Surfactant Leaching

Your new coat of paint looks fantastic, but now you notice drip marks on your bathroom walls. Is the paint sweating? Or what could be causing these unsightly marks?

Surfactant leaching is more likely the culprit and often causes greasy or glossy stains in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and other indoor areas; however outdoor cases may develop under the eave too.

Learn more about surfactant leaching and how to prevent it from occurring in your home by investigating its causes as well as what steps can be taken to fix it yourself.

What is Surfactant Leaching?

Surfactants, also known as “surface active agents,” are substances added to paint during pigmentation to promote stability and help spread it evenly over surfaces.

Surfactants may either remain on the surface of the paint during curing or be sealed into it; depending on drying conditions such as cold, steamy, or dampness, these compounds may become greasy or glossy.

Surfactant leaching is most commonly caused by exposure to sunlight.


Humidity can hurt painted surfaces if they are exposed to high levels of humidity, such as when taking a hot shower in a bathroom or running the dryer in your laundry room. If this occurs, the paint may swell and leach, leading to costly repairs later.

To ensure proper preparation before painting your exterior, be sure to read our guide on everything you need to know before you start painting your exterior

Low temperatures

Paints typically dry between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit; paint that dries faster than 90 degrees will crack and dry too quickly; below 50deg, the paint won’t stick to the surface.

Poor ventilation

Poor ventilation can also contribute to drying issues.

Dark colors

Paints containing darker pigments tend to contain more surfactants, leaving them more vulnerable to leaching.

How to Correct Surfactant Leaching

Shower humidity can slow the setting of paint if used too soon after painting a room, and soon you will experience surfactant leaching in your bathroom. So what can you do about it? Will sealing in the leaching solve the issue? Unfortunately, no. What steps can be taken to rectify uneven film?

These are the steps to take to stop surfactant leakage:

Use soap and water to wash. After the paint has set, use warm water with soap. To get rid of greasy marks, repeat washing the film several times.

Repainting is a potential solution. A fresh coat will not solve the issue, but if the color staining is caused by leaching, then applying a new coat after thoroughly removing any surfactant film may help.

Allow nature to take its course. While stains may take several months to fade, you can cure them naturally through natural weather changes.


Surfactant leaching is a common problem in both indoor and outdoor settings when the paint is exposed to heat, humidity, low temperatures, poor ventilation, or dark-colored pigments.

To prevent this from happening, it is important to take the necessary precautions such as ensuring proper ventilation and allowing enough time for the paint to dry. For instance, if you’re looking for help with painting your living space, you can always hire a Painter in Port St Lucie.

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