How to Fix Paint Bleed Through When Painting Cabinets

How to Fix Paint Bleed Through When Painting Cabinets

When painting cabinets or furniture, nothing causes a queasy feeling faster than seeing stains or discolorations bleeding through the primer or paint. But never fear – I’m here to show you how to fix paint bleed through when painting cabinets or furniture

What causes bleed through on painted surfaces

Before we jump into how to fix those yucky stains and discolorations that can appear on freshly-painted wood, it’s important to understand why bleed through happens in the first place!

All woods contain tannins. Tannins are chemical compounds in wood that can be released when they come in direct contact with water (in some cases) or other liquids. The tannins rise up through the painted surface, causing unattractive splotches and streaks to appear.

Water damage and top-level stains (such as grease, food or oil) are other causes of bleed through. My first experience with stains ruining a finish happened on this painted bench makeover way back in 2014!

Which types of wood are most prone to bleed through?

Different wood species have different levels of tannins. Oak, cherry, walnut, and mahogany woods are the most prone to bleed through because they are very high in tannin levels.

Redwood and cedar, which are most commonly used for exterior purposes, have high levels of tannins, and can easily bleed through. I have noticed this on the new cedar beams we installed during our 1970s exterior makeover – I don’t think the painters primed them!

How What can be done to prevent bleed-through from ever happening?

Now that you know a bit more about what causes bleed through on painted surfaces, let’s talk about how to prevent it from happening in the first place! This will help you move forward.

The key to preventing bleed through is using a quality stain-blocking primer. That’s it!

The best stain-blocking primers are shellac-based primers, like Zinsser B-I-N primer. Shellac primers will completely prevent stains or tannins from seeping through to the painted surface.

Shellac-based primers stink! You must have great ventilation when applying them or you’ll probably pass out – they’re that smelly. They’re also more difficult to clean up than water-based primers.

If you don’t want to deal with the negatives of a shellac-based primer, there are good quality water-based stain-blocking primers on the market now, too! I use Kilz Premium Heavy-Duty High Hide Sealer & Stain Blocker because I live in Wisconsin where we can have the windows open for like 10 minutes per year. LOL.

An example of a project where I used Kilz Premium primer to prevent bleed through is the painted cherry Queen Anne console table I just made over.

How to fix paint bleed through once it’s happened.

Okay, since you’re still reading this post, I’m assuming that you didn’t prime with a stain-blocking primer. Now you’re experiencing stains coming through paint and you’re probably having a panic attack. (I’m assuming this because it’s happened to me before!)

When I painted my oak kitchen cabinets, I intentionally DID NOT use a stain blocking primer (for many reasons that are irrelevant to this post). You may recall that oak contains a lot tannins. After priming many cabinets, I noticed bleed-through on several doors.

Primed oak cabinets developed ugly brown and yellow stains around the edges.

Since this happened to me on projects in the past, I had planned for this possibility and I knew just what to do.

I simply took the affected doors outside and used B-I-N Shellac Spray to spot prime the areas where bleed through was happening. It was cold out, so I brought them back inside as soon as possible to complete their drying. This helped to reduce the odor and solved the bleed-through problem.

Zinsser B-I-N spray primer took care of bleed through on painted oak cabinets easily and inexpensively.

Once the shellac primer dried (in about 20 minutes), I was able to topcoat with paint and not worry about stain bleed through ruining my painted cabinets.

You can still repair damage to cabinets and furniture if you are experiencing bleedthrough or stains. You can prime the affected areas with shellac and then re paint as you did previously. Yes, it’s annoying, but at least’s its salvageable!

Finally, if you have a lot of bleed through happening and/or don’t want to use the shellac spray, you could also use the traditional brush-on or roll-on B-I-N Primer to spot prime those areas.

I hope this information on how to fix paint bleed through helped you. I know what it’s like to feel like your hard work has been ruined, but rest assured, it hasn’t! Even though it takes a bit of time, this easy fix will have your furniture and painted cabinets stain free in no time.

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