What to Do About White Paint Yellowing

Crisp white paint is undoubtedly sophisticated, effortlessly elegant, and extremely versatile. It makes any space look fresh and bright while creating an illusion that your room is bigger and more spacious. It can also be an excellent canvas for any type of décor, from Scandinavian style to traditional and modern.

However, you might notice your white paint yellowing over time. This effect is not only visible on walls, but other surfaces as well, like your furniture or wood. If it happens to you for the first time, it can be tempting to just remove paint from wood or your walls, but it can require more work.

The good news is, your white paint turning yellow can still be reversed. But whether or not you can solve the discoloration depends on the cause of the problem. So, let’s discuss the possible reasons behind your yellowing paintwork and restore its original bright color.

4 Typical Causes of White Paint Yellowing

White paint turning yellow can appear unsightly. Some of the common causes of this issue include:

Lack of light

If you look at your old white cabinet, you might notice that the inside paint no longer matches the exposed surface. It is because light, or the lack of it, can affect how white color turns yellow. Whether it’s artificial light or natural sunlight, light can influence the appearance of your white walls.

You’re using oil-based paint

If your white paint is yellowing despite receiving enough natural light, chances are it is oil-based. One of the best things about oil-based paints is that they are extremely durable, making them one of the best exterior paints to use. Unfortunately, oil-based paint yellowing is expected due to some chemicals in the paint.

As oil-based coats dry, color-producing molecules form in the paint. When the surface does not get much light, those molecules will remain in the coat, producing a light to dark yellow tint across the painted surface. Often, the yellowing is subtle, but it can be a problem if your entire wall is colored with white oil-based paints.


Moisture is a common environmental factor that causes the yellowing of paint. It could be due to leakage, cooking grease, or smoke that causes moisture release and then settle on your paintwork, which leaves yellow stains. It is also why you’ll notice white painted cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom turning yellow, as these places receive a lot of moisture every day.

Natural aging process

Sometimes, there’s no particular reason why your white paint has turned yellow besides being old and needs updating. If the paint has been on the wood or your wall for a long time, it will likely cause discoloration. Yellowing is a typical result of the aging of oil paint.

How To Keep White Paint From Yellowing

If you notice yellowing paint in your interiors, it could be due to one or two of the factors highlighted above. To reverse the problem and stop your white paint from changing colors, here are a few tips to consider:

Improve the lighting

If your paint is turning yellow due to the lack of light, it can be resolved quickly by increasing the light in your room. Add an artificial light source on the paintwork that doesn’t receive much sunlight, open the curtains, or move items blocking it. Light can significantly slow down the yellowing process of oil-based paints and even reverse it.

It’s also a good idea to use oil-based paints only in areas that receive minimal light in your room. Cupboards and frequently closed rooms, and other dark spaces shouldn’t be painted with oil-based paints if possible.

Use water-based paint instead

While oil-based paints tend to be longer-lasting and more durable than water-based paints, the latter can typically maintain their true color for a long time despite various environmental factors. Also, water-based paints dry quickly, about one to two hours and up to four hours recoat time, compared to oil paint that often takes about six to eight hours to dry.

Since water-based paints dry through evaporation instead of oxidizing, it can leave the color vibrant. Of course, you still have to choose the right finish, from high gloss, eggshell, satin, and flat, to find the best one for your project.

Pay attention to the location

Since oil-based paints provide excellent resistance to temperatures and wear and tear, it’s common for homeowners to use them in high-traffic areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens. However, these places are also prone to moisture, which is one of the causes of white paint yellowing.

If you can’t help but use oil paints in these areas of your home, you need to pay extra attention to its location. You don’t want to apply oil paints in areas directly next to white cabinets, tiles, or countertops. These features will remain bright white for many years due to strong anti-yellowing chemicals they contain. Once your oil paint reveals even the slightest hint of yellow, it will be highly apparent against its neighboring features that are stark white.

Perform quick fixes around your home

If the yellowing of white paint is caused by excessive cooking grease, water, or leakage, do some quick fixes to control the issue. Make sure to fix the leakage or seek expert help if the repair requires more work than you can handle.

To control the smoke and grease buildup in the kitchen, installing proper ventilation in the cooking area will solve the problem. Use your overhead kitchen fan to prevent your white paint from yellowing.

If none of these solutions work, then it might be time to repaint your home. As mentioned, white paint can turn yellow over time. The discoloration could simply be an indication of old paintwork.


Both exterior and interior paints can typically last for five years, depending on several external factors. If you notice your white paint turning yellowing, you might just need to ensure your space receives enough light or use latex paint. Of course, it’s always essential to identify the cause of the problem to figure out the best solution to take.

About The Author

MyUnfinishedHome Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to finish your home and make it a lovely place.

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