Sticky Water-Based Paint on Bathroom Cabinets

Answered by Jeffrey ~ July 8, 2010 ~ Comments

We recently had our bathroom cabinets primed and painted with a chocolate brown water-based paint. Our contractor told us after he finished painting that we should have used an oil-based paint. Now the cabinets are tacky/sticky and every time you close and open a door, a tiny bit of paint pulls away. And when I put stuff in the cabinets, it kind of sticks to the bottom of the cabinet. Is there something we can spray or brush onto these cabinets that will make the paint stay in place? Or do we just have to wait a few days for it to harden. Thanks!

Stephanie ~ Dallas, Texas

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Stephanie, It would have been nice if the painting contractor had offered his opinion before he started the project instead of after it was complete. However, he is correct that a water-based paint does not work very well when used on a surface that is constantly coming into contact with another surface.

I know it seems odd that a paint that has no problems on your interior walls and trim could have problems on your bathroom cabinets, but your walls and trim seldom come into contact with another surface. If your interior doors are painted with a water-based paint and you have one that fits tight in it's jamb, you can leave it closed for a while on a humid day and see the same issue demonstrated as is happening on your bathroom cabinets. When you open the door a little paint might be missing from the edge.

The situation is compounded in your bathroom where you are not only dealing with the humidity of a Dallas, Texas summer, but also with the humidity generated by your tub and shower.

The painting contractor should have used an alkyd enamel, which is an oil based paint, for your bathroom cabinets. This paint takes a couple of days to dry, but it dries to a very hard surface and there should be no sticking problems. I'm afraid you are going to be waiting a very long time for your water-based paint to dry to a point where there are no sticking problems. It may never get to that point.

My recommendation would be to find an alkyd enamel oil based paint in the same color that the bathroom cabinets are now painted and repaint the surfaces that are sticking. You may only need to paint the tops of the interior shelves and the insides of the cabinet doors. If there are drawers in the cabinet, you may want to paint the inside of their front panel also.

I would lightly sand the surfaces you plan on repainting with a very fine sandpaper such as a 220 grit. You just want to rough up the surface a little to accept the new coat of paint. After you paint remember to allow a couple of days for the paint to dry before sitting anything on the shelves or closing the doors. It might help speed up the drying process if you showered in a different bathroom for a couple of days.

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