Why Is Yellow Coming Through White Paint

Have you ever experienced the frustration of painting a piece of furniture with white paint, only to find that yellow spots start showing through? It can be really annoying and ruin the clean, crisp look you were going for. So why is yellow coming through white paint?

Let’s dive into the reasons behind this common problem and explore some painting techniques for furniture that can help you prevent or fix those stains.

photo of furniture with yellow stains with text overlay

So you’ve finally decided to freshen up that old piece of furniture with a bright coat of white paint. You’re picturing this clean and modern vibe for your space, but during the process, you see these annoying yellow stains showing through. What gives?

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Well, you’re not alone in this dilemma. Many DIYers have faced the same issue and tried to figure out why.

Is it something they did wrong? Is it just the nature of white paint? Or is it something they did not know about and could have prevented?

So first, let’s understand what causes these yellow stains, then tackle the ways to keep them from happening in the first place.

Why Is My Fresh White Paint Turning Yellow on Wood?

When you’ve painted your furniture white and a yellow stain starts to show through, don’t panic. This can happen in various scenarios.

You may have painted over a piece of furniture that was previously stained or varnished without properly priming it first. This can cause the yellow tint from the previous finish to seep through your fresh coat of white paint.

Another common scenario is when you use an old can of white paint. Over time, some types of paint for furniture such as oil based paints can turn yellowish because of the oil in them.

Lastly, the type of wood used for your furniture can also play a role in causing yellow stains when painting it white. Certain types of wood contain natural oils or tannins that can bleed through the paint and cause discoloration.

What Is Tannin Bleed?

Let’s focus on the specific issue of tannin bleed, which is often the culprit behind those yellow stains on your white paint. Tannin bleed is also commonly known as “tannin staining” or “bleedthrough”, and it commonly shows up in woods such as cedar and redwood.

So why does this matter when painting furniture white? Tannin bleeding comes out especially on lighter paint colors, like white. When the tannins in the wood start bleeding through the paint, they create a yellowish brown stain on the surface.

Yellow Stain Coming Through White Paint

What causes these tannins to come out of hiding and ruin our white paint party? Well, besides being naturally present in wood, tannins can also be activated by moisture. If you paint wood when it’s not fully dry, discoloration can occur. This is why it’s important to properly prep wood before painting and let it fully dry.

Using water based paints can also contribute to the tannins coming through. These paints are not designed to block tannins, so they can easily bleed through and leave those pesky yellow stains.

So if you’re painting your furniture with a light color like white, you need to take some extra measures to prevent these tannin stains.

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How to Fix Yellow Stains Coming Through White Paint

To block those yellow spots from your white painted furniture, you can start by using a shellac or oil based primer. These primers for painting furniture are specifically designed to block tannins.

There are also stain blocking water based primers that can work in mild cases. However, they may require longer drying times between coats and may not be as effective as shellac or oil based primers.

So prime the yellow stains or the entire piece of furniture with BIN shellac based primer or Zinsser Cover Stain primer. Yes, you can just prime over the white paint. You’ll know you have enough coats of primer when the yellow stains are no longer visible.

Here’s our honest Zinsser Cover Stain Primer review to learn more about our personal experience of using this primer!

photo of priming furniture to block yellow stains

You can also use a can of white spray paint since spray paint is usually oil based. This can be an easy and quick solution, especially for small projects.

But sometimes, those yellow stains may only show up after you have applied water based topcoat to seal your white paint. If this happens, don’t panic. Simply scuff sand the topcoat with 220 grit sandpaper, prime over it, and then paint and topcoat again.

So you see, you can still save your white painted piece from those discolored spots!

Prevent Stains Coming Through White Paint

But it would be best to prevent these stains from showing up in the first place. You should make sure to use a stain blocking primer before painting furniture white. This will save you time and effort in the long run.

applying stain blocking primer before painting furniture with white paint

You don’t want to do all that painting and then realize you have to start over because of tannin stains. You’ll spend more time and effort trying to fix it rather than preventing it. You’ll end up wasting money on extra materials too.

So don’t skip priming wood for painting, especially when using light colors. It’s a necessary step that will guarantee your final result is as flawless as you want it to be.

Is it necessary to prime the entire piece of furniture or just the yellow stains?

It’s always a good idea to prime the entire piece of furniture, whether you’re dealing with yellow stains or not. This will create a consistent surface for your paint to adhere to and guarantee an even finish. Plus, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to preventing any potential tannin stains from popping up later on.

photo of priming furniture with BIN shellac based primer

But it also depends on the severity of the yellow stains and your personal preference. If there are only a few small spots, you may be able to get away with just priming those areas. This can be a time saving fix if you’ve already finished painting the piece.

However, if the stains are more widespread, it’s best to go back and prime the entire piece for a more seamless result. This may add some extra time and effort, but if you want your final product to look professional and flawless, it’s worth it.

Here’s more on how to stop stains from coming through paint to learn all about how to fix paint bleed through, and how to prevent it from happening the next time.

Can I cover yellow stains by using multiple coats of paint?

Yes, you can cover yellow stains with multiple coats of paint. However, this may not be the most effective solution as the stains will likely continue to bleed through.

It’s still best to use a stain blocking primer before painting to get the best results. Here’s our list of the best primers to stop tannin bleed to help you decide which primer is best for your next project!

Keep in mind that using multiple coats of paint can also lead to a thicker and less smooth finish. This can be especially noticeable on furniture with intricate details or corners. So while it may seem like a quick fix, it’s important to address the underlying issue of tannin staining.

So while it may seem like an easy solution, relying on multiple coats of paint to cover yellow stains is not always the most effective option.

In the end, prevention is always better than trying to fix a problem. So investing in a good stain blocking primer and properly prepping your furniture before painting can save you time, effort, and frustration in the long run. Plus, you’ll end up with a flawless finish that will last.

So next time you’re considering painting with white or other light colors, don’t forget to prime first!

But if you face yellow stains coming through white paint again, now you know how to fix it. You can easily go back and reapply primer and paint for the beautiful end result you wanted.

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