Super Washable Wall Paint
DEAR TIM: I have a husband with dirty hands and children who think walls are painting canvases. Recently I purchased an interior wall paint that claimed to be washable. It was washable to some degree but tough stains did not release from the paint. I really need to be able to wash my painted walls but I don't want a semi or high gloss interior finish. Is there a magical paint that really does release stains? Susan K., Pottstown, PA
DEAR SUSAN: The quest for a flat washable interior wall paint is over I believe. I think I have found a paint that will meet your tough requirements and allow you to have clean walls without periodic repainting. The solution to the problem was reformulating some of the components of ordinary wall paint.
Keep in mind that interior wall paints, and most paints for that matter, are simply colored glue. The chemistry of paint is very close to that of regular adhesives. Paint sticks to your skin, clothes and walls just like any glue. Ingredients are added that allow paint to hide other colors and produce a film over the surface you are painting. Traditional wall paints often use extender pigments to help with this task of hiding colors and marks on the wall that is being painted.
But these traditional extender pigments are porous and are usually made from finely ground silica sand or Georgia Kaolin clays. These particles can be very uneven with respect to size and when viewed under a powerful microscope they look like a coarse sponge. Unfortunately for you and many other homeowners, this coarse texture is an excellent place for stains to attach themselves.
When you attempt to remove a stain or mark from paints that contain these extender pigments, a majority of the stain will lift from the paint but a certain amount stays hidden in the deep pores of the pigments. Vigorous scrubbing will remove the remainder of the stain but it also burnishes the paint making it appear shiny. This shiny spot is often as unsightly as the original stain.
A new flat wall paint can be purchased that eliminates this problem. Have you ever used a pencil or a washable marker pen on glazed ceramic tile? A wet paper towel immediately lifts the marks from this glass-like surface. An ingenious chemist at a paint company decided to incorporate this same principle in a flat wall paint. He substituted tiny ceramic microspheres in place of the coarse extender pigments. The result is a unique flat wall paint that is indeed washable. I tested this paint's washability characteristics against some of the leading washable wall paints and was amazed at how well the paint performed.
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As with any stain the trick to removal lies in rapid response. The sooner you act the better your chances of completely removing a stain. Mild liquid dishwashing soaps also go a long way in helping to emulsify and lift stains from any interior wall paint. Stains that have dried out need to be soaked for a few minutes to bring them back to their original wet or hydrated state before they will completely release from the paint film.
In case you can't remove a tough stain from this new or any other wall paint it is a good idea to keep some of the original paint on hand. If you have a partial can of water based paint, always pour a small amount of water on top of the paint in the can before you hammer the lid in place. This water film will often prevent a skin from forming on the surface of the paint while it is stored. When touching up a stained spot on a wall you may have to use a stain blocking primer if the stain bleeds through. To completely mask the stain, you may also have to completely repaint just the wall and not the entire room.