4 Reasons Your Paint Won’t Stick (And How to Fix It!)

You spend all day painting a room, then leave it to dry for a few hours. When you come back to peel off the painter’s tape, a large strip of paint peels off with it.

This has happened to me too many times. But there are a number of reasons latex paint won’t stick to walls or furniture.

Paint won’t stick to dirty surfaces, a previous coat of oil-based paint, glossy materials, or when the paint is applied outside of the recommended temperature ranges. Luckily, priming the wall before painting is an easy fix to most of these problems.

There’s a little more too it though, so lets dive in!

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Why Your Paint Won’t Stick

Dirty Surfaces

When a coat of grime sits between latex paint and a wall (or other surface,) the paint can’t actually bond to the intended surface. Instead, it will dry in place, and then easily peel off with a little bit of friction.

Not ideal.

This is why it’s important to clean any wall or surface that you think might be dirty. Kitchens especially are guilty of this, so if you’re trying to paint cabinets or a kitchen wall, cleaning the surface with a dishsoap/water mixture will go a long way toward helping the paint adhere.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint was common throughout the 20th century, so if you have an older home, it’s possible that a wall or some of the furniture was painted with oil-based paint.

Unfortunately, modern latex paints will not bond to oil-based paint because (you guessed it,) it’s too oily.

However, there’s an easy fix. Latex paint can bind to oil-based primer, so putting on a coat of oil-based primer before applying latex paint will solve the problem.

Glossy Surfaces

Latex paint requires minuscule pores, bumps and scuffs in order to bond properly. Therefore, smooth materials like metal, plastic, and laminate struggle to hold paint.

This is why if you’ve ever attempted to paint Ikea-style furniture, it probably hasn’t lasted very long.

But it can be done! The base of this coffee table is laminate, but with a good primer, I was still able to paint on top of it:

Coffee table with flowers

Spray paint (which is oil-based) is a good option for metal and glass as well. The high-heat spray paint I applied to this brass fireplace insert had no problem adhering.


The first three problems I listed can basically be solved with a good primer.

Weather is a little bit different.

If you read the side of your paint carefully, it usually has a temperature recommendation, usually something between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you try to apply the paint outside of this temperature recommendation, it’s likely to struggle to dry, or have issues with adhesion.

High humidity can also reduce adhesion.

Basically, you want to apply paint on a neutral day, where it’s not too hot, not too cool, and not too humid. If that’s hard to come by in your climate, air conditioning and central heating are your friend.

The outside temperature won’t make a difference if the inside area where the paint is drying is temperature controlled.

Paint Isn’t Sticking? Here’s How to Fix It!

Step 1: Remove Loose Paint

Start by removing any of the paint that isn’t sticking. If it’s still wet, wipe it off with rags or a cloth.

If it’s dried, peel as much of the paint off as you can.

If you’ve removed all the visibly loose paint, and everything you can easily peel off, but there’s still paint remaining, sand the paint off with 150 grit sandpaper.

You can do this by hand, or with an orbital sander. I love my orbital sander, but if you’re not a regular DIY-er, then it’s a pretty steep purchase.

If you’re going the hand-sanding route, you might want to grab a handheld drywall sander to make the job go a little faster.

Side Note: You can also strip the paint, which is what I recommend anytime paint is fully adhered to a surface. But since the paint is poorly adhered, it should come off quickly with a little bit of sanding. If it’s not, considering stripping the paint.

I have a whole post on how to strip paint here.

Step 2: Prime the Surface

I have a whole post that goes into all the different primers and when to use each, but chances are, you want this oil-based primer.

Zinsser’s Oil-Based Cover-Stain Primer is my go-to primer for any sort of difficult project, and since you’re working on a surface that didn’t initially accept paint, that’s what you want.

The only other primer I’d recommend is Zinsser’s Shellac-Based Primer, which is even more heavy-duty (and expensive,) and I’d only go there if you weren’t able to get all your initial paint off the wall. The shellac sealer will seal that paint so that it doesn’t cause issues with your new coat.

But for most cases, Zinsser’s Oil-Based Primer should be more than enough.

Primed wall

Apply the primer just as you would a layer of paint. Note that neither primer cleans up with water, so if you have disposable supplies (for small projects, I use cheap foam brushes,) that’s the way to go.

You’ll want to wait at least 2 hours before painting.

Step 3: Paint as Normal

I usually only need one coat of primer, but if you’re feeling nervous, feel free to do two.

Then once the primer is dry, apply the paint as normal. It should stick this time!

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