How To Keep Paint From Rubbing Off

Figuring out what is wrong with the paint in your home can sometimes be tricky. For example, have you noticed the paint rubbing off your walls and cabinets but can't figure out what's causing it? Why does paint rub off some surfaces? Luckily, we've done plenty of research into this topic and have the answer below!

If you're experiencing paint rubbing off surfaces in your house, this is likely because the area wasn't cleaned and prepared correctly before painting. If a surface isn't wiped down, sanded, and primed before adding paint, the paint is more likely to rub off later.

The problem could also be the formula of the paint. Latex or acrylic paint formulas are the least likely to rub off among the various paint options. Moisture could also be causing the problem.

In this post, we will discuss paint types and how to keep yours from rubbing off. Whether you paint inside or outdoors or have additional questions, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right in!

A man wiping a wall , How To Keep Paint From Rubbing Off

Why Is My Paint Rubbing Off?

Set of tools and paints for making repair in flat

Your paint will often rub off because it wasn't applied to a correctly prepared surface. Regardless of what you paint, you should do some pre-color cleaning and priming to the given area.

For example, your walls may need to be wiped down if they have residue or dirt covering them. On top of that, the wall will likely need sanding if there's paint on it from a different color/coating.

Here are a few additional factors that can affect paint on walls and other surfaces:

  • Painting over a dirty/greasy surface
  • Using latex paint on top of oil paint
  • Using a paint formula that is too thin
  • Presence of moisture 

One of the leading culprits of paint that rubs off is moisture. When a wall or other area stays wet for a long period, the chances of the color coming off increase.

You might also notice this takes the form of peeling, flaking, or cracking. Paint formula is another big thing to consider, with thinner ones rubbing off more easily than other options.

Cheaper paints won't have enough of a binder in them, meaning their adhesion will be lackluster. Over time, that can become a problem and result in the paint rubbing off.

How Can You Keep Paint From Rubbing Off?

To keep paint from rubbing off, prep your wall/surface before applying paint. This includes wiping down the surface with a damp, soapy sponge, letting it dry, applying a primer, and letting that dry. Your prep time should take a few hours, with the primer being the final step before the new paint.

Since spray paint products to run rub off more than other paints, you might also want to shop for options with water-based acrylic or latex formulas. These will hold onto surfaces far better than other formulas, leading to less chance of rub-off down the road.

Try to manage the amount of moisture that enters your home. Using a sealer above your paint could also be worth it if you're worried about it rubbing off.

Will A Top Coat Keep My Paint From Rubbing Off?

Depending on what you're painting, using a top coat can help seal the paint in. Generally, you want to apply a top coat to furniture and cabinetry when painting inside or outdoors.

This top layer protects the color and can keep chipping, peeling, scratching, and rubbing at bay. However, this isn't usually recommended for walls, as they don't see much daily contact.

A top coat is essentially the final layer of product someone can put on their new coat of paint. This will likely be an acrylic, polyurethane, or epoxy formula.

Another product to use on top of fresh paint is a sealer. This will be similar to a top coat. It dries with a harder, more durable finish than paint.

We recommend using a sealer for exterior paint on trim, siding, etc., or inside for high-traffic areas. A top coat may be a good idea anywhere that will see more than regular contact, moisture, and wear.

What Is The Best Primer Formula For Painting?

Repainting kitchen cabinet doors with white chalk paint indoors at home.

When it comes to the best primer formula for painting, choose one with a water-based latex composition or oil-based for interior walls and surfaces.

Generally, water-based latex primer is an all-purpose choice. It's easily washable with water. That makes clean-up simple, and this paint is lower in VOCs.

However, water-based primers may not hold up to wear and tear over time the same way oil-based formulas do. Because of their viscosity, oil-based primers are better for high-traffic areas and will be thicker in consistency.

Another benefit of using an oil-based primer is that it can cover porous wood surfaces, which is perfect for doors, trim, and furniture.

That might be better if you're worried about paint rubbing off, as this doesn't typically happen if a heavy-duty primer is applied beforehand. Regardless, either of these primers should work nicely on a variety of surfaces and last for many years.

Zinsser Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer

This primer has an oil-based formula and covers stains well. It features a sealer and can be used on interior and exterior surfaces. It can be easily sanded and dries quickly.

View this primer on Amazon.

Can Oil-Based Paint Rub Off?

Oil-based paints do usually not rub off. Because of their thick consistency and hard cure, oil-based paints shouldn't rub off surfaces that are correctly primed and prepped.

As we mentioned, using a primer with an oil-based formula can ensure a long-lasting paint job. Also, using an oil-based color for your walls, cabinets, furniture, or anything else should extend its lifetime.

According to experts, rubbing off paint usually happens with water or latex-based paint used on a poorly prepared surface.

Therefore, if this happens, it's likely one of those paint products: not oil-based ones.

On top of that, oil-based paint tends to handle water well, often resisting it. Because oil and water don't mix, you can easily wipe down oil-based paint with a damp sponge/rag without problems.

Water-Based Or Oil-Based Paint: Which Is Better Over Time?

Each paint has its own set of long-term benefits. Usually, water-based paint can adapt and age more gracefully than oil-based formulas.

Oil-based paint cures hard, often giving little flexibility to the surface's finish. That can become a problem as the paint ages, often causing cracking.

In contrast, water-based paint (although not as durable against damage) tends to be more elastic and won't crack, peel, or flake off as the years go by.

That can make a massive difference for your walls, furniture, or cabinetry, so water-based formulas may be better in low-mid traffic areas.

Does Paint With Built-In Primer Rub Off?

Primer white Paint Wall with long handle Roller Brush, home renovation concept

Although using paint with built-in primer sounds like an easier, better choice, that's not always the case. Since paint with built-in primer generally doesn't pack the same punch as two separate products, this can become an issue long-term.

Especially for rubbing, 2-in-1 paint and primer can be problematic in high-traffic areas. On top of that, 2-in-1 paint/primer works best if you're project doesn't call for a major alteration.

Paint with thinner formulas will rub off easier than two separate products. As we said, using an oil-based primer and then an oil-based or latex/acrylic formula is one of the better ways to prevent rubbing.

It's also worth noting that paint with built-in primer won't give your surface the same base coating as a regular primer will. Most primers dry white, giving the area you paint a fresh, easy-to-cover surface to adhere to.

The thicker the coverage, the less likely your paint color will rub off.

What Happens If I Don't Prime Before Painting?

Roller Brush Painting, Worker painting on steel surface wall by the roller brush for protection and corrosion.

If you skip the priming portion of your painting project, expect a lower-quality final cure. One of the main reasons that paint begins to rub off over time is that the original surface wasn't primed.

Think of primer as a base coat for new paint. It works to cover whatever you're painting and give the paint a smooth surface to adhere to.

Without it, there is a greater chance for your paint to apply unevenly, leading to chips, cracking, peeling, and rubbing off. Primer is the most crucial step in painting, so always try and do it.

To Finish Things Up

Whether you need to repaint a surface or you're painting for the first time, figuring out how to prevent eventual rub-off can be challenging. Luckily, with a primer, proper cleaning, and the right paint formula, the paint should not rub off.

We recommend choosing an oil-based primer and using latex or acrylic paint formulas. Good luck with your painting project!

Here are some other painting articles you may want to read:

Why Is Your Paint Not Sticking To Wood? [& What To Do About It?]

Drywall Screws Showing Through Paint – What To Do?

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