Why Does White Paint Turn Yellow? (And How to Keep it Looking Bright)

Have you ever seen white paint turn yellow over time? You might wonder why that white paint isn’t staying true to its color – after all, it says “white” on the label.

So why does white paint turn yellow? This discoloration could be due to several factors, including minor impurities in the paint, incorrect painting techniques, and the age of your product.

There’s no need to worry, though. We can figure out why your white paint turned yellow.

White paint can turn yellow over time due to several reasons:

  1. Aging: As paint ages, its pigments can break down and become yellow over time.
  2. Presence of heat: High temperatures can cause it to turn yellow and discolor.
  3. Contamination: Exposure to smoke, grease, and other substances can cause a wall to yellow and discolor.
  4. Use of low-quality paint: Low-quality product may contain lower-quality pigments that are more prone to yellowing process over time.

In this article, I’ll explain what causes white paint to be yellow and look at possible ways to combat this issue when painting interior rooms or furniture pieces.

Yellowing of Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based walls and cabinets tend to turn yellow in areas that are not exposed to sunlight or artificial light. You can easily see how the lack of light affects behind pictures or appliances and inside of the cabinets.

The heat from radiators, cooking grease, cigarette smoke, and moisture can also affect oil-based products and increase yellowing.

Another reason is inadequate ventilation when painting indoors, which causes carbon dioxide and other contaminants from dust particles to be trapped in the atmosphere, causing discoloration over time.

Latex vs. Oil-Based Paint

Indoor paints are usually latex (water-based) paints as they are safe to use.

  • Latex (Water-based) paint: Generally, it does not turn yellow over time.
  • Oil-based (Solvent-based) paint: Will turn yellow without UV light (sunlight).

Oil-based products may irritate the eyes and skin (so the space should be well-ventilated) and require a longer drying time.

Advantages of Water-based paint:

  • Stays white
  • Quick drying
  • Less toxic
  • Easy to clean


  • Less sheen
  • The finish is less smooth

How to Fix Yellowing in Paint

To fix yellowing, first, determine the cause of the issue.

  • If the yellowing is due to age, you may be able to give your walls a fresh coat of paint to restore their original color.
  • If humidity or mold is causing your wall to discolor, proper ventilation and dehumidification are essential steps in avoiding further damage.
  • If your wall was previously covered with old wallpaper and you’re seeing what resembles yellowing as traces of adhesive residue, try using a mild detergent and scrubbing pad to remove it.

Finally, if none of these solutions help, contact a professional painter to take a look at your walls and provide further advice or treatment.

How Do I Keep My White Paint From Yellowing?

When you cover your interior walls white, you want to ensure the end result doesn’t start yellowing. Right? Prevent future stains and yellowing with these techniques.

Let’s look at how to keep your whites from having a yellow tint. Here’s what you need to know.

Use Quality Products

First of all, never skimp on quality! Low-grade products tend to wear down much sooner than premium brands.

The cheapest wall finishes don’t cost much, but the most expensive ones can cost ten times more. It might feel strange because white is just white.

However, there are differences in wall coating products. For example, some do not cover enough even after three coats.

Some popular quality paint manufacturers in the USA include Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Behr, Valspar, and PPG.

They have products for various applications, color-matching services, specialized products for specific projects, etc.

Type of Drywalls Matter

Occasionally, new types of gypsum boards on the market can complicate the painting project.

Some recycled drywall boards can turn yellow when they are painted. Those sections covered with joint compound remain white, while the rest turn yellow.


When applied before urethane-based varnishes, fresh water-based paints may turn yellow once the urethane hardens (you can easily recognize them by their strong smell).

Avoid Using Ammonia-Based Cleaners

Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners if you want to prevent yellowing. Ammonia can cause colorant to turn yellow, especially if it’s not thoroughly rinsed off the surface after cleaning.

Ammonia is often used in cleaning products designed to remove grease, oil, and grime, but it can also damage the wall cover and cause discoloration over time.

If you need to clean your surfaces, it’s best to use a mild, non-abrasive cleaner that’s designed for use on painted surfaces and won’t harm the wall cover.

Environmental Factors

One of the best ways to prevent your white from yellowing is to control the environmental factors contributing to the problem.

That means keeping your space ventilated and humidity levels low (and no cigarette smoke!).

Get Help From Professionals

If you just can’t seem to fix your yellowing problem and time is of the essence, get some help from experienced professionals. Ask for their advice on preventing yellowing.

An expert should be able to evaluate your particular situation and provide a proper fix that best suits your needs.

They may be able to suggest better-quality products or various other available solutions that will prevent white from yellowing over time.

Whites Have Differences

Whites can be called, for example, pearl white, painter’s white, or plain white.

However, whites from different manufacturers are not the same, even though they might have the same name.

Do not cover two walls of the same room with different whites, even if they have the same name and gloss level. The shade difference can be noticeable.

Can You Repaint Old Oil-Based Wall That Has Turned Yellow?

You can fix yellowing by repainting using latex (water-based) products.

Sand your existing oil-based wall with sandpaper to remove the sheen before repainting it with a water-based product. Apply an undercoat, and allow it to dry. Then cover it with your new water-based color.

When you repaint the walls, you will notice that the remaining walls seem to yellow even more after fixing other walls.

However, new coatings will likely turn yellow if the environmental conditions that caused the previous one continue (like humidity or cigarette smoke).

How to Check If You Have Water-Based or Oil-Based Paint In Your House?

A simple test can determine if you have a water-based or oil-based wall cover.

Rub a wall with a white rag or cotton ball wet with water and soap or alcohol (70 % isopropyl alcohol). Rub a small and preferably hidden part of the wall.

Latex (water-based) paint leaves some residue (with the color of the wall), and oil-based doesn’t.

When you hear the term latex with paint or primer, it usually means water-based. Latex paint contains a synthetic polymer, not rubber latex.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, the white oil-based walls and cabinets can sometimes turn yellow over time. 

Sunlight tends to prevent the yellowing of solvent-based coverings when used outdoors. But on the other hand, they can create a chalky surface with UV light.

So, simply using water-based paint is the answer to prevent yellowing.

Similar Posts