Close up image of a surface that has tan or brownish streaks or spots.

Surfactant Leaching

Concentration of water-soluble ingredients (evident as tan or brown streaks or spots and can sometimes be glossy, soapy or sticky) on the surface of a latex paint that can occur on the interior and exterior applications. For the interior, they typically occur on walls and ceiling surfaces in rooms that have high humidity (e.g., shower, bathroom, and kitchen). For the exterior, they occur on a freshly painted surface to mist, dew, rain, fog or other moisture exposure.

Causes

  • All latex paint formulas will exhibit this tendency to some extent if applied in areas that repeatedly become humid (bathrooms, for example), especially in ceiling areas.
  • Painting in cool, humid conditions, or just before or after rain. The longer drying time caused by these conditions allows the paint’s water-soluble ingredients to rise to the surface before the paint thoroughly dries.

Solutions

  • Avoid painting when temperatures are below 50º F in the late afternoon and if cool, damp conditions are expected in the evening or overnight.
  • If the surfactant leaching occurs in the first few days after the paint is applied, the blotches or stains can usually be rinsed off with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. A month of normal weathering will remove even stubborn cases of leaching. Surfactant leaching does not affect the ultimate durability of the coating.
  • Never apply another coat of paint on any painted surface that exhibits surfactant leaching.

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