Paint Not Drying? Here’s Why (And How To Fix It)

Painting is an incredibly rewarding process when done well, and wildly annoying when it’s not. If your paint is not drying, there are multiple factors that could be affecting this. Luckily, all of these problems are fixable – so you won’t just be out of luck.

The most common reasons for paint not drying are an overly humid environment, poor weather, and too many paint coats (or too thick of coats).

Keep reading for more information and tips on how to make your paint dry fast and effectively.

The Top Reasons Your Paint is Not Drying

If your paint is sticky and tacky, that’s a sign that it hasn’t dried. You’ll likely know that it’s still a bit wet, if only because you can still smell that “paint smell.” To troubleshoot, check the following issues and hopefully you’ll have dried and beautiful paint in no time.

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1. Humidity

Paint needs a dry environment in order to dry. Believe it or not, there’s a reason that professional painters generally wait until warmer months to paint outdoors – and that’s it. This is because paint dries through evaporation. In other words, the paint’s solvent will evaporate once it’s applied, allowing a dry final layer.

If your painting area is above 70% humidity, the water in the air could be preventing the evaporation process from happening. That moisture prevents the solvent from doing its thing, resulting in a sticky, tacky final coat. If you’re curious about how to figure out how humid your room is, check out our article on why paint won’t stick to walls. It’ll walk you through exactly how to test humidity with a tool, or with your own DIY method – the ice test.

The ideal humidity for paint varies on the paint itself, so check the container to get an idea of what you’re aiming for. To fix humidity, you can either buy a dehumidifier or just paint when it’s less humid out.

When painting on wood or after a rain, you’re going to run into more issues. Wood absorbs moisture, making the process more difficult, and rain naturally makes everything more wet and humid. If you’re going to paint on wood that’s wet – just wait for it to dry first and you should be good.

2. Weather

This ties into the above section, so it’ll stay relatively brief. Cold and wet weather make painting harder – simple as that. You generally want to paint in temperatures ranging from 10-26°C, though this will (just like humidity) vary on the specific paint.

If you think that you painted when it was too cold or hot, you can try to heat or cool the room. Unfortunately, you may just need to repaint if that doesn’t work.

3. Too Many Coats!

If temperature and humidity aren’t the likely causes, the number of coats you applied is the most likely culprit of paint not drying.

This is due to something called blocking. In short, blocking is what happens when you paint thick layers on top of each other without allowing them to dry before applying the next one. Because the solvent needs time to evaporate, painting over it is essentially blocking air in between the layers of paint. Oil-based paints are better at simply avoiding this altogether.

If you push on the paint and it feels squishy, that’s a sign that there are too many layers of paint. The bad news is that this could take years to dry properly. The good news, however, is that there are a couple of things you can do to try and solve this.

You can apply talcum powder or baking soda to the wet surface with your hand (generously) to help dry the paint. You simply rub it gently into the paint until it no longer feels tacky or moist.

Alternatively, some people recommend using car wax to dry paint. The idea is that you use a clean rag and put an even layer of wax in a circular motion onto the paint, and then wait for it to dry. After this, you use a buffing cloth (just like on a car) to remove the wax and, hopefully, the tacky surface.

This will not solve issues with moisture trapped in between layers, it will only hide the issue.

Other Things to Fix Paint Not Drying

Below you’ll find a few extra tips to help your paint dry. They’re all rather common sense, but I felt they should be included nonetheless:

  • Research your paints. This will allow you to apply it at the proper temperature and humidity. It’s also good to know that you have a high-quality paint before you start.
  • If you’re using talcum powder, ensure you can remove it first. In other words, do a spot check. You don’t want talcum powder mixed in with your paint for all to see!
  • Plan ahead. Properly sanding, drying, and priming your painting surface with a high-quality primer will make the painting process drastially easier in all ways. Make sure your primer is matched to your paint, otherwise it could directly cause tacky paint. And, finally, measure the humidity before starting to prevent mishaps later down the line.
  • Clean! Keeping your painting area clean is vital. It will make a cleaner, more even coat, as well as prevent unwanted grossness from being trapped under the paint. You wouldn’t cook on a dirty pan, so why would you paint on a dirty wall?

Final Thoughts

Tacky and sticky paint is a pain in the butt. And undried paint is not only annoying but can smell for months or even years of wet paint. Nobody wants that, so plan ahead – clean and sand your surface, prime responsibly, and plan for weather and humidity.

If you’re not sure where to start with painting, talk to a pro! Even if you’re not hiring them to do the painting, they can often help with basic advice. This will prevent newbies from making newbie mistakes, and keep your paint looking fresh and perfect for years to come.