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

When you paint a surface white and it starts to turn yellow, that tells you that something is wrong. So why does white paint turn yellow and how do you fix it?

There are many reasons for white paint to turn yellow but the most common reason is the oxidization of oily particles and resins in the white paint. This is very common with oil-based paints.

The oily particles and resins in the oil-based paint react to oxygen in the atmosphere and cause the white paint to turn yellow. Other causes of yellowing include stains, moisture, heat, and exposure to UV light.

In some cases, it’s possible to reverse the yellow color to get back the white paint but this largely depends on the cause of the yellowing.  Keep reading this post to find out more about the causes and fixes of yellowing white paint. Let’s dive in.

Common Reasons For Yellowing Paint

Here are the most common reasons for yellowing paint:

1. Moisture

Moisture (water) can cause white paint to turn yellow and this is usually the case when your paintwork is affected by a leak. When the paint is affected by a water leak, the particles and minerals in the water will stain the white paint and can cause it to turn yellow. Sometimes, the white paint can turn slightly brown.

You should also know that water vapor or steam can also cause white paint to turn yellow – this is common with oil-based white paints in kitchens.

While cooking, the steam that comes out of your pot or kettle contains water and the ingredients in your food (in gaseous form). If the room is not well-ventilated, the steam will become trapped on the white-painted walls and furniture. Over time, you’ll notice these areas turning yellow.

2. Heat

Another reason for white paint turning yellow is heat. When you use white paint close to a heat source like the radiator, the white paint is bound to turn yellow after a few months.

The yellowing is caused by the heat which increases the oxidization of the resins in the paint to turn yellow. If you want to paint close to a heat source, it’s better to pick a dull color.

3. UV Exposure

Your white paint can also turn yellow over time due to UV exposure but this is only if the white paint was sealed with a clear coat. If you sealed the white paint with a clear coat without UV blockers, the rays from the sun will turn the clean coat yellow.

Since the clear coat is on the white paint, it will also make the white paint appear yellow. If UV exposure is the problem, there is a quick fix that will be discussed later in this article.

4. Grease and Stains

Cooking grease, food stains, drink spills, and the like also turn white paint to yellow. If you accidentally spill drinks or grease on a white-painted surface without wiping immediately, the colorants in the grease will stain the white paint and make it yellow.

5. Smoke

Smoke fumes can also turn your white paint yellow but this is common when the paint is still fresh. If you just applied white paint on a wall, ceiling, or furniture, it’s advised not to smoke near the white paint.

The fumes from cigarettes and pipes contain nicotine and tar and when the smoke is trapped in the wet paint, the white color will begin to develop yellowish tints.

6. Harsh Chemicals

Your white paintwork can also turn white if exposed to harsh chemicals. Chemical spills on your white paintwork will cause a chemical reaction with the paint particles that can leave a discolored yellow spot on the paintwork.

Using harsh cleaners and acid-based solvents on your white paintwork can also make it yellow over time. Also, constant exposure to petroleum-based solvents like mineral spirits and turpentine can cause white paint to develop yellow tints.

7. Pet Urine

Eew! I know but your dog or cat urine can make your white painted-floor turn yellow even when you wipe the urine off. There is a high amount of ammonia in urine which can cause staining and of course yellowing on white paint. The good news here is pet urine is limited to your floors so your white painted walls and furniture are safe.

Next, let’s check out how to fix white paint turning yellow.

How To Fix White Paint Turning Yellow?

The first step to fixing yellowish paint is to find the cause of the yellowing. The cause of the yellowish tint on your white paint will determine how you’ll fix it.

To be more helpful, this guide will reveal different methods to fix yellowing paint based on the different causes.

1. Use Baking Soda and Trisodium Phosphate – For Wet Yellow Stains

Use Baking Soda and Trisodium Phosphate

The first method to try out is to absorb the yellow stain with baking soda. This method works for yellowing that is caused by pet urine, moisture, grease, and smoke.

If any of these is the cause of your yellowing paint, you can fix the yellowing by sprinkling baking soda powder on the yellowed spot and leaving it overnight.

Baking soda is an absorbent that will absorb the yellow stains and moisture from the paint. After, you’ll need to wipe down the affected spot with Trisodium Phosphate.

