What is the Best Paint to Use for Bathroom Cabinets?

Walking into our bathroom started to become depressing. It was in need of a serious update! Unfortunately gutting it and redoing the whole thing was out of the question…waaayyy too expensive! So we decided to paint the cabinets instead. But…what kind of paint should we use?

There are a few things to consider when choosing the type of paint you’d like to use. Bathrooms are usually high traffic areas with more moisture than other rooms in the house, which is important to consider when you make your decision on paint. So what are the best paints to use for bathroom cabinets? The best types of paint to use when painting bathroom cabinets are:

  • Oil-based
  • Latex
  • Chalk-finish
  • Primer

Each has their own pros and cons based on the situation of the project at hand.

If you want to find the best Bathroom Cabinet Paint, click here.

Oil-Based Paints

Oil-based paints can be used on practically any surface. It is extremely durable and resilient which makes it perfect for using in the bathroom. It emits nasty fumes though. So make sure you ventilate the room when using this type of paint. Sometimes it can even irritate your skin and possibly make you feel sick. You can’t wash oil-based paint with water so you will need to use a strong solvent such as turpentine or a paint thinner to clean brushes or anything else you want to paint from. But some advantages of using oil-based paint are:

  • Gives a hard, long lasting finish
  • Beautiful gloss
  • Great for rooms with a lot of moisture, such as bathrooms or kitchens
  • Takes longer to dry so this gives you more time to fix blemishes and mistakes
  • Less expensive and tougher than other paints
  • Can take more abuse
  • No need to seal paint
  • Has a smooth finish with fewer brush strokes

Latex Paints

Latex paints are water based and can also be used on most surfaces. It is easier to clean up than oil-based paint. Simply use water and a gentle cleanser on your brush or the surface you wish to clean. Some advantages of latex paints are:

  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to apply and touch up
  • Non flammable
  • Less offensive odor
  • Dries quicker than oil-based paints
  • Doesn’t require any pre-treatment
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • No need to seal paint
  • Resistant to cracking and yellowing
  • Better color retention

Chalk-Finish Paint

Chalk-finish paint has a matte finish and can be used on any surface with little to no prep work.  Chalk paint gives a distressed or look of age. With its recent popularity, it’s become much easier to find. You can get the colors mixed to your specifics depending on the brand you choose to use as well. However, you will need to seal the paint with a coat or two of wax to prevent wear and tear. Some advantages of chalk-finish paint are:

  • Can be used on virtually any surface with practically zero prep work
  • Very easy to apply
  • Dries very quickly, so no need to wait hours or even a day to start a second coat
  • Paint is thick so fewer coats are required
  • Will hide heavily grained and dark wood


Primer comes in both oil-based and latex. You will need to paint your cabinets with a primer before your colored paint and you will use the same type primer that you use for your paint ie: oil-based with oil-based and latex with latex. Priming before you paint will give you a more finished look and let you use less actual paint. There are also different finishes of paint to consider:

  • Matte
  • Eggshell and satin
  • Semi-gloss and gloss

Primer Finishes

A matte finish has virtually zero sheen. Basically a flat paint which, when painted on your walls, tends to show every finger print! So frustrating because it is extremely difficult to keep clean. This is the best type to hide drywall imperfections.

Eggshell and satin paints have a slightly higher sheen than matte paints. They are more durable and MUCH easier to keep clean. These are used in most kitchens and bathrooms because they are such high traffic areas. 

Semi-gloss and gloss paints have the highest sheen of all of these. You see this type of paint on most trims, baseboards, doors, bathrooms and kitchens. This finish is the easiest to keep clean, but also shows the most imperfections. 

Whichever paint you decide to go with, do NOT skimp on the quality. In this situation, you really do get what you pay for. Always buy the best quality paint you can afford. The cheaper paint will not cover as well and you’ll end up having to put on several coats, in the long run, spending more time and money…so frustrating! Also keep in mind that your paint color will look deeper and more intense on the cabinet than on the sample chip you picked at the paint store because the space is larger.

Safety Precautions to Take When Painting

Always consider doing these precautions while painting:

  • Wear goggles to prevent paint splatter from getting into your eyes
  • Wear gloves to protect your skin when using paint thinner or turpentine for cleaning
  • Wear loose fitting clothes you don’t care about because you WILL make a mess of them
  • Paint is slippery so wear skid resistant shoes so you don’t slip
  • Make sure the room is adequately ventilated as the fumes are nasty
  • If you are using a paint sprayer, wear a mask

Things to do Before You Begin Painting

There are also a few things you need to do before you begin painting your cabinets. It’s very important to make sure everything is clean and grease free prior to starting. Your paint will adhere better. You also will need to fill any holes and/or scratches with wood filler using a putty knife. Let it dry and then sand until it’s smooth. Sometimes you need to do this twice. If your cabinets have a glossy top coat already, you’ll want to sand it lightly to make your paint adhere better. Seems like a lot of work, but it will be sooo worth it in the end.

Now it is time to begin painting those cabinets. It makes an amazing difference when you paint those cabinets in the bathroom! Makes it feel like a whole new space and is relatively simple and much less expensive than doing a total gut job and buying new. Who knows, maybe you will think about painting the kitchen cabinets too!

Final Thoughts

Painting your bathroom cabinets is a great way to spruce up the look without having to spend major dollars on getting new cabinets. It is important to make sure that when you choose to paint the bathroom cabinets that you choose the right type of paint. After reviewing the types listed above you should be able to make that educated decision correctly and have a wonderful looking bathroom after painting the cabinets.

Related Questions

Do you paint inside the bathroom cabinets? Do not paint inside the cabinet unless the shelves are fixed and would benefit from a fresh coat of paint.

Should kitchen cabinets have semi-gloss or satin paint? Both satin and semi-gloss paints are easy to apply to cabinets. When you can, use satin paint, because semi-gloss finishes show imperfections easier.

Is there a waterproof paint for bathrooms? Major brands have recently released bathroom-specific paints. This type of paint features antimicrobial additives that prevent the formation of mold and mildew. Which makes them perfect for bathrooms.

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