White Paint Turning Yellow? (Here’s How To Fix it)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

If you notice a yellow stain coming through white paint, don’t worry. Here’s why it happens and how to fix it:

White paint turns yellow because of the oxidization of oily particles and resins in the paint. The oily particles and resins in the oil-based paint react with oxygen in the atmosphere and cause a yellow tint over white paint. Other causes include stain, moisture, or heat.

You can remove the yellow tint on the paint by sanding or using baking soda (for wet paints). However, if the yellow tint is too large, you must remove the entire paint and re-apply it.

Why Does White Paint Turn Yellow?

Here are the most common reasons why white paint looks yellow:

  1. Moisture – Moisture (water) can cause white paint to turn yellow. If the paint is exposed to constant water (such as a water leak), the particles and minerals in the water will stain the white paint and cause it to turn yellow. Sometimes, the paint can turn brown too. Water vapor and steam can also cause a yellow tint on the paint. This is common with oil-based paints applied in the kitchen.
  2. Heat – If you use white paint close to a radiator, the paint will turn yellow after a few months. The heat will increase the oxidization of the paint’s resins, making it look yellow. If you want to paint near a radiator, use dull-colored paint.
  3. UV Exposure – The paint will turn yellow if the paint is exposed to UV rays (sun). This happens if the paint is sealed with a clear coat that doesn’t have UV-resistant additives. The UV rays will make the clear coat appear yellow but don’t affect the paint underneath. To fix it, remove the clear coat and apply a UV-resistant sealer (such as exterior polyurethane) over the paint.
  4. Grease and Stains – Cooking grease, food stains, and drink spills can turn white paint to yellow. If you spill drink or grease over paint and don’t wipe it off immediately, the colorants in the grease will stain the paint and make it yellow.
  5. Smoke – If wet paint is exposed to cigarette nicotine and tar, it will develop a yellowish tint.
  6. Wrong Cleaners – If you use the wrong cleaner to clean your paint, the coating will have a yellow time over time. Petroleum-based solvents (mineral spirits) and turpentine will cause a yellowish tint on the paint.
  7. Pet Urine – The high amount of ammonia in the pet’s urine can stain white paint and give it a yellowish tint.

How To Fix White Paint Turning Yellow?

To fix white paint turning yellow, do the following.

1. Use Baking Soda and TSP

Use Baking Soda and Trisodium Phosphate

Use baking soda to fix yellow tint that is caused by pet urine, moisture, grease, or smoke. Baking soda is absorbent that will absorb the yellow stains and moisture from the paint. After using baking soda, you must wipe the coating with Trisodium Phosphate (TSP).

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • Trisodium Phosphate
  • Baking soda
  • A clean bowl
  • Rags
  • A vacuum
  • A bucket of water
  • A foam sponge

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda power over the wet coating and leave it overnight (12 hours).
  2. After 12 hours, vacuum the baking soda off the surface.
  3. Mix 2 spoons of TSP in a bowl or warm water and stir the mixture.
  4. Damp a rag with the mixture and use the dampened rag to wipe the affected surface.
  5. Wait 5 minutes.
  6. Damp a rag with clean water, and wipe the spot.
  7. Remove the water with a dry rag and leave the surface to dry.
  8. When dry, the yellowish tint will be removed.
  9. Optionally, touch up the surface with another paint coat.

2. Sand The Paint Off

Sand The Yellow Stain Off

You can sand the yellowing tint off the white paint using 400-grit sandpaper. The sanding will scrub the paint and remove the tint over it. However, this works only for dried yellow stains or spots.

Tools you need:

  • Very fine sandpaper
  • A vacuum or duster
  • Rags

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Clean the affected spot with a rag to remove the dust.
  2. Sand the paint with fine-grit sandpaper.
  3. Inspect the surface every 5 minutes to see if the yellowish tint is removed.
  4. After sanding, remove the dust from the surface.
  5. Optionally, touch up the surface with a new paint coat.

3. Re-paint

Repaint The Affected Spot

If nothing works, you must remove the paint coating and re-apply it.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • A paint scraper
  • Paint stripping paste or acetone
  • Rags
  • Stain-blocking primer
  • Sandpaper
  • Water-based polyurethane varnish

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Apply paint stripper over the paint coating and leave it for a few minutes.
  2. After the paint starts to bubble, use a paint scraper to scrape it off.
  3. Re-apply the paint stripper for leftover paint.
  4. Sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper and finish it with 320-grit sandpaper.
  5. Apply a coat of stain-blocking primer.
  6. Re-apply the paint (preferably water-based).
  7. Seal the paint with water-based polyurethane.

How To Prevent White Paint From Turning Yellow?

All types of white paint can turn yellow, depending on the room’s environment. For instance, if you expose the paint to grease or moisture, it will turn yellow regardless of the type or brand of the paint.

However, water-based paints tend to yellow less than oil-based paint. That’s because water-based paint doesn’t have oily deposits and uses water as its solvent. On the other hand, oil-based paint has lots of oily deposits and uses oil as its solvent.

To prevent paint yellowing, seal the finish. Sealing the paint with a waterproof sealant (such as exterior polyurethane) will prevent moisture or water from affecting it. This prevents paint from changing its color.

Here are other things you can do:

  1. Don’t use oil-based paint, as it’s known to develop a yellowing tint after a while.
  2. Wipe stains and grease off the surface immediately.
  3. Allow the paint to dry before touching or using the surface.
  4. Use a stain-blocking primer before applying the paint. This prevents stains and moisture from affecting the paint coating from underneath.
  5. Find the cause of yellowing and prevent it from happening again.

Final Words

White paint can turn yellow if exposed to water, moisture, UV, or grease. To fix yellowish-white paint, use baking soda, sand it, or remove and re-apply it.

To prevent white paint from changing its color, use water-based paint and seal it with a waterproof sealant.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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