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Decorating the bathroom: Part 1 - Best paint to use

April and we are well and truly into spring. In general, most of us have still got a little more time on our hands than usual even though the country is starting to open up slowly and as we approach two bank holiday weekends, DIY jobs are often top of mind. One of the easier DIY jobs is decorating and as the family bathroom, ensuite, and downstairs cloakroom are often the smallest rooms in the house, these can often be the ones that are the subject of a makeover or quick lick of paint over the extra-long weekend.

But best be forewarned – painting the bathroom can throw up some unique challenges which aren’t experienced in other rooms. Bathrooms are frequently filled with steam from showers, baths, or basins which means the walls regularly get damp, even wet, and despite ventilation fans, moisture tends to lingering. In addition, bathrooms (and kitchens) are the most often cleaned rooms in the home and so are subject to harsh chemicals found within cleaning products.

Any decorating products, therefore, used in a bathroom need to be able to withstand mildew, mould and moisture as well as be tough enough to withstand chemicals.

Historically, high-gloss paint has been used both on walls and woodwork in bathrooms to deal with the build-up of moisture. It is certainly easier to wipe down walls that have been decorated in high-gloss paint to get rid of any stains or mildew, but the finish isn’t particularly appealing. Alternative, better products have been developed over recent years that provide all the benefits while also being aesthetically pleasing.

What are the options?

Matt or Flat Matt: typically, a smooth matt coating which is better in lower-traffic areas that don’t need wiping down regularly. While matt paint is good at covering imperfect walls, it tends to absorb moisture so is not ideal for bathrooms.

Silk: is a mid-sheen finish which looks slightly polished and reflects a bit of light. Silk can be wiped over easily which makes it practical and can be used in bathrooms however if you have less than perfect walls, the lumps and bumps may show.

High Gloss: is the shiniest finish and reflects lots of light – so is perfect for paler colours. To look its best, the surface must be in good condition and without lumps and bumps. Today, high gloss is primarily used on woodwork so would be a good choice for bathroom skirting boards and windowsills.

Acrylic Eggshell: has less of a sheen than silk and looks like the surface of an eggshell! It sits somewhere between matt and a silk finish and gives a classic look and feel. It is more washable and scrub-able than a matt finish and can be used on both walls & woodwork. Being tough and durable makes it a good choice for bathrooms.

Specialist: several specialist paints have been developed over recent years to be moisture and steam resistant. These paints often have mould resistant formulations, are actively designed to fight all common types of fungal growth, and are usually are guaranteed for a period of time. However, these paints can be significantly higher priced than standard emulsion paints.

Whatever paint you choose, a bathroom needs to be well-ventilated so ensure windows are regularly left ajar to help circulate fresh air and install as decent a fan as your budget allows.

12th Apr 2021