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 powder on the wet yellowing paint and leave overnight
  2. In the morning, vacuum the baking soda off of the paint – you’ll notice that the yellowing has reduced
  3. Mix 1 or 2 spoons of Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) in a bowl of warm water – stir until there are no clumps in the mixture
  4. Wipe down the affected spot with the Trisodium Phosphate mixture and a foam brush
  5. Soak a clean rag in clean water, squeeze it, and use it to wipe the spot
  6. Remove water with a dry rag and leave the spot to dry
  7. When dry, you might need to touch up the affected spot to revive the white finish.

2. Sand The Yellow Stain Off – For Dry Yellow Stains

Sand The Yellow Stain Off

Another method to fix yellowing paint is to sand the yellowish tint off of the white paint. This method involves using 400-grit sandpaper to gently scrub the white paint till the yellow spots are worn off. This method only works for dry yellow stains or yellowish spots on the white paint that have dried over time.

For this method, you’ll need:

  • Very fine sandpaper
  • A vacuum or duster
  • Rags

Here is a guide for this method:

  1. Wipe the affected spot with a rag to remove dust nibs and debris that can dull the sandpaper
  2. Start sanding the yellow spot with very fine sandpaper grit
  3. Dust or vacuum the sanded dust to inspect the surface
  4. When the yellowed spot is gone, wipe the area with a dry rag
  5. You might need to touch up the affected spot after it has dried.

3. Repaint The Affected Spot – For Permanent Yellow Stains

Repaint The Affected Spot

The third method to fix yellowing paint is to repaint the spot. This method works when all others have failed and it’s especially effective at covering yellow stains caused by UV exposure, oxidization, and heat.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • White paint (preferably water-based or latex white 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 on the affected white paint and leave for a few minutes
  2. When the paint stripper has dissolved and absorbed the paint, scrape it off using a paint scraper
  3. Sand down the surface using 220-grit sandpaper and finish with 320-grit
  4. Apply a coat of stain-blocking primer on the surface and leave to dry
  5. Reapply the white paint – You should use a water-based paint
  6. Seal the white paint with water-based polyurethane if you want – the polyurethane will protect the white paint from stains and increase the durability of the finish.

How To Prevent White Paint From Turning Yellow?

Here are expert tips to help prevent your white paintwork from turning yellow:

  1. Seal the paint with a waterproof sealant – This way, stains and grease can be easily wiped off
  2. Don’t use oil-based white paint near a heat source like the radiator
  3. Wipe stains and grease off of the paint immediately it happens
  4. Allow white paints to dry before touching or using the surface – this prevents you from staining the spot
  5. Use air purifiers to remove smoke fumes in the room
  6. Always seal the surface with a stain-blocking primer to prevent stains and moisture from affecting the white paint from underneath the coat.

Types Of White Paint That Won’t Yellow?

Technically, all types of white paints have the tendency to turn yellow depending on the room environment. For instance, if you expose a white paint to a heat source or chemical spill, the paint will discolor and turn yellow regardless of the type of white paint or manufacturer.

So, the best way to stop your white paint from yellowing is to prevent it by sealing the paint. However, you should know that water-based or flat white paints tend to yellow less than oil-based white paints.

If you need white paint that will not turn yellow, your best bet is to look towards water-based white paints. Water-based paints are usually called flat paints and they include latex, chalk, eggshell, and matte paints.

These finishes don’t contain oily resins or deposits that can turn yellow. Also, water-based paints dry through evaporation and not oxidization so there is less risk of the white paint turning yellow as oil-based paints would.

However, you should know that even water-based paints can turn yellow under the wrong conditions. Continuous exposure to heat, UV rays, chemicals, and moisture will turn any paint yellow regardless of the type or brand.

Final Words

In summary, white paint can turn yellow due to several reasons ranging from water exposure to grease and pet urine. Regardless of the cause, there is always a way to fix it.

Remember, if you can’t seem to get rid of the yellowing paint, it’s best to strip it and reapply fresh paint. Ensure to apply a stain-blocking primer before reapplying the paint.

Finally, the best way to fix yellowing on your white paint is to prevent it in the first place – This way, you won’t even have to worry about fixing the yellow spots.

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