Skip to Content

Why Is My Paint Peeling Like Rubber?

It's really easy for a first-time DIY paint job to get screwed up. You can end up with a paint peeling like rubber just a few hours after application. Don't worry; we've researched the cause of this problem and the steps to follow to ensure it won't peel.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Paint peeling like rubber happens if you've painted water-based paint directly over oil-based paint without prepping the surface. Since water and oil don't mix, it's just a matter of time before the two sides will separate. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't apply a water-based paint over oil-based paint. With the right surface preparation, you can make it work.

It's normal to see paint cracking and peeling off, especially if you're dealing with older paint jobs. What is not normal is when the peeling happens just a few hours after painting. That's when you know you have a serious problem on your hands. Unfortunately, the only way to truly restore a bad paint job is to start over from scratch. You can't just patch things up with fresh paint, especially if you're painting over a surface with oil-based paint on it. Keep reading to learn how to prevent paint from peeling like rubber so you can save time and money.

How to Properly Prep the Surface Before Painting

If you've never painted your own walls before, you probably think it's pretty straightforward. You might think it's just as simple as opening up your paint cans and getting started, but it takes a lot more work than you would expect.

A yellow stripped away yellow paint, Why Is My Paint Peeling Like Rubber?

Preparing the surface to be painted is essential to a successful paint job. This is to ensure the paint will adhere to the surface and that you get a long-lasting finish. The following steps will show you how to properly prepare your walls to get the best results. 

Tool needed:

  • Sandpaper 
  • Primer
  • Paint

1. Clean the surface to be painted

Yellow paint stripping away

First, you want to ensure that your surface is clean and free of grease, dirt, grime, mold, mildew, and any other debris. To get a thorough clean, use warm water and mild detergent. 

Scrub the area with a scouring pad, clean brush, rag, or sponge, and a cleaning solution that will help to break down any residue left over from your prior cleaning efforts.

While you scrub, be sure to not scrub the surface too vigorously. A good technique is to scrub with a light touch and move back and forth with a circular motion.

2. Sand the surface

Sanding the surface helps to ensure a smooth, even paint job. It helps you remove any rough edges and uneven areas. It also removes the sheen and glossiness of the surface. A shiny surface tends to resist the adhesive properties of paint.

If the surface is smooth and not glossy, the paint has a better chance of sticking and creating a more aesthetically pleasing finish. You can use either 80-grit or 120-grit sandpaper by the way.

3. Apply primer

Paint stirrer and a used paint brush

A primer is simply a thin coat of special paint used to give the surface a base for the first coat of paint. It's a necessary step for achieving a professional finish and ensuring the paint adheres properly to the surface. 

Many people, especially those who are beginners at home improvement, skip applying primer to the surface that they intend to paint. They assume that the paint will stick to the surface without the use of a primer.

However, most paints do not stick to a surface without the use of a primer. It's easy to think that a smooth and non-porous surface is much easier to paint than a porous surface.

But in reality, porous surfaces like wood are much easier for the paint to adhere to than non-porous surfaces. The porosity allows the paint to seep through the material, but it will also compel you to repaint sections multiple times. This can be costly and time-consuming.

In this case, you'll have multiple coats on top of each other. Thick coats of paint are not ideal because they can take longer to dry and they're also more prone to premature cracking and peeling. Remember how you could easily peel a thick coat of paint using your fingernails back in the day?

The video below shows how a paint peeling like rubber looks like. 

Can I Use Wood Primer on a Metal Surface and Vice-Versa?

A non-porous surface like metal does not allow the paint to penetrate deep into the surface. The molecular structure of a metal surface is closely held together, and this prevents the paint from getting a firm bond with the surface. 

Unlike wood surfaces that are porous, metal surfaces tend to be glossy and have the natural tendency to repel paint.

For this reason, metal surfaces require a special type of primer to ensure the paint will adhere properly.

In fact, metals have their own type of primer that is formulated differently than the type of primer used for porous surfaces like wood. Metal primers are specially-formulated to protect the surface from rust.

