How to Paint Your Bathroom the Right Way

Interior bathroom Closeup
Getty Images/Mcelroyart

Bathrooms are small, water-prone, and get a lot of traffic. Those should be reasons enough for why painting your bathroom is an experience like no other room in the house, not even the kitchen

1. Use This "Miracle Product" To Clean (At Least a Few) Walls

Why: Soap scum and other embedded substances seriously mess up your paint.

In other areas of the house, you can slide by without cleaning the walls.  Dining rooms and bedrooms usually just need a light dusting.

But in the bathroom, it's crucial to clean the walls. It's not so much stains and everyday junk as it is soap scum and bleach-based cleaning agents. Soap scum will cause your nice paint job to peel off, if you can get it to stick in the first place.

TSP is a "miracle" cleaning product because it's dirt-cheap (less than $3 per pound), cleans off the gunk, and won't compromise your paint job.

2.  Remove the Toilet Tank For Flawless Walls (It's Easy)

Why: It's really impossible to paint around toilet tanks and do a good job of it.

Most of us attempt to tape the tank and paint in that ultra-narrow crack between the tank and the wall.  But the space is so small, you have to daub the brush repeatedly to get a solid color.  Even then, you still end up with a ring around the tank that basically shouts, "Lazy paint job!"

Removing the toilet tank sounds messy and hard, but it's not.  The messy section isn't the tank, it's the seat section, and that section is not coming off. Turn off the supply at the toilet base, flush the toilet to expel all water, and then remove the tank with a couple of old towels on the floor. 

3. Bathroom Paint Colors Should Be Light and Easy

Why: Dark, weighty colors in small spaces feel claustrophobic.

No, you don't need to surrender to the classic white bathroom.  But the darker the paint color, the smaller the bathroom will feel.

Even on this site, you can find plenty of examples of dark bathroom paint colors.  So, it's not an iron-clad edict.  Yet even in those bathrooms, you tend to find other elements that leaven the ponderous feeling that dark colors bring on -- elements such as white wainscot.

Light, airy, bright bathroom paint colors such as light blue and white or light-yellow and white always work well.

4. Bathroom Paint" Is Not Necessary (But Use a Paint That's Right For the Bathroom)

Why: Bathrooms have water -- a lot of it.  It will get on your paint, no matter how hard you try to avoid this.

Some paint manufacturers sell what they call bathroom paint: paint that has both mold-inhibiting agents and a better surface for resisting moisture.

Even if you don't want to buy special "bathroom paint," you'll want to think in terms of sheen quality.  Go for eggshell or glossier paint.

5. If You Must Paint the Shower, Gloss It Up

Why: Tile in the shower would be glossy, and paint should be, too.

It's a mystery why bathroom remodelers and homeowners opt for painted drywall in the shower stall rather than tile all the way up to the ceiling or install shower stall materials.

If you have drywall in the stall area, go for the highest gloss bathroom-appropriate paint, such as Valspar Ultra Premium Bath and Kitchen Enamel. Your one gallon of this expensive paint will more than cover this small area, but you will be glad that you did it.