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Surfactant Leaching: What You Need To Know

Surfactant leaching isn’t a word you’ll hear every day, but the chances are high that you may have encountered this painting problem. Surfactant leaching often takes the appearance of giant moles with brown colorations on painted surfaces. The spots may be flossy, sticky, or soapy to touch. Irrespective of the appearance and feel, they destroy the appearance of a painted surface. Surfactant leaching is common to freshly painted surfaces and can become visible within weeks of painting. This problem is common in some interior spaces like laundry, bathrooms, and kitchens. Some exterior areas like balcony soffits, under eaves, exterior broad walls, and courtyards may also exhibit this problem.Residential painters often get called to address this problem. If you have come across this issue, read on to find out more about it.

Should I Be Alarmed?

Naturally, a dull whitish, orange, or brownish coloration on a freshly painted surface may not raise the alarm; however, multiple appearances may raise suspicions. If you have noticed surfactant leaching on your freshly painted surface, there’s no cause for alarm. Latex and water-based paints are most predisposed to this problem owing to the surfactant content in them. Surfactant is brought to the surface of your walls when the paint is applied to it while damp or in humid conditions. This is why this problem is common in humid areas in the home, like the kitchen and bathroom.

When the surfactant-containing paint is applied to a damp surface or surfaces in a humid area, the surfactant in the paint leaches to the painted surface and may dry off over time. This problem can also occur when the paint drying process takes a little too long than expected. The longer the paint drying process, the higher the chance of surfactant migration to the surface. It is best to apply paint to dry walls or surfaces that have been properly cured to prevent this problem.

How Does It Occur

As earlier pointed out, surfactant leaching is common to humid areas, wet surfaces, and slow drying paints. For leaching to occur, perfect conditions must be presented. For instance, using a bathroom or kitchen a few hours after a fresh coat of paint has been added on the walls or ceiling can lead to surfactant leaching. The humidity in your bathroom or kitchen rises due to use and causes the painted surface to trap moisture. This trapped moisture pushes the surfactant to the painted surface over time.

Surfactant leaching due to poor drying conditions may be due to painting over cold surfaces, painting in cool temperatures – especially during winter, and painting areas that lack proper ventilation or air circulation. You can also trigger surfactant leaching when a freshly painted surface is not given enough drying time before exposure to adverse conditions.

What To Do About Surfactant Leaching?

One of the calming discoveries you’ll make about surfactant leaching is that the problem can be corrected easily. The milky white, orange, or brown spots formed due to surfactant leaching can easily be wiped using a damp cloth. You can also rinse the wall or affected surface with water to get rid of the discoloration. When water-based or latex paints are used, you may need to wipe the painted surface down at intervals until the problem ceases. Usually, the full ejection of the surfactant contained in the paint will mark the end of this problem.

Please note that surfactant leaching is not an indication of a bad paint product, nor does it affect the durability of the paint film. If you are dealing with surfactant leaching on exterior surfaces, you can usually rely on weather elements to take care of things. On rare occasions, the leach may leave a permanent mark on your painted surface; this can only be addressed by a fresh coat of paint.

How To Prevent Surfactant Leaching

When painting, your main goal should be to eliminate moisture. Moisture elimination can be done in a lot of ways, including choosing the perfect time and season to paint your home. You should also focus on ensuring that your walls or surfaces are dry and fully cured before painting over them. After painting, leave enough time for the painted surfaces to dry out before using the area. Most painters recommend at least 24 hours during the hot summer months for paints to properly adhere to surfaces. You should also follow the guidelines contained on the paint product, especially if you are using water-based or latex paints.

Note that the average amount of surfactant may be easy to handle. However, if you are painting the entire exterior or interior of your home, you may face a lot more problems getting rid of the discoloration.

Can Hydrophobic Paints Help?

Hydrophobic paints can help address this problem. However, this type of paint is best applied to the exterior surfaces of your home. If you are considering hydrophobic paints, speak to your painting contractor for a recommendation. Using hydrophobic paints offers you several benefits, including;

  • Hydrophobic paints are perfect for almost all surfaces and require minimal surface preparation. You can easily apply a fresh coat of this paint to existing painted surfaces right after power washing it. This saves you the time and energy that would have gone into sanding and priming the surface.
  • Hydrophobic paints protect your exterior walls from common water problems that can compromise your structure’s integrity. With this type of paint, you can protect porous building materials like concrete and bricks. You can also reduce the chances of water percolation into cracks.
  • Hydrophobic paints offer moisture protection to walls that have visible and invisible cavities that can collect water.
  • This paint type can also contribute to your home’s insulation, thus helping to cut down on your energy bills.
  • Hydrophobic paints offer extended durability of about 15-20 years when properly maintained. With this type of paint, you can save money on bi-annual repainting projects.
  • Hydrophobic paints are also low maintenance or almost maintenance-free. After application, you can expect the paint to keep doing its job while keeping your home looking stunning as always.

The right painting knowledge and experience will help you prevent surfactant leaching. If you are already experiencing this problem, the right painting contractor can help. Learn more about painting or speak to a professional painting contractor by visiting

22/47 Park Road
Brisbane Queensland 4064

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