Why is My Paint Sticky or Tacky and How to Fix It

Sticky or tacky Paint

You’ve spent long and hard hours painting that room – and you love the color! But after a week, you find the paint is still sticky and tacky, and you’re wondering, how do I fix this?  

We’ve got you covered. If you haven’t started painting yet, we will offer some tips to avoid sticky paint. If you’re currently experiencing this issue, we’re sorry, but never fear, help is on the way. We will share some fixes. 

Paint becomes sticky and tacky when it isn’t able to dry thoroughly. Paint has trouble drying when the air is overly humid, or the weather is extremely hot or cold. Also, paint can have trouble drying if applied in thick coats. 

This article will present why paint becomes sticky and tacky and how you can fix it. First, we will go over how to prevent paint from becoming sticky. Then we’ll cover how you can fix this issue. 

Several Reasons Why Paint is Still Sticky and Won’t Dry 

As we mentioned in the previous section, there are some everyday things you should check when your paint is still sticky.  

The best cure is prevention. Maybe one part of your project is sticky, but that doesn’t mean the rest needs to be sticky too. 

Here are a few things to look out for: 

  1. High humidity 
  2. Too cold or too warm 
  3. Too many coats of paint 

Let’s start with these three reasons and offer some fixes. 

How Does Humidity Effect Paint Dry Time? 

For the best results, the humidity where you are painting should be between 40 and 70 percent. Humidity is, essentially, water in the air. This creates a problem when it comes to painting. 

Paint dries through a process called evaporation. After the paint has been applied to a surface, the paint’s solvent (the component that keeps the paint liquid) will begin to evaporate away, allowing for a dry finish. 

High humidity doesn’t allow the paint to evaporate adequately. There is too much moisture in the air, and as a result, the solvent has a hard time leaving the paint – and you get stickiness. 

Imagine you have a wet towel, and you want to dry it out – would you throw it in a full bathtub? No, you’d place it out in the fresh air, allowing the moisture to evaporate. 

The same is true with paint. So, if your pain isn’t drying, the first thing you want to do is check the humidity levels in your home. You can do this with a tool called a hygrometer

Every type of paint might require a little different humidity. Check with the paint you are using. The proper humidity should be listed on the container. If the humidity level is too high, reduce the moisture in the air with a dehumidifier, or consider painting at a different time of year. 

Always avoid painting after the rain when the humidity is high. Also, wood surfaces can create a challenging situation. Think of wood like a sponge that soaks water from the air. If you try to paint over moist wood – even if it’s just mildly moist – you could end up with tacky paint. 

Be sure to allow wooden surfaces time to dry before applying any paint.

The Effects of Temperature on Paint Dry Time 

Similar to humidity, improper temperature will have harmful effects on your paint. If you’ve got some sticky paint, then this could be your issue. 

Especially if the area is too cold, you could find your paint struggling to dry properly. Temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are typically recommending for best results. However, be sure to check with your paint, as this will change slightly among the paint. 

If you think you applied the paint when it was too cold, then you could try to warm up the room to allow the paint to dry. Otherwise, you may need to wait it out and consider repainting when the weather changes. 

Too Many Coats of Paint 

One of the most common reasons for sticky paint that won’t dry is paint that has been applied too thick, in too many coats, too quickly. Sorry, that was a lot of “too.” Let’s explain this further. 

In the painting world, you may have heard the term “blocking.” Blocking is a phenomenon that occurs when you paint thick layers over each other without giving the previous layer time to dry. 

Basically, you are blocking the paint from drying by applying another coat of paint over it. It’s sort of like putting plastic wrap over your cake to keep it from drying out. Well, when you paint overcoats over paint that hasn’t dried, a small dry layer forms on the outside edge.

This dried layer blocks air from the paint below, preventing it from completely drying. 

You may notice the paint feels dry to the touch, but when you push on it with your finger, you notice that it’s still a little squishy. 

Depending on the severity of the blocking, you might be able to wait it out, allowing the paint to dry over months. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to start over. 

Ways to Make Sticky and Tacky Paint Dry Faster 

Alright, so we’ve gone over the bad. Now let’s cover some of the ways you can fix and prevent the problems we’ve listed above. Some of these things might seem obvious, but it’s the little things that make a big difference. 

Ways to get your paint dry: 

  1. Wait 
  2. Use oil-based paint
  3. Consider talcum powder 
  4. Auto wax 
  5. Use a primer 
  6. Proper preparation

Alright, there they are. Let’s dive in. 

