There’s nothing like a beautiful, freshly painted white home. From kitchens, to bathrooms, to the outside of your home, white paint can create a fresh, clean look with an