The Best Type of Paint for Bathroom Ceilings and Walls

Choosing the right paint for your bathroom ceilings and walls is crucial to creating a space that is attractive, durable, and easy to clean. With the high humidity levels found in bathrooms, you’ll need to select a paint that can withstand moisture and prevent mildew growth. Considering factors like sheen, quality, and special characteristics will ensure you find the perfect paint for your needs. We’ve researched all the options and can provide expert advice on selecting the ideal paint for your bathroom surfaces.

How Humidity Impacts Bathroom Paint

Bathrooms present a unique challenge when it comes to painting walls and ceilings. The warm, moist air causes condensation to form on cold surfaces. This moisture allows mold and mildew to grow, which can damage paint and drywall. Bathroom paint needs to stand up to humidity without allowing mold development.

Water vapor in the air penetrates low-quality paints, breaking down the binders that hold the pigment together. This makes the paint prone to cracking, peeling, and allowing moisture into the drywall behind it. Mold feeds on moist drywall and any organic binders in the paint.

To avoid these problems, bathroom paint needs to have strong moisture resistance. Top quality latex and epoxy paints are formulated to withstand humidity without allowing moisture and mold penetration.

Proper bathroom ventilation is also key to moisture control. Using exhaust fans while showering and allowing time for surfaces to dry out helps keep humidity levels down. Good ventilation paired with moisture-resistant paint keeps your bathroom walls and ceiling looking fresh.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Bathroom Paint

Here are the key factors to keep in mind when selecting the best paint for your bathroom:


  • Flat or matte finish – Not ideal for bathrooms as it absorbs moisture and stains
  • Eggshell or satin finish – Provides light reflection while still offering stain resistance
  • Semi-gloss – Resists moisture, easy to clean, medium shine
  • High-gloss – Very reflective, moisture proof, shows imperfections

Semi-gloss or high-gloss enamel paints are best suited for bathrooms. The higher sheen allows condensation and splashes to bead up and roll off the surface instead of soaking in. Glossier paints are also easier to wipe down and clean.


Higher quality paints use stronger binders that adhere better and resist moisture. Acrylic, polyurethane, and epoxy paints outperform cheaper vinyl options. Within each formula, pay attention to quality tiers based on percentages of solids and binders. Higher solids content creates a thicker, more durable coating.

Mildew Resistance Additives

Many quality bathroom paints contain mildewcides or fungicides to prevent mildew growth on the surface. This is useful in humid environments.

Ease of Cleaning

Semi-gloss and gloss enamels clean up easily with just soap and water. Flat paints require stronger cleaners to remove stains but can damage the paint over time.


Lighter colors reflect light and resist showing stains and soap scum buildup. Darker colors accentuate any grunge. Bold colors make a statement, while neutral tones provide a soothing backdrop.

Special Characteristics

  • Scrubbable – Stands up to scrubbing to remove stains
  • Antimicrobial – Contains additives to inhibit mold and bacteria growth
  • Ceramic paint – Contains ceramic particles to increase durability and stain resistance
  • Epoxy – Extremely durable and moisture proof for tile-like finish

The Best Type of Paint Finish for Bathroom Walls and Ceilings

When reviewing all the options, semi-gloss enamel paint proves to be the best choice for most bathroom walls and ceilings. Here’s why it excels:

  • Provides enough sheen to repel water and moisture condensation.
  • Resists stains from splashes and humidity.
  • Offers easy cleaning with soap and water.
  • Provides a sleek, fresh look.
  • Available in nearly any color from all major paint brands.
  • Less expensive than specialty epoxy or ceramic paints.

Semi-gloss strikes the right balance of being affordable and moisture-resistant while offering easy cleaning. It provides a middle-of-the-road sheen that isn’t too bold or too subdued. The gloss allows walls to be easily wiped down but is not so reflective that it shows imperfections.

This versatile finish works well on vanity walls, main bathroom walls, ceilings, and in humidity-prone areas like showers when properly primed first. While flat or matte paints have a pleasing appearance, they absorb too much moisture to work well in bathrooms. At the other end of the spectrum, high-gloss can look too bold and slick for larger wall areas. It is best reserved for trim and smaller accents.

