Paint Repair

Paint is decorative and protective, and paint repairs are relatively easy. This Fix-It Guide on paint repair tells how paint works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a paint problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to clean a painted interior surface, how to touch up a wall, how to clean exterior paint and kill mildew, and how to touch up a painted appliance. Paint repair may be needed to complete wall repair, ceiling repair, exterior siding repair, drywall repair, deck repair, outdoor structure repair and many other repairs.

How Does Paint Work?

 Paint Repair

Buy and install a good quality paint roller cover on the roller frame.

Paint is a mixture of pigment (color) in a liquid vehicle (latex, oil, or epoxy) that dries as an opaque solid film. Paint is applied to walls, ceilings, cabinets, floors, and even appliances inside a home, and to exterior walls, shutters, gutters, and fences, as well as many other surfaces both indoors and outdoors. Paint protects and decorates the surface it is applied to. Paint is versatile.

What Can Go Wrong with Paint?

Paint can crack and peel, chip, become soiled, and otherwise become less attractive and lose its protective ability.

Fix-It Tip

Paint cans for water-based paints typically aren’t considered hazardous waste and, once empty or tightly sealed, can go out with your weekly trash. Check with your local solid waste management service (read: trash collector) to find out what local rules apply.

How Can I Identify a Paint Problem?

  • If otherwise good paint on a wall, ceiling, floor, or cabinet in your home has a problem area, you may be able to delay the need for a full paint job either with a thorough cleaning or with a touch-up paint job (see below).
  • If an appliance is chipped or scratched, you can touch it up (see below).
  • If exterior paint looks dingy and/or has mildewed spots, you can clean it with a hose or power washer (see below) and save repainting for another day.

What Do I Need for Paint Repair?

Paint Repair

There is a wide variety of paint brushes available at paint and hardware stores. In addition, most come in various sizes. Ask a clerk to help you select the best one for the job at hand.

Your best bet for finding materials and tools for painting is at a paint store. It typically can give you valuable advice and show you tools that will save time. You’ll need these:

  • Paint to match the existing surface
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint rollers
  • household (such as oxygen) cleaners
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Garden sprayer
  • Exterior paint cleaner
  • Garden hose
  • Pressure washer

What Are the Steps to Paint Repair?

Clean a painted interior surface:

  1. Wash the surface with a sponge and mild detergent. If that fails, move to step 2.
  2. Clean the surface with an oxygen cleaner, then rinse. If that doesn’t remove problem stains, try step 3.
  3. Carefully scrub the surface with an abrasive household cleanser, then rinse. If that doesn’t work, move to step 4.
  4. Repaint the problem area, making sure you perform any needed repairs first.

Touch up a painted interior wall:

  1. If a wall is stained, use a paint roller to apply stain-killing primer over the stains. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly.
  2. If a wall has been damaged and repaired, use a roller and brushes to apply paint over the repaired area, blending the edges into the surrounding area. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly.
  3. Apply a second coat over the stained or repaired area to cover at least 6 square feet, feathering the edges to blend into the existing paint. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before replacing furniture and pictures.


A pressure washer is a great tool. But use it carefully because it puts the water under enough pressure to take off flaking or otherwise deteriorating paint, to damage aging wood, or other things the stream of water hits. Follow any instructions with the machine, and keep enough distance from the surface being washed to avoid damage. Be very careful using a power washer when you are standing on a ladder; the sudden pressure when you turn the washer on could upset your balance.

Clean exterior paint and kill mildew:

  1. Fill a garden sprayer with exterior house cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Use a pressure washer or a garden hose with a power nozzle to rinse off the cleaner and surrounding area.
  3. Let the surface dry thoroughly.
  4. Apply touch-up primer and paint if needed, feathering the edges to blend with the old paint job.

Touch up a painted appliance:

  1. Use fine-grit sandpaper to sand rust or other imperfections.
  2. Clean the sanded and surrounding surface with paint thinner.
  3. Apply a thin coat of rust-inhibiting metal primer. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly.
  4. Carefully mask off an area wider than the primed area.
  5. Spray enamel paint over the unmasked area in a single light coat. Allow to dry.
  6. Gently sand the area and repaint as needed.