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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Customer contacted me saying that his paint has drip marks in it. Said the exhaust fan was on when showering.

I told him the fan was probably too small, or perhaps the bathroom fan was not properly located in the room.

* He asked why there were streaks running down the walls, but not on the mirrors


Brown Wood Grey Beige Tints and shades


BM Regal Select.

I do not claim responsibility for this issue, but would like to offer feedback. Any insight appreciated.

I recommended scrubbing walls with damp rag (mild bleach water if the ceiling had yellowish discoloration), but that the problem would be recurring without better ventilation.

Room was painted last year, but is a vacation home they just moved into, and called yesterday.
 

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My first guess would be exactly what you told the HO; condensation due to poor ventilation, taking excessively long hot showers, or both.

I had something like that once happen on a job - though the reason is likely nothing close as to why it’s happening on your job. It showed up about 6 months after I had finished painting in a home where the HO was a heavy smoker. Although I took steps to eliminate and confine the existing nicotine residue, eventually a new layer was forming and was being emulsified by the moisture in the bathroom. But those streaks were discolored, not clear, and it didn’t take much examination to determine what they were - especially when I could rub them off with a rag and then see it and smell it.🤢🤨
 

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I've had surfectant leaching issues with a few paints, but observed it in two houses, my own and someone else's I did in BM Ultra Spec. Also a ceiling I did in semi-gloss SW Solo had surfectant leaching, but not the walls done in Zinsser Permawhite.

I think it's a few things that cause surfectant leaching, besides the paint chemistry itself being better or worse for it, I think a lot is mainly related to dry, cure, and recoat times. I think if you mess with recoat times too much, it increases the risk, but I'm not 100% sure on it, but my bathroom done by a contractor not me they definitely fudged the recoat times on everything, including two coats of primer in an hour, with Muralo Superfinish as the top coat it and it did it badly, when before the original coating was PM200 (old cans in garage) but likely left to dry for months before we bought the house.

Most paint companies if you really press them on the phone about returning a bathroom to service, say at least 2-3 days before hot showers, but really ideally a week. Latex paint might dry to the touch in a few hours, but full cure is a week or more. I think once the paint is 100% fully cured whatever surfectants are more fully locked in, albeit this is just a theory. I think this is why you can see relatively mediocre paints like PM200 hold up awesome in a bathroom, but premium paints fail, if a mediocre paint was put up for a whole month or more before anyone touched the bathroom, it will have a lot more time to cure, whereas if you need a return to service that day or the next day, even the "best" paints will fail.

So it's a bit difficult, as I always try to tell customers to not run showers for at least 2-3 days after a paint job, but if they can't do that do it at least overnight. With SW Solo as the paint example, I used the eggshell on walls in another bathroom for someone else, but just Masterhide on the ceiling, and this bathroom had an OK exhaust fan, too. But the customer 100% listened to me on ideally waiting 2-3 days, so when I came back to her house a year later to do something else, the bathroom was perfect and had no surfectant leaching problems, whereas the one with SW Solo Semi-gloss on the ceiling the customer definitely did not listen (needed it done for guests right now blah blah, only told me once I started the job of course...) and they had zero exhaust fan.

Just what I think, but I've dealt with it a lot, and now am fairly convinced it's 90% down to cure time in most cases.
 

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Having installed them in our bathrooms, I am a huge proponent of the digital timer switches for bathroom fans and have often recommended them to HOs. Just hit the 30 minute button (or whatever) and walk away. No excuse for not using the fan or worrying about it running all day.
 

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I've had surfectant leaching issues with a few paints, but observed it in two houses, my own and someone else's I did in BM Ultra Spec. Also a ceiling I did in semi-gloss SW Solo had surfectant leaching, but not the walls done in Zinsser Permawhite.

I think it's a few things that cause surfectant leaching, besides the paint chemistry itself being better or worse for it, I think a lot is mainly related to dry, cure, and recoat times. I think if you mess with recoat times too much, it increases the risk, but I'm not 100% sure on it, but my bathroom done by a contractor not me they definitely fudged the recoat times on everything, including two coats of primer in an hour, with Muralo Superfinish as the top coat it and it did it badly, when before the original coating was PM200 (old cans in garage) but likely left to dry for months before we bought the house.

Most paint companies if you really press them on the phone about returning a bathroom to service, say at least 2-3 days before hot showers, but really ideally a week. Latex paint might dry to the touch in a few hours, but full cure is a week or more. I think once the paint is 100% fully cured whatever surfectants are more fully locked in, albeit this is just a theory. I think this is why you can see relatively mediocre paints like PM200 hold up awesome in a bathroom, but premium paints fail, if a mediocre paint was put up for a whole month or more before anyone touched the bathroom, it will have a lot more time to cure, whereas if you need a return to service that day or the next day, even the "best" paints will fail.

