Paint Problems & Solutions

Paint blistering and peeling problems on the wall

Surfactant Leaching

Surfactant leaching can occur when waterborne paints are exposed to excessive moisture or cold temperatures during the curing process.  It shows as surface staining or sheen variation and feels like a soapy or sticky substance.

To remove surfactant leaching, clean with fresh water using a new, soft cotton cloth, sponge, or power washer.

Do not paint directly over surfactant leaching as it can cause the surfactants to return to the surface.  Surfactant leaching can be avoided by keeping the paint film free of moisture and above recommended temperatures for at least 24 hours after application.

Peeling, Blistering, and Delamination

Peeling, blistering, and delamination can occur from a wide range of causes.  Some of the most common causes are when moisture enters the substrate behind the paint film and when paint has been applied to inadequately prepared surfaces.

To repair peeling, blistering, or delamination, carefully remove the damaged paint.  Then, smooth the area with an appropriate patching compound, prime, and repaint.

It is important to determine the cause of the peeling, blistering, or delamination issue and to correct that problem before patching and repainting.  If you are unsure of the cause or need additional advice, contact a local Kelly-Moore representative.


While alkyd or solvent borne paints offer some performance benefits, yellowing of these products occurs naturally over time.  It can be accelerated if the paint film is shaded from light or exposed to ammonia during the curing process.

Priming and repainting is required to repair yellowing.  Use a high quality waterborne acrylic finish to avoid future yellowing.


Chalking can occur over time as weathering and UV light break down a paint film.  It shows as a dusty or chalky substance on the surface of the paint.

To remove chalking, clean with fresh water using a new soft cotton cloth, sponge, or power washer.  Light chalking can be primed with an appropriate sealer.

Do not paint directly over heavy chalking as it can cause adhesion loss of the new paint.


Efflorescence is the migration of salt to the surface of a porous substrate that forms white crystalline deposits.  Moisture dissolves the internal salts of a substrate and they migrate to the surface as the moisture evaporates.  It shows as a hard, white substance on the surface and is a common occurrence on masonry.

To remove efflorescence from painted surfaces, use fresh water and a stiff brush to clean, or an efflorescence cleaning solution for difficult areas.

Do not paint directly over efflorescence as moisture in the paint can cause salts to return to the surface.  Efflorescence can be avoided by ensuring the substrate is free of moisture prior to painting and that all areas where moisture may enter the substrate are sealed.

Alkali Burn

Alkali burn is the deterioration of a paint film caused by excessive alkalinity (pH).  It shows as a discoloration of the paint film.

Priming and repainting is required to repair alkali burn.  Before repainting, it is important to ensure the surface alkalinity is below 13 pH.  Use a high quality, alkali resistant primer and paint when recoating.

Color Fade

Color fade occurs naturally when paint is exposed to intense UV light.  In general, color fade is subtle and fairly even across exposed surfaces.  Darker or more vibrant colors may have a more noticeable color change than lighter or less vibrant colors.  Color fade is most common on exterior southern and western exposures as they tend to receive the most UV light.

Chalking, efflorescence, and alkali burn are often confused with color fade.  To identify the issue, attempt to clean the surface and compare shaded areas to exposed areas.  If the surface discoloration is removed with cleaning, it is most likely chalking or efflorescence.  If the discoloration is noticed in both shaded and exposed areas, it is possible that it is alkali burn.  Remember, color fade will not be able to be cleaned from the surface and will appear fairly even, and across exposed surfaces only.

Repainting is required to repair color fade.  Selecting lighter or less vibrant colors and using high quality paints will provide the best resistance against color fade.