The Permanent Fix for Water Stains on Your Ceiling

When a sudden dark, damp patch appears on your ceiling, it needs to be taken seriously and dealt with immediately to avoid devastating damage to your property.

Water stains generally suggest that there is a leak of some sort within the wall which is now seeping through the foundation. With that in mind, the wise thing to do is to call in a professional (plumber, HVAC technician, or roof expert) to identify the problem and subsequently deal with it before it gets worse. 

As tempting as it may be to conceal a water stain with a quick paint job, we urge you to look into the cause of the leak, have it repaired, and then take measures to remove or cover up the stain. Now, you may have to leave the first two steps in the hands of a trained professional, but the final step of the process can be a rather simple do-it-yourself project for the weekend!

Remember, when it comes to water stains on your ceiling, a temporary fix is not the solution. With that said, here are two permanent fixes for getting rid of those unsightly water stains on your ceiling.


1. Removing Water Stains with Oxygen Bleach


NOTE: Always use protective gear such as gloves, a surgical mask, and safety glasses when cleaning with any type of bleach.

We have to warn you, oxygen bleach (AKA sodium percarbonate) is not always effective in fixing ceiling water stains; however, it is definitely worth a try if it eliminates the need for a post-cleanup paint job. Oxygen bleach is a milder product as compared to its chemically charged counterpart – chlorine bleach  – and is often used in household cleaning. More importantly, it is safer to use and does not fade or remove colour, making it a preferred choice when dealing with a coloured paint finish. 


How to remove water stains on the ceiling with oxygen bleach:


  1. Wait for the stained area to dry completely.
  2. In a bowl, combine 1 part bleach to 3 parts water; mix well.
  3. Dampen a sponge or white hand towel with the solution and gently scrub the area in circular motions. Avoid using a soaked or dripping sponge/towel on your ceiling as excess moisture may damage the paint finish.
  4. Wipe over the area with a clean, damp sponge or towel to rinse off the solution and remove any traces of bleach.
  5. Absorb as much moisture with a dry towel. Keep the room ventilated to dry the ceiling faster.

TIP: If the stain persists, repeat the entire process 1-2 more times before attempting a different stain removal process.

2. Clean with Chlorine Bleach; Prime and Paint the Ceiling


If the water stain in question is old or very dark, oxygen bleach may not work to remove it. That’s when method #2 comes to the rescue! Although longer and more troublesome, cleaning with chlorine bleach is a surefire way of getting out ceiling water stains. Unfortunately, it leaves the ceiling with a whitish patch that will require a prime and paint job thereafter. Nevertheless, the end result is well worth the effort! 


The Step-by-Step Process


Remove the Stain


The steps to remove water stains using chlorine bleach is no different than that of cleaning with oxygen bleach (refer to method #1). For the cleaning solution, however, it is advisable to reduce the strength to 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. If necessary, the strength may be increased to no more than 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. After scrubbing and rinsing the stained area, allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.


Apply Primer


An oil-based, stain-blocking primer is recommended for ceilings that have encountered stains because they are mould-resistant, as well as water-insoluble; therefore, you never have to worry about stains bleeding through. Primers are available in a large variety of shades which helps to find one that matches your existing paint. Before you apply the primer, however, wipe the ceiling with a clean cloth to remove any dust that may have settled on the surface. Use a paint roller for the application; avoid rolling more than a few inches outside of the bleached area. Allow the primer to dry for a couple of hours before painting over it.


Paint the Ceiling


Water-based and oil-based ceiling paints are both suitable to be used over an oil-based primer; however, it is best to use the same type of paint that was originally used on the ceiling.

To help you find the perfect match, a paint swatch will be of great assistance! Of course, a finished wall will never be identical to what you see on a colour swatch; therefore, we strongly recommend testing the paint shade over an inconspicuous area before painting over the ceiling.

Allow the paint to dry completely before comparing it to the existing colour or deciding whether it requires a second coat. When you’re satisfied with your choice of colour, apply the paint over the primed area of your ceiling with a roller brush. Be sure to remove excess paint from the roller for a thin, uniform finish.

At the end of this permanent fix for water stains on the ceiling, no one will ever guess that you had them to begin with!

Karen Saunders

Karen Saunders

Karen Saunders is the content marketing manager at PaintMates. With extensive experience in the home and garden space. Karen researches and writes about home improvement.

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