So it's a bit difficult, as I always try to tell customers to not run showers for at least 2-3 days after a paint job, but if they can't do that do it at least overnight. With SW Solo as the paint example, I used the eggshell on walls in another bathroom for someone else, but just Masterhide on the ceiling, and this bathroom had an OK exhaust fan, too. But the customer 100% listened to me on ideally waiting 2-3 days, so when I came back to her house a year later to do something else, the bathroom was perfect and had no surfectant leaching problems, whereas the one with SW Solo Semi-gloss on the ceiling the customer definitely did not listen (needed it done for guests right now blah blah, only told me once I started the job of course...) and they had zero exhaust fan.

Just what I think, but I've dealt with it a lot, and now am fairly convinced it's 90% down to cure time in most cases.
My guest bathroom paint (Regal Select Eggshell) was allowed to cure for 3 months before using the shower & subjecting it to humidity, and the surfactants leached like mad in the year(s) that followed. I also allowed overnight drying between primer and each of 2 finish coats. I cleaned it off every couple of months but it continued to leach for well over a year.
 

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Surfactant is essentially soap, it helps the paint slide around. Excessive moisture will draw it to the surface of even old paints, but it happens most often to standard latex finishes, non 100% acrylics. It can easilly be wiped away with a clean damp cloth.
 

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I haven't had the bathroom surfactant problem yet, fingers crossed. But I have had pretty bad surfactant leaching on exteriors when applying paint too late in the afternoon followed by heavy fog that night. In one case it was so bad I couldn't even clean them off and re-coat, as the surfactants would bleed through the top coat. Eventually I had to sand them all out to fix the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I haven't had the bathroom surfactant problem yet, fingers crossed. But I have had pretty bad surfactant leaching on exteriors when applying paint too late in the afternoon followed by heavy fog that night. In one case it was so bad I couldn't even clean them off and re-coat, as the surfactants would bleed through the top coat. Eventually I had to sand them all out to fix the issue.
Appreciate the feedback from everyone!

It appears that the consensus is: drip marks are surfactant leaching. That is helpful. I have only come across this issue one other time previous, and that time was definitely caused by excessive humidity (likely a blocked exhaust pipe: the exterior cover was broken, and a colony of bees built a hive, blocking the exhaust).

I painted this bathroom in January 2021, using Regal Select that the owners purchased in their hometown. I was careful with the painting, and was "by the book", so I dismiss any speculation on that front.

The owners took full-time occupation of their "retirement home" this month, and reported the surfactant leaching shortly thereafter, which is why I attribute it to an undersized/underpowered fan (and/or improper placement of fan in the room). *It is a large bathroom, with a jet tub, and corner shower stall.
 

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Appreciate the feedback from everyone!

It appears that the consensus is: drip marks are surfactant leaching. That is helpful. I have only come across this issue one other time previous, and that time was definitely caused by excessive humidity (likely a blocked exhaust pipe: the exterior cover was broken, and a colony of bees built a hive, blocking the exhaust).

I painted this bathroom in January 2021, using Regal Select that the owners purchased in their hometown. I was careful with the painting, and was "by the book", so I dismiss any speculation on that front.

The owners took full-time occupation of their "retirement home" this month, and reported the surfactant leaching shortly thereafter, which is why I attribute it to an undersized/underpowered fan (and/or improper placement of fan in the room). *It is a large bathroom, with a jet tub, and corner shower stall.
Attached is a pic of my own guest bathroom with surfacant bleeding. Like you, I suspect a combo of a marginal fan and less than optimal placement. As you can see the shower is bordered by a wall on one side and door on another. It's like a little tunnel. Due to the narrowness (about 40" wide) the moisture will collect on the wall no matter how powerful a fan I install. We do have the fan on a Lutron digital timer. Fresh Start primer, Regal select. Painted at least a month before occupancy.
 

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We’ve had good luck with Aura Bath and Spa to prevent this.
I think i agree. We used Aura Bath in my kid's bathroom, and I just checked it, no streaks. My kids are 7 and 9 and I've walked in the bathroom a couple of times when they were showering and it was like a steam bath in there. You could cut the steam with a knife. The walls look pretty good though. Upstairs though, the master closet, which has a door to the master bath, has that same exact streaking down the walls. That is Regal Select eggshell. We normally don't have the door open to the closet when using the shower, but I suspect moisture makes its way in there. I also had to kill a softball sized yellow jacket nest that was inside the fan vent. I haven't checked it lately, but it if it is still there, that fan is probably not ventilating properly, although when it is running during a shower, the room does not steam up.
 

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The yellow jackets inside your fan vent when you turn on the fan for the first time in months;
“WHAT THE HELL?!?”
 

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I have the same problem in both my master bath and my kids bathroom done with Superpaint velvet. The vents were definitely undersized so I bought ones off Amazon that automatically kick on when it senses a certain humidity level. I've yet to clean and repaint even though it's been on my honey do list for over a year. 😑
 
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