Quality acrylic or polyurethane semi-gloss enamel provides the ideallook and performance for typical bathrooms walls and ceilings.

Preparing Bathroom Surfaces for Painting

Proper prep work ensures the paint will adhere well and achieve the best possible finish. Follow these steps to get your bathroom ready for a fresh coat of semi-gloss paint:

Clean Surfaces

Use a detergent like Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) and scrub brush to remove any existing dirt, soap scum, or grease on walls and ceiling. Rinse thoroughly. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and sand smooth when dry.

Remove Loose Paint

If existing paint is peeling, scrape off any loose flaking layers until you reach a solidly adhered layer. Use sandpaper to feather the edges.

Kill Mildew

Wipe down all surfaces with a mildew killer solution. Rinse off and allow to dry completely.

Sand Glossy Surfaces

If painting over tile, enamel, or existing glossy paint, sand the surface thoroughly to degloss and create texture for the new paint to adhere to.


Apply a high quality multi-purpose primer like Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 to create a sound surface for the new paint.


Seal gaps and joints around trim, fixtures, vents etc. with flexible bathroom caulk designed for high humidity.

Once prepped, the surface is ready for 1-2 coats of high quality semi-gloss bathroom paint.

Top Brands of Paint for Bathrooms

These top paint manufacturers offer quality semi-gloss finishes perfect for bathrooms:

Behr Premium Plus

A top quality acrylic latex paint from Home Depot stores. Provides excellent hide and durability. Available in easy one-coat semi-gloss finish. Mold and mildew resistant formula. Ideal for bathrooms and very affordable.

Benjamin Moore

This premium brand offers its popular Aura Bath and Spa paint line specifically designed for high humidity rooms. Waterborne urethane resin provides excellent adhesion and moisture resistance. Available in Matte or Pearl (soft gloss) finishes.

PPG Diamond

Part of their interior Diamond line, this acrylic paint resists moisture and stains while allowing steam from showers to escape. Contains agents to inhibit mold growth. Durable semi-gloss sheen.

Sherwin-Williams ProMar 200

A professional quality mid-range latex paint that provides good flow and leveling and dries to a durable semi-gloss finish. Resists moisture damage. Contains antimicrobial additives. Provides good hide and coverage.

Valspar Reserve

This interior acrylic latex from Lowes has additives for enhanced adhesion and stain resistance. Multi-surface formula bonds well even to glossy tile and porcelain. The semi-gloss sheen resists moisture and cleans up easily.

No matter which brand you choose, look for a quality semi-gloss enamel bathroom paint for best results on your ceiling and walls.

How to Apply Bathroom Paint

With the right supplies, some simple techniques will give you a smooth, professional looking finish:

Supplies Needed

  • Paint brushes – 2-3 inch angled sash brush for walls, smaller trim brush
  • Paint roller – 1/4″ nap microfiber or foam
  • Paint tray
  • Drop cloths – cloth, paper, or plastic sheeting
  • Painters tape
  • Sandpaper – 120-220 grit
  • Stepladder
  • Paint stirring sticks & strainer bag

Tips for Application

  • Lightly sand walls and ceiling before painting
  • Vacuum dust before painting
  • Fill any holes and tape off trim
  • Pour paint into tray, stir thoroughly before and during use
  • Cut in corners and edges with brush in 2-4″ widths
  • Roll on paint in 3×3 ft sections using “W” and “V” strokes
  • Avoid excessive brushing or rolling back over semi-dry paint
  • Work methodically around room to avoid drips or lap marks
  • Apply second coat only once first coat is fully dry
  • Remove tape immediately after final coat before paint dries

Taking your time with proper prep and using good application techniques will provide a smooth, semi-gloss finish that keeps your bathroom surfaces looking fresh for years.

