I am often asked by customers why the paint in their bathroom is peeling and how to fix the problem. This is a common problem that occurs where there is excessive moisture. Besides being an eye sore if the problem is not fixed it can turn into a disaster. Moisture that is allowed to penetrate into the drywall will lead to decay and mold growth. Besides being an unsightly problem this can also become a health concern because of the mold.
The goal is to reduce or eliminate moisture accumulation. When using the shower make sure the fan is on and allow it to run for a bit after your shower. If you don’t have a fan consider having one installed. If that is not an option, open a window while showering and maybe leave the door open as well. Moisture is the cause of 90% of peeling bathroom paint.
To begin the repair you want to start with a dry ceiling or wall. If it is dry to the touch, start by scraping away all the loose paint and drywall (if it has gotten that far). If the surface appears wet as you scrape at it go ahead and continue to open up the area to allow it to dry. After you have removed all the loose paint/drywall, the area needs to dry. Consider putting a fan in the room to speed up the process.
If the problem is limited to peeling paint and/or slightly damaged drywall we can move to the next step after it dries. If the drywall is damaged to the point of needing to be cut out and replaced then that is the next step. I will assume that replacement is not necessary.
Make a diluted solution of bleach to water ( a couple table spoons to a sprayer bottle). Spray the peeling area evenly making sure it gets wet. You want the area to dry prior to spraying it with the bleach water so that the solution will get drawn into the wall or ceiling. The bleach will kill the mold. It can be there even if you don’t see it. Allow this to dry. Lightly sand the area with 100 to 120 grit sandpaper. If necessary you can skim a small amount of drywall mud over the area to even it out. Sand that when dry.
Now you want to seal the area. Use an alkyd sealer. Cover stain or Kilz is a good choice. You can then paint the area with your topcoat. Consider using a paint with some sheen, eggshell or semigloss. This will help. You may also consider using a paint designed for bathrooms. These often have a mildewcide in them. You can add a mildewcide to almost any paint as well. You can purchase the mildewcide at the paint store and have them shake it into the paint for you. Peeling bathroom paint is a common problem but it is one that is easy to fix.