When painting cabinets or furniture, nothing causes a queasy feeling faster than seeing stains or discolorations bleeding through the primer or paint. But never fear – I’m here to show you how to fix paint bleed through when painting cabinets or furniture.
Best part? It’s easy!
This post contains affiliate links. To read my full disclosure policy, please click here.
What causes bleed through on painted surfaces?
Before we jump into how to fix those yucky stains and discolorations that can appear on freshly-painted wood, it’s important to understand why bleed through happens in the first place!
All woods have tannins in them. Tannins are chemicals inside the wood that are released when they come in contact with water (in some instances) or other liquids (in other instances). The tannins rise up through the painted surface, causing unattractive splotches and streaks to appear.
Other causes of bleed through include top-level stains on the surface being painted (such as grease or food), and water damage. My first experience with stains ruining a finish happened on this painted bench makeover way back in 2014!
Which types of wood are most prone to bleed through?
Some wood species have more tannins than others. Oak, cherry, walnut, and mahogany woods are the most prone to bleed through because they are very high in tannin levels.
Cedar and redwood, most often used in exterior applications, also have a lot of tannins and can bleed through quite easily. I have noticed this on the new cedar beams we installed during our 1970s exterior makeover – I don’t think the painters primed them!
How do you prevent bleed through from happening in the first place?
Now that you know a bit more about what causes bleed through on painted surfaces, let’s talk about how to prevent it from happening in the first place! This will help you going forward!
The key to preventing bleed through is using a quality stain-blocking primer. That’s it!
The best stain-blocking primers are shellac-based primers, like Zinsser B-I-N primer. Shellac primers will completely prevent stains or tannins from seeping through to the painted surface.
The problem with shellac-based primers is that they STINK! You must have great ventilation when applying them or you’ll probably pass out – they’re that smelly. They’re also more difficult to clean up than water-based primers.
Save Thousands by Painting Your Cabinets Yourself!
Download DIY Cabinet Painting Pro and get:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Complete supply list & product recommendations
- Workflow checklist
- Confidence to do the job right
If you don’t want to deal with the negatives of a shellac-based primer, there are good quality water-based stain-blocking primers on the market now, too! I use Kilz Premium Heavy-Duty High Hide Sealer & Stain Blocker because I live in Wisconsin where we can have the windows open for like 10 minutes per year. LOL.
An example of a project where I used Kilz Premium primer to prevent bleed through is the painted cherry Queen Anne console table I just made over.
How to fix paint bleed through once it’s happened.
Okay, since you’re still reading this post, I’m assuming that you didn’t prime with a stain-blocking primer. Now you’re experiencing stains coming through paint and you’re probably having a panic attack. (I’m assuming this because it’s happened to me before!)
When I painted my oak kitchen cabinets, I intentionally DID NOT use a stain blocking primer (for many reasons that are irrelevant to this post). Anyway, remember that I told you oak has a lot of tannins? As you can guess, I started seeing bleed through on many cabinet doors after I primed them.
My primed oak cabinets started showing ugly yellow and brown stains, especially around the edges.
Since this happened to me on projects in the past, I had planned for this possibility and I knew just what to do.
I simply took the affected doors outside and used B-I-N Shellac Spray to spot prime the areas where bleed through was happening. It was cold out, so I brought them back inside as soon as possible to complete their drying. This lessened the odor in the house and took care of the bleed through problem immediately!
Once the shellac primer dried (in about 20 minutes), I was able to topcoat with paint and not worry about stain bleed through ruining my painted cabinets.
If you have already painted your cabinets or furniture and are seeing bleed through or stains seeping through the paint, you can still fix it this same way. Prime those areas with the shellac, and then re-paint, just as you did before. Yes, it’s annoying, but at least’s its salvageable!
Finally, if you have a lot of bleed through happening and/or don’t want to use the shellac spray, you could also use the traditional brush-on or roll-on B-I-N Primer to spot prime those areas.
I hope this information on how to fix paint bleed through helped you. I know what it’s like to feel like your hard work has been ruined, but rest assured, it hasn’t! This easy fix, although a little time-consuming, will have your painted cabinets and furniture stain-free in no time!