Likewise, wood primer is specially-formulated to cancel out the effect of tannins bleeding out through the paint. Wood that has been painted has a tendency to bleed through its finish.

This is not an issue with paint, rather, it's just a natural process when the tannins are trying to leech out of the wood and into the paint. 

Check out this wood primer on Amazon.

What Primer is Best Suited for Oil-Based Paint?

Most primers you see in the store are designed to provide a solid base for a particular type of material you want to paint. They come in different formulations to match the specific needs of that application.

In other words, not all primers are created equal. You have to decide what type of primer you are going to use.

Dipping paint brush on a water-based paint

For oil-based paint, you can use a shellac primer. Shellac primers are specifically formulated to work with oil-based paint. Shellac is a natural substance that is extracted from female lac bugs.

It is used to help seal and protect many types of surfaces. Shellac can be applied to both wood and metal to provide a protective layer to the surface, as well as a base coat to ensure that the paint will adhere properly. 

Check out this shellac on Amazon.

Which Lasts Longer: Oil-Based Paint or Water-Based Paint?

Oil-based paints are the popular choice for surfaces that are exposed to wear and tear, moisture, and humidity. They don’t easily chip or peel off and they have a long-lasting quality. Oil-based paints are often used for exterior projects like decks and fences. 

If you have a lot of water-based paint in your home, you may want to consider rethinking your strategy.

Choosing the right paint for a job is based on the material to be painted, the project's size, and how it's going to be used. For some projects, you might be better off with an oil-based paint that can serve you well as a long-term solution. 

Water-based paints, on the other hand, are much easier to remove. Plus, you don't have to worry about the potential fumes or flammability associated with using oil-based paint. However, water-based paint is also much less durable than its oil-based counterpart.

How Do I Know If the Paint on My Wall is Water-Based or Oil-Based?

If you're planning to paint over an existing painted surface, you need to know what type of paint it has. As we've pointed out earlier, you can't just paint a water-based paint directly over an oil-based paint.

You can do a litmus test kind of thing to the paint to figure out if it's water-based or oil-based. The easiest way to do this is to take a cotton swab and dab some denatured alcohol onto it. Rub the cotton swab across the paint and observe if the paint comes off.

If the paint comes off easily, then it's probably water-based and you can safely paint over it without the need for a primer. If not, it's probably oil-based.

Painter checking the base of the paint

However, if you have any doubts about whether or not the paint is water-based or oil-based, you can always prep the surface anyway.

Is Water-Based Paint Shinier Than Oil-Based Paint?

If you're looking for a shiny finish, oil-based paints will give you a shinier appearance. The smooth appearance and glossier finish are the results of its slow-drying properties.

On the other hand, if you want your paint to blend better into its surrounding environment, water-based paints will do the trick.

The finish of a paint, whether it be matte, glossy, or somewhere in between, depends on the type of paint used.

Most of the paints available today are either oil-based or water-based, so it's a matter of which type you prefer. You can test a small area of your wall and decide for yourself.

Painting the wall using a roller paint with white paint

However, you might be surprised that the majority of the paint sold in the market today are water-based. This is because oil-based paint are slowly being phased out in favor of water-based products.

Is Water-Based Paint Water Resistant?

Walls and ceilings are susceptible to water leaks over time, and if water gets behind the wall, mold and mildew can grow. Water-based paints are formulated to repel water when dry, and they generally hold up well to moisture.

They are also designed to dry relatively quickly. So, if you're painting your ceiling and walls with a water-based paint, then a water-based paint is perfect for the job. 

In Closing

Whether you're painting over existing paint or starting from scratch, it's important to have an understanding of what you're working with before you begin. While water-based paints are generally much easier to work with than oil-based paints, your paint job has a higher rate of success if you prep the surface the right way.

You might also like:

Do You Need To Prime Plastic Before Painting?

What Kind Of Paint To Use On An Interior Metal Door?

Do You Need To Prime Hardie Siding Before Painting?