Zinsser Cover Stain Primer Review

Are you looking for a reliable primer to help your paint stick better and prevent stains from coming through? Here’s our Zinsser Cover Stain Primer Review to help you decide if it is the right primer for you.

In this blog post, we will review the pros and cons of this popular primer as well as provide some great alternatives depending on the types of paint for furniture you are using.

photo of zinsser cover stain with text overlay

We’ll also answer common questions about using Zinsser Cover Stain Primer so you know exactly how to move forward with your project. So read on to learn more about how this product can help with your next painting project!

Zinsser Cover Stain Primer is an oil-based product that provides superior adhesion and protection for surfaces like wood, drywall, and metal. It can block stains from coming through the paint and help your paint stick to the surface you are painting better.

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The primer can be painted over in one hour after application, so you don’t have to wait too long before painting over it. However, oil-based products take longer to dry than water-based ones do, so bear this in mind if you’re pressed for time with a project and want to sand after priming.

Additionally, because of its oil content Zinsser Cover Stain Primer can be difficult to clean up, and it is more stinky than water based primers.

rolling on cover stain primer with a high quality roller

Despite these drawbacks the primer remains popular among many DIYers and professionals alike due to its ability to provide excellent coverage on almost any surface.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I also may earn from other qualifying purchases with other companies or get free product to review and use. All opinions are my own.

Pros and Cons of Zinsser Cover Stain Primer

Zinsser Cover Stain Primer is a popular primer for many DIYers and professionals due to its ability to provide superior coverage and protection for surfaces like wood, drywall, and metal.

One of the main advantages of using this primer is that it can prevent stains from coming through the paint as well as help the paint stick better.

If you want to learn more about the importance of priming wood for painting, check out this post.

However, since it is oil based, it takes a long time to dry completely, which is the biggest downside to me.

I like to be able to sand my primer smooth before painting so I can get a really nice smooth finish, but if you sand oil based primer before it has dried completely (24 hours basically) then your sandpaper gets clogged up and it just doesn’t work very well.

clogged up sandpaper after sanding primer
The start of sandpaper getting clogged.

I don’t want to have to wait a day before being able to sand and then paint over the primer. But, if you can only do a little bit each day, this part shouldn’t be an issue.

This primer is also harder to clean up than water based primers (you have to use mineral spirits to clean it up). Last but definitely not least, it has a very strong smell, and it should only be used outdoors or with very good ventilation.


  • Will prevent stains from coming through the paint.
  • It also sticks well to furniture to help your paint stick better.
  • You can paint over it in an hour of application


  • It is oil based, so it takes a long time to dry enough that you can sand it smooth. You can paint over it in an hour of painting on the primer, but your primer might not be smooth.
  • Oil based products take longer to dry completely.
  • Stinky primer, use only with great ventilation
  • Hard to clean up because oil based – use mineral spirits

Where to Buy Zinsser Cover Stain Primer

Zinsser Cover Stain Primer can be found at most hardware stores, home improvement stores, and online. Prices vary depending on where you buy it, but it usually costs around $25 to $35 for a one-gallon can. Here are some specific places where you can buy Zinsser Cover Stain primer.

Remember, you can order online and pickup at your local store for Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware.

Great Alternatives to Zinsser Cover Stain Primer

If you’re looking for an alternative to Zinsser Cover Stain Primer, you might want to consider trying BIN shellac based primer. Shellac primers are quicker drying and can be sanded within an hour of application. They block stains very well and help the paint stick better too.

The only downside to shellac based primers is that they’re more expensive than oil-based ones, and they have a strong smell like oil based primers, though I feel like the smell for the shellac primers dissipates sooner than oil based primers.

To learn more about the best primers to use, read our best primers for painting furniture. You’ll find reviews and comparisons of different types of primer to help you decide which one is right for your project.

What surfaces can Zinsser Cover Stain Primer be used on?

Zinsser Cover Stain Primer can be used on all surfaces according to the manufacturer, including wood, drywall, metal, and previously painted surfaces. It provides an extra layer of protection to help prevent stains from seeping through the paint job. It also works well for interior and exterior projects.

rolling on cover stain primer before painting the furniture

What type of paint should I use after the primer?

After using Zinsser Cover Stain Primer, you can use either oil-based or water-based paint. Oil-based paints take longer to dry but are very durable, while water-based paints tend to be quicker drying and easier to clean up.

It really depends on your preference, the type of surface you’re painting, and the look you’re going for. For the best paints to use on your furniture project, check out our best paints for furniture blog post to help you decide.

Does Zinsser Cover Stain Primer require sanding before painting?

Nope, sanding before painting is not required. Zinsser Cover Stain Primer is designed to provide superior coverage and adhesion, so you can go ahead and paint over it without sanding first.

However, if you want a smooth finish then it’s recommended to lightly sand the primer before painting.

How long does it take for Zinsser Cover Stain Primer to dry?

It depends on the temperature and humidity in your area, but usually, it takes about 1 hour before you can paint over the primer.

However, if you want to sand between coats it is best to wait 24 hours for it to dry completely. Oil-based products take longer than water-based primers do. Additionally, if there is a lot of moisture in the air then it can take even longer.

Learn more about the best water based primers here.

Be sure to read the instructions on the label for more information about drying times and other important safety information.

Can I tint the primer a color before using it?

Yes, Zinsser Cover Stain Primer can be tinted with any universal colorant. This is helpful if you’re looking to paint a surface that has a strong underlying color and needs more coverage. Tinting the primer will help it better match the desired color of your finished project.

rolling on tinted primer onto furniture

Happy Painting!

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