Wait for Sticky Paint to Dry 

The first suggestion is the easiest: wait. Paint will take some time to dry fully. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be able to make a fingernail print in your paint for the first couple of weeks. 

Be sure to check the container on your paint for information on how long it will take for your paint to dry fully. It could be you just haven’t given it enough time. 

Use Oil Based Paint for Non-sticky Finish 

Oil-based paint will actually take longer to dry than other paints, like acrylic and latex. However, once your paint is fully dry, it will give you a nice solid surface without becoming spongy. 

Of course, you’ll need to consider your needs. Also, not all oil-based paint is created equal – you want quality paint. 

So, the heart of the message is this: do your research about paint with the best dry times and finishes – this will ensure you don’t have to deal with a sticky icky mess. 

Talcum Powder Can Help with Paint Stickiness 

Talcum powder is a good option for white surfaces or areas where two painted surfaces could create friction (like a door). The power will help dry the moisture, allowing your paint to dry and removing that sticky feeling.

Before you run out and use talcum powder on a whole wall, be sure to apply it to a small area to make sure you can brush it off if needed. You don’t want another problem on your hands! 

Use Auto Wax to Fix Tacky Paint 

Just like buffing your car, you can buff tacky paint away! Like talcum powder, this is a good option for areas of friction or furniture with lots of items contacting the painted surface. 

When paint is tacky, it can be easily damaged by anything that bumps or scrapes it. Placing some auto wax on your surface might be your ticket to protect your paint from damage. 

Will a Primer Keep Paint From Becoming Sticky? 

Primer can be the cause of highs and lows. The reason primer can prevent paint from becoming sticky is simple. Remember how we talked about blocking? Painting layers that are too thick, and then the paint not drying well? 

When you use a primer, it eliminates the need for overpainting and helps you get the finish you want, using less overall paint. 

However, there is a catch. Not all primers are compatible with all paints. In fact, some people have reported primers being the cause of tacky paint.

Take your time to match your primer and your paint, and you will end up with a better product. 

Preparations to Prevent Tacky and Sticky Paint 

There are a few things you can do to prepare a surface for painting. 

First, make sure that the area is clean and dry. If the surface is smooth, you may need to make a quick pass over it with some sandpaper to allow your paint to adhere to the surface. 

Second, as we mentioned earlier, make the environment as conducive as possible to your paint drying. What does this mean? If it’s too humid, use a dehumidifier to bring the moisture down. If it’s too cold, see if you can warm things up. 

And always, buy the best paint you can afford for the product. Buy nice or buy twice was never so true than when it comes to painting. You can really see the difference between quality and cheap paint, and you’ll see a difference in stickiness as well. 

9 thoughts on “Why is My Paint Sticky or Tacky and How to Fix It”

  1. I am a new first time home buyer. I wanted to paint a few spaces in my home a bright white. I found a paint at my local Lowes in the Valspar Ultra brand (paint + primer), & bought painting supplies, & prepared the job. It was supposedly low VOC & Greenguard certified, too. However the paint smelled very strong & was more like thick pudding that yet somehow didn’t cover the light beige walls well at all. I’m also a new mom & was trying to get the painting done a couple weeks before we moved in so the fumes would be hopefully gone for baby. The job seemed overwhelming & since I hadn’t painted in a long time, I thought I just must not know what I’m doing. I hired a professional painter, but he had issues, too. Now, I have paint on the walls that doesn’t look good & is still tacky not really to the touch, but to any item left on or leaning against the painted surfaces. I have complained to the paint company, but they don’t seem very knowledgeable as I get different answers from each person I speak with. What would you suggest I do? I feel like I need to repaint, but don’t want to cause any more problems. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi, Sue. Consider this a tentative response, as I see no other answer.
      If your surface is tacky now, wouldn’t adding another layer (primer) just add to your problem (referred to as blocking)? It would seem that the course of action calls for 1) waiting even longer or 2) remove the current paint enough to allow the lower skin of paint to cure.

      This is an aggravating problem, to
      be sure. Good luck.

      Reply
  2. I bought a piece of furniture made in India and it’s tacky sticky. It’s just won’t dry and the lady had it for about 3 years…it has intricate painting on it and it’s multicolored and beautiful but don’t touch it! I’m afraid to set it in the sun which may or may not damage the paint…not sure what to do.

    Reply
  3. I have used Roseau tile paint on my bathroom tiles. It is still tacky after 24 hours what do I do it get it to dry.

    Reply
  4. I painted a railing with rustoleum oil based and it’s tacky. Indoor rail. No primer base. What is your recommendation?

    Reply

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