Paint Not Sticking To Walls (4 Reasons And 4 Solutions)

The first reason for paint not sticking to walls is the presence of dirt such as oil spots or residue. Humidity and poor application of bonding primers are popular reasons why paint won’t stick as well. Moisture is one of the hidden reasons why paint doesn’t stick to walls properly.

Have you ever been frustrated to see your paint stick well on one portion of a wall and then not sticking well in another area? Or have you been frustrated by paint not sticking at all? It turns out there are multiple reasons why paint won’t stick. But which one of these reasons is applicable in your case?

Paint not sticking can be caused by dirty walls. Fumes and cooking residue are common issues why paint won’t stick to kitchen walls. Mold and moisture are some of the reasons paint doesn’t stick to bathroom walls.

Acrylic paint won’t always stick to oil paints. Dusty walls are also responsible for paint not sticking. Dust particles have to be washed away before the paint can stick to walls properly.

4 Common Reasons Paint is Not Sticking to Walls

While there are more reasons paint can underperform such as low temperature, old paint formulation, or using the wrong type of paint, the following issues are the most common reasons your paint doesn’t stick.

  1. Paint not sticking to a wall because your wall is dirty

Dirty walls are the number 1 reason paint is not sticking. Almost all types of particles can prevent paint from sticking properly. From fumes build-up (cooking and smoking fumes settle on walls and furniture) to thick dust particles, there are all types of dirt on walls to be worried about.

All paint brands recommend cleaning the walls before applying paint. Skipping this step is the most common issue paint doesn’t stick and the most common issue paint looks uneven on the walls.


Make sure to clean walls properly before applying paint or primer. TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) is the best affordable wall cleaning solution. This miraculous powder cleaner is going to remove almost all typical wall dust particles as well as other types of stains for proper paint adhesion on any surface.

  1. Skipping bonding primers will lead to paint not sticking

Some types of paint can stick to walls when there’s not primer applied first. However, most paints will not stick properly when not applied to a surface with bonding primers. Skipping bonding primer application is going to reduce or eliminate the chance of paint sticking to walls.


Applying bonding primer evenly on all walls and ceilings is a must for the paint to stick. Even acrylic-based bonding primers can now do a good job at helping paint particles stick to walls.

You can apply bonding primers on almost any surface. This includes glossy surfaces such as tile. Make sure to apply a second coat of primer if you think your first application was not as perfect as it could have been.

  1. Some low-quality acrylic paints don’t stick to oil-based or latex paints

Low-quality acrylic paints have a difficult time sticking to surfaces with oil-based based paints or too glossy walls such as those in the bathroom. Painting acrylic over oil pants can be complicated for beginners.


Always clean the walls properly with TSP and then proceed to apply quality bonding primer on any walls before you apply acrylic paint. A good bonding primer will allow you to efficiently paint your walls without too much effort and more than 2 coats.

  1. Leaks and moisture prevent walls from sticking

If your paint is still not sticking to the walls there might be a hidden issue that you need to identify. In most cases, this is a leak, moisture, or mold presence that stops paint from sticking properly. Leaks can come from the exterior side of the wall or the ceiling.


You need to fix the leak or moisture problem before trying to paint the walls again. This means you need to identify the leak such as a broken pipe or a faulty roof which allows water to get inside the wall and over to the interior side of the wall.

Once this problem has been fixed the wall needs to be repaired or properly dried. Adding fans can help for small leaks to dry out faster. Once the problem is eliminated you can proceed to paint a bonding primer and then applying paint on the walls for it to stick again.

Final words

Paint not sticking is an issue caused by dirty walls, leaks, mold, or low temperatures. Some types of paint require applying bonding primer which acts as an adhesive between the wall and the paint particles. Paint sticks best to clean walls on which bonding primer has been applied evenly.


Paint that sticks to anything – does it exist?

A primer that sticks to everything makes all paints stick to everything. Multi-surface and gloss-surface primers are best for making paint stick to any surface.

Do old walls need sanding before painting?

Some old walls need sanding before applying the base coat. Other old surfaces can be prepared with a deglosser, which replaced sanding with 400-grit sandpaper.

Should I sand the primer before the base coat?

You should sand the primer before applying the base coat if the surface is uneven. Porous surfaces such as walls are notorious for problems such as paint not sticking as they are highly absorbent and uneven, leading to uneven coats of paint.

Why isn’t paint sticking to old wood?

Old wood has been painted with oil-based paints which are sometimes more difficult to paint over. You need to sand old wood and apply a primer or a base coat before painting for even results.