How to keep paint from peeling on bathroom vanity

Jeanne Huber

THE WASHINGTON POST – Peeling paint is a common problem, particularly in areas where there is a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen. It is important to address the problem as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Q: Paint on my bathroom vanity – a 30-inch Brinkhill model made by WoodCrafters – deteriorated, so I got replacement parts. The paint peeled on those, too. I now have another set of replacement pieces. I don’t want the paint to fail again, so I’m going to paint the new replacements. How can I best do this? Should I sand first? Use primer? What’s the best paint to use?

A: It’s great that the manufacturer sent replacement parts, but of course you don’t want to keep getting and installing them.

Before you invest in the time and materials needed to repaint the new replacement parts, consider whether high humidity in the bathroom is contributing to the problem. All wood products shrink and swell as moisture in the air shifts, and if there is a lot of shrinking and swelling, paint has to shrink and swell, too, or it cracks and peels.

If there is dripping water on the mirror, window or walls when showers end, the humidity is too high and could be at least part of the reason for the paint problem.

Try taking shorter or somewhat cooler showers, installing a better bathroom fan or leaving the door open a crack while showering.

Generally, a fan should run during a shower and for 10 to 15 minutes afterward. If you upgrade the fan, get one that’s suited to the size of your bathroom. If people in your home forget to turn the fan on or off, consider installing one with a humidity sensor.

You might also consider how you clean the cabinets. If you wipe them down with a cleaning solution, consider switching to a dry microfibre cloth. If you repaint, it’s especially important to avoid using a liquid cleaner for 30 days, because it takes that long for water-based paints to cure to a durable, washable film.

Another option by Chelsey Knutson, the public relations person for MasterBrand Cabinets, which owns WoodCrafters, said to clean the cabinets with dry cloth only.

If you do not know the details about what finish the factory used on the cabinets, Frank Glowacki, the brand director at Rust-Oleum, recommended scuff-sanding the surface, then cleaning with a non-sudsing cleaner.

When the surface dries, prime all surfaces of the replacement parts. Apply with a brush or a very short nap mini-roller (avoid foam). It will dry in an hour, but let it set up overnight. To remove any burrs, sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper before painting.

Wipe clean. Then apply a topcoat with any good-quality paint, including water-based.

If your coat of paint peels, too, your remaining option would be to start fresh with bare wood. You could sand off the paint while protecting your lungs with a high-quality disposable respirator. Or you could, once again, request replacement parts – but without paint, please.