Painting Bathroom Ceilings

Bathroom ceilings require paint that can withstand moisture and humidity just like the walls. A semi-gloss enamel is once again the best choice. Here are some tips for painting the ceiling:

  • Use a paint rated for mold and mildew resistance
  • Remove existing texture or popcorn first for a smooth surface
  • Patch any cracks or holes with lightweight joint compound
  • Lightly sand to smooth patches and remove gloss
  • Prime with a stain-blocking primer for water stains or nicotine
  • Cut in the edges and corners along the upper walls with an angled sash brush
  • Use a roller with extendable pole to reach center of ceiling
  • Apply using a crisscross “X” or “W” rolling pattern without overworking the paint
  • Allow proper drying time between coats

The semi-gloss finish will reflect light and make the ceiling appear higher. It also resists moisture and cleans easily. For smaller bathrooms, consider painting the ceiling the same color as the walls to give a more spacious feel.

Specialty Bathroom Paint Options

While semi-gloss enamel works for most bathrooms, here are some other specialty paints to consider:

Epoxy Paint

Offers an exceptionally durable and moisture-proof finish similar to a thick enamel glaze. Excellent for painting over tile, metal, porcelain, fiberglass, and other glossy surfaces. Provides a shiny, easy-clean finish. More labor-intensive to apply.

Antimicrobial Paint

Contains additives like silver ions or Microban technology to inhibit bacteria, mold, and mildew growth on the paint film. Useful for humid rooms and surfaces like shower walls.

Ceramic Paint

Made with ceramic particles that create an extra durable finish similar to a ceramic glaze. Withstands scrubbing, moisture, and daily wear and tear. Ideal for high traffic bathrooms.

Paint and Primer in One

These combine primer and paint in one product to streamline painting. Saves time and provides good adhesion. Ideal for maintaining existing paint surfaces in good condition.

For most DIYers updating their bathroom’s look, a quality semi-gloss enamel will provide the right balance of moisture resistance, durability, and ease of application. Advanced paint technologies offer solutions for nearly any bathroom surface challenge.

Painting Small Bathroom Spaces

Small bathrooms can feel cramped and closed in. Paint can help create the illusion of a larger, more open space. Here are some tips:

  • Use light, neutral colors which reflect light and seem less confining
  • Paint walls and ceiling the same color to give a spacious feel
  • Use semi-gloss or high gloss sheens to reflect light
  • Add accent colors on cabinetry or fixtures rather than walls
  • Extend wall color into shower/tub area for a streamlined look
  • Use cool tones like blue or green to seem more relaxing
  • Avoid dark colors which absorb light and feel heavier and smaller

With some strategic color choices and plenty of reflected light, even the smallest powder room can feel bright, airy, and expansive.

Paint Finish Options for Bathroom Cabinets and Vanities

Bathroom vanities and cabinets require an ultra-durable finish that resists not just humidity and moisture but also scratches, dents, and daily wear and tear. Here are some great options:

Enamel Paint

Oil-based enamel paints provide an ultra hard finish similar to a factory finish on cabinets. Alkyd enamel dries to a super durable, glossy surface able to withstand cleaning chemicals and moisture. Prepping and application is labor-intensive.

Epoxy Paint

Another option for a thick, ceramic-like finish. Flows on easily to coat cabinet surfaces with a durable, high-gloss topcoat. Resists moisture, scratches, and cleaning chemicals.


Applying 2-3 coats of water-based polyurethane varnish provides a clear, resilient finish. Dries much faster than traditional polyurethane. Protects the underlying paint and creates a fresh, stain-resistant surface.


Ideal for repainting factory-finished cabinets. Lacquer sprays on easily and dries fast to a durable, scratch-resistant gloss finish. Available in clear gloss or tinted formulations.

Cabinet Refinishing Paint

Specialty bonding paints made for resurfacing old cabinets without stripping or sanding. Adheres to glossy finishes and dries into a hard, protective coat. Easy soap and water cleanup.

Any of these options will provide a bathroom vanity or cabinet finish that continues looking new despite regular use and exposure to moisture.

