Best Paint For Bathrooms: A Complete Guide

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated March 22, 2023
A nice bathroom with bathtub
Photo: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

There’s a science to steamy bathroom paint selection

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When relaxing in the tub after a long day, you don’t want to look at peeling wall paint covered in mold and mildew. But that’s the decorating disaster you could face if you don’t pick the best paint for your bathroom.

Some types of paint finishes are more likely to absorb sink splashes and condensation. Opt for a bathroom-befitting formula with mold-resistant properties to avoid getting the brushes out annually. Follow these top tips to find the best paint for your bathroom and learn why proper prep work is a home painting project prerequisite.

Best Types of Bathroom Paint Finishes

In previous eras, a glossy paint finish was always the way to go in bathrooms. These paint types were less likely to suck up moisture and easier to clean. 

Formulas have come a long way in recent decades, meaning low paint sheen levels aren’t always off-limits. Although, there are still factors to consider when deciding on the best paint finish for your bathroom.

High-Gloss or Semi-Gloss Paint

Typically, high-gloss is the most durable, easy-to-clean, and moisture- and mold-resistant paint finish. But that doesn’t mean it is always the best paint for bathrooms. It’s ideal to use high-gloss paint on features like the bathroom door, window frames, or vanity cabinet drawers. 

Semi-gloss shares the qualities of high-gloss, but on a less extreme level. That’s why it’s a go-to choice for painting bathroom walls.

Pros of High-Gloss or Semi-Gloss Paint

  • Long-lasting

  • Easy to clean

  • Moisture- and mold-resistant

  • Handle temperature fluctuations well

  • Ideal for high-traffic trims and other accents

Cons of High-Gloss or Semi-Gloss Paint

  • High sheen can be too reflective

  • Imperfections show on the wall’s surface

  • More expensive than a satin or matte paint

  • Water droplets sit on the surface

  • It takes a long time to dry and is tricky to apply

Satin Paint

Durable and moisture-resistant but not too shiny, it’s no wonder satin finishes are popular paint types for bathroom walls. The cost to paint a room with satin paint typically ranges from $12 to $72 per gallon

Pros of Satin Paint

  • More affordable

  • Subtle sheen without extreme reflective properties

  • Still water-resistant

  • Usable on walls, ceilings, and trims.

Cons of Satin Paint

  • Not as easy to sanitize as gloss finishes

Eggshell, Matte, or Flat Paint

Traditionally, these paint finish types aren’t the best for bathrooms. However, some brands produce premium eggshell or matte paints with moisture-resistant properties, making them suitable for these high-humidity havens. If you’re debating between eggshell vs. satin paint, consider which suits your bathroom’s needs best. 

These pros and cons relate to standard flat paint finishes, with eggshell being slightly more durable than matte finishes.

Pros of Matte or Flat Paint

  • Flat finish hides flaws and imperfections

  • Rich color and soft, luxurious look

  • Economical

  • Easy to apply

Cons of Matte or Flat Paint

  • Absorbs light instead of reflecting it

  • Most likely to hold moisture and encourage mildew buildup

  • Gathers stains, watermarks, and smudges that are difficult to clean 

  • Scrubbing can affect the paint finish

Best Brands for Painting Your Bathroom

Not sure where to start when selecting a bathroom paint? Check out these recommendations.

Semi-Gloss Finish

BEHR® Semi-Gloss Interior Paint and Primer saves you a step by combining the paint and primer in one product. Per BEHR®, this paint-and-primer is designed to be durable and mildew and stain resistant, with low chemical emissions. You can use this type of paint on walls, ceilings, and trims.

Satin Finish

Per Benjamin Moore®, the Kitchen and Bath Paint (Satin) provides a satin finish with mildew-resistant and antimicrobial properties. According to Benjamin Moore®, this satin paint is durable and made with a low-VOC formula that applies smoothly and has a light shine that gives your bathroom a bright feel.

Matte Finish

The Benjamin Moore® AURA Bath & Spa is a low-sheen paint designed for high-humidity rooms, per Benjamin Moore®. This is another paint and primer combined with mildew-resistant properties, no VOCs, and it’s easy to clean, according to Benjamin Moore®

Additional Bathroom Paint Factors to Consider

Renovation of bathroom with a big tub
Photo: Elenathewise / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

It’s not just the finish you want to focus on when selecting the best paint for your bathroom. Look for the following properties during your paint search.

Moisture Repellent Properties

If your bathroom isn’t well-ventilated and frequently fogs up with condensation, look for paint with moisture-repellent properties. You might see them marketed as “washable” because the tighter paint particles mean dirt and water won’t penetrate the finish.

Mold and Mildew Resistance

A moisture-resistant paint means minimal mold and mildew buildup. But some paints also have antimicrobial or fungicide additives, which is ideal for avoiding unsightly, harmful black blobs in your bathroom. Keeping your bathroom well-ventilated also helps prevent mold from accumulating.

Oil vs. Latex Paint

Oil-based rather than latex paints were historically a popular choice for bathrooms. They’re durable, easy to clean, and moisture-resistant. On the downside, they release high levels of harmful odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Nowadays, plenty of latex (water-based) paints offer these qualities while being safer, quicker to apply and dry, and more environmentally friendly.

How to Prime Your Bathroom For Painting

A man painting a ceiling white with a paint roller
Photo: Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography / Moment / Getty Images

No matter what paint type you choose for your bathroom, if you don’t get it right with prepping, you might need a professional interior painter near you to redo your handiwork. 

Lightly sanding, cleaning, and priming before painting seals the porous surfaces from moisture, ensures a uniform adhesive undercoat, and helps prevent stains from seeping through. Priming is especially important if you’re going from a glam dark color to a light and bright shade or if you are using a low-sheen paint finish. 

Be sure to eradicate any lingering mold before applying primer or paint. Leaving it on bathroom walls or other surfaces invites spores to continue spreading and paint to peel. The EPA recommends scrubbing mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water. Make sure the walls are dry before getting the paintbrushes out.

Best Primer For Bathrooms

Unsure which primer to use before painting your bathroom? These options are worth considering:

  • BEHR® Kitchen, Bath & Trim Stain-Blocking Primer & Sealer: Per BEHR®, this acrylic latex primer provides great mildew and stain resistance and adheres well to walls and trims, even if the surface is a glossy finish.

  • KILZ® Kitchen & Bath Interior Primer: According to KILZ®, this water-based formula is mold and mildew resistant and designed for high-humidity spaces like bathrooms. It’s fast-drying, applies smoothly, and blocks stains, per KILZ®.

  • Zinsser® Semi-gloss Latex Interior Paint + Primer: Per Zinsser®, this water-based paint and primer is durable, water-resistant, washable and dries quickly.

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