White Paint turning yellow? Here's why

Why is my paint finish on my furniture turning yellow?

If you have experienced this you’re not alone.   This is a common problem that anyone may run into and there’s an easy answer.   A yellowing finish is typically caused one of two main reasons.  

  1. The first reason is that there is moisture in the wood.   
  2. The second issue is that there is grease or a film on the furniture that is reacting to the water-based paint. 

 I have scoured the internet looking for solutions for this problem and there are a few simple steps you can take to help avoid a yellowing finish.

Why would there be moisture in the wood?

Believe it or not wood never completely dries.  While I was at the Hardware store the other week I mentioned the yellowing issue that I have been running into while painting furniture to the fellow working in the paint department. 

He insisted that I make sure I am using wood that is 100% dry.  I then informed him that no wood is 100% dry. 

He then looked at me with a blank stare of confusion and disbelief.

If you have ever done any type of fine woodworking you will understand.  The moisture content in the wood that you use for your project is extremely important.

Nowadays the Farmhouse furniture trend has turned everyone into a woodworker.  Needless to say there just because you know how to nail a piece of wood together doesn’t mean you know all the tricks of the trade. 

Not to worry there is some simple information that can help you.

Most Farmhouse Furniture is built with construction grade pine.  This is a great material to use because it really shows the all the daily wear and tear which adds to that rustic feel. 

It is also much more affordable than hardwoods making many woodworking projects more attainable.

What is the acceptable Equilibrium moisture content in wood?

There is actually an acceptable percentage of moisture content when working with wood.  In a building with a temperature between 75 and 85 degrees the equilibrium moisture content of your wood should be between 7% – 8%.  

Here are some general guidelines to follow for moisture content when choosing your material. 

Wood flooring equilibrium moisture content will generally range between 6% – 8%. 

Most furniture equilibrium moisture content will range between 6% – 9% while construction-grade lumber typically ranges between 9% to 14% moisture.  

Now that we know wood never really dries why there is moisture in the wood?  Think of wood as a giant sponge.  Wood adapts to the environment that it is in. 

In the winter time when the air is dry wood tends to shrink because the moisture is being extracted from the wood.  In the summertime when it is more humid out wood tends to expand because it is soaking up the moisture in the air.  

So before you fire up the dehumidifier in your house you may want to check your relative humidity levels. Your wood furniture may thank you!

How do you remove grease or film from a piece of furniture?

Working with old furniture is a little different than working with newly built furniture.  Have you ever purchased an old piece of furniture from a thrift store or a yard sale?   Most of the time antique furniture comes with a special smell.   

Your first step to prepare any antique furniture for refinishing is to clean it thoroughly.

First start by taking a damp wet cloth and wiping the entire surface down.  Once the surface is wiped down thoroughly you will want to use some mineral spirits to remove the unseen grime and grease.  I also recommend giving the entire piece of furniture a light sanding as well but you don’t have to go to crazy.

Think of the mineral spirits as a nail polish remover.  After wiping the entire surface clean with mineral spirits let it dry. Lastly, after the mineral spirits that completely dried go over the entire piece once again with a damp cloth.

There are also other products on the market to help in the degreasing process.   Some of these products are made specifically to remove certain types of soot and can be a great option as well. 

Your end goal regardless of what product you use is to ensure that any grease or film is removed from the surface prior to painting.

Do I need to use primer?

Priming any surface prior to putting the finish coats of paint on it’s always a good idea.  Often people skip this step to save some time and money.   Whether you decide to prime the surface or not just understand that all primers are not the same! 

There are many water-based primers on the market that claim to seal unfinished wood.   This may be true to a certain extent but if your main objective is to block any potential yellowing from coming out you’ll want to be picky when choosing the right primer.   

Look for a primer that specifically says that it will block tanning (moisture leaking from wood) and or seal knots.   There are also oil based primers on the market that work excellent as well.   Most oil based paints will block stains in itself.  Just take the appropriate steps when working with oil paints.  Oil paints put off a lot of fumes that can be harmful to your health.

 If you have a small area or knot that needs to be sealed there is another quick option.  I tend to keep a small spray can of shellac handy.  Shellac works great for small touch up work and spot sealing.

Now you’re ready for paint!

Now that you’ve taken all the steps to prepare your surface make sure to choose a quality finish paint.   Think about how you will be applying the paint.   

Will you be brushing, rolling or spraying the paint onto the surface.    If you don’t have a paint sprayer handy using a combination of brushing and rolling the great auction.   

If you are interested in purchasing a paint spray Graco makes on of the best sprayers on the market for your money.  I always kicked myself for not purchasing this sprayer first!

Best Paint sprayer for your buck! 

I tend to use Valspar paints for all my projects.   Valspar makes an excellent cabinet paint that is a mixture of water-based paint that is enhanced with an oil synthetic.   This paint works great when brushing or rolling as it tends to dry with minimal brush strokes.  

If you have a paint sprayer just be sure to get a paint that is compatible with your sprayer.   Also follow manufactures directions the paint prior to spraying.

 I hope that you have found information useful if you did please leave a comment below.