Mold Resistant Paint Options

Mold and mildew growth are constant concerns in humid bathroom environments. Several paint options can help inhibit mold:

  • Anti-Mildew Additives – Many quality paints contain anti-microbial additives to resist mold growth on the surface. This protects the paint film itself from mold stains.
  • Bleach Paint – Specialty paints with small amounts of bleach added release low levels of chlorine to disinfect surfaces and suppress mold growth. Helps sanitize existing mold issues.
  • Epoxy Paint – The thick, impervious resin film of epoxy paint prevents moisture from penetrating into the wall behind it. This deprives mold of needed moisture.
  • Mold Killing Primer – Primer paints containing anti-microbial ingredients prevent mold growth on surfaces. Great for problematic areas.
  • Ventilation – Preventing excessive moisture build up through proper ventilation helps control humidity levels before mold can grow.

A good quality bathroom paint plus proper prep to kill existing mold, adequate ventilation, and prompt cleanup of moisture will keep your bathroom surfaces mold-free.

Painting for Easy Bathroom Cleanup

Bathroom walls and surfaces frequently get splashed, dripped on, and accumulate grime. Choosing paint with scrubbability and stain resistance in mind makes clean up much easier. Consider these tips:

  • Use semi-gloss, high gloss, or enamel paints which resist stains and create a non-porous surface.
  • Select paint with scrubbable or washable features able to withstand abrasive scrubbing.
  • Use an eggshell or satin finish on the ceiling which shows fewer water spots or stains.
  • Apply 2-3 thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat for a smoother surface.
  • Caulk gaps and joints thoroughly so moisture cannot penetrate behind paint.
  • Ensure paint is fully cured before scrubbing. Most latex paints require 30 days curing time to achieve maximum hardness and scrub resistance.
  • Mix baking soda and water into a mild abrasive paste for tougher scrubbing jobs.
  • Change bathroom exhaust fan filters regularly so they function optimally.
  • Use mold and mildew resistant paint.

With some prudent paint choices and proper maintenance, keeping bathroom walls and ceilings looking freshly painted becomes much simpler.

Painting Bathroom Walls with Mold Issues

Mold creates a special challenge for painting bathroom walls. Follow these steps to treat and paint moldy surfaces:

Remove Existing Mold

  • Mix 1 part bleach to 3 parts water and scrub affected areas. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Allow surface to fully dry. Use a dehumidifier or fans to speed drying.

Kill and Seal In Remaining Mold

  • Apply a mold killing primer like Zinsser Mold Killing Primer or KILZ Mold & Mildew Primer.
  • Apply a stain blocking primer over moldy areas that remain discolored.

Improve Ventilation

  • Clean bathroom exhaust fan grill and replace filter if clogged.
  • Run the fan during bathing and for 30+ minutes afterwards.
  • Consider installing a timer switch or humidity activated fan if lack of ventilation is an ongoing issue.

Apply Mold Resistant Paint

  • Use a paint designed for bathrooms and high humidity areas.
  • Select a glossier semi-gloss or gloss finish which moisture cannot easily penetrate.

With proper mold treatment and moisture control, freshly painted walls will stay mold-free. Address any underlying moisture issues before painting.

Signs Your Bathroom Needs Repainting

Here are some signs it’s time to freshen up your bathroom with a new coat of semi-gloss paint:

  • Visible moisture damage like bubbling or peeling paint
  • Dark streaks indicating mildew growth
  • Cracks or paint wearing thin around edges and corners
  • Yellowed or discolored paint that looks dingy
  • Stains that cannot be removed through cleaning
  • Major changes in decor making existing colors dated
  • A dated blue or pink tile/fixture color scheme

Tackling bathroom painting at the first signs of paint failure can prevent more costly moisture damage behind walls or under tile. A new coat of paint completes bathroom remodeling projects by adding a fresh, updated color palette.

Bathroom Paint Drying Times

Oil-based enamels take the longest time to fully cure, often 5-7 days before recoating or returning fixtures. Latex and acrylic paints dry faster:

  • To touch – 30-60 minutes
  • To recoat – 2-