- Stubborn surfactant leaching stains?
In some cases, you may need to take a little more action to get rid of the surfactant leaching stains on your bathroom. You can do the same process several times over the next few days. So, each time you take a hot steamy shower to be sure to wipe down the walls after. If it has been 30 days and the paint has fully cured try the following step after trying the hot shower method. If that doesn’t work you can use a damp cloth and a mild dish detergent which will help break through the residual surfactant on the surface. Rinse thoroughly and you should be good to go. No more sticky residue and streaks on the walls.
PROS AND CONS
It is always best to wait at least 2 weeks before washing your walls.
Even though the surfactant leaching isn’t pretty, it won’t cause any issues. Waiting for the paint to cure a while will help it from being abraded even from soft cloth wiping. Surfactant leaching pictures. Sometimes any washing of very dark colors and flatter sheens can leave marks from the cloth used. This is called burnishing. Test an area first. Did you know that surfactant leaching exterior paint is also an issue? It happens in the months when overnight temperatures are cooler causing excess moisture/ dew on a siding while the paint cures. The marks from the leaching usually go away within 6 weeks all by itself. In extreme cases it can be washed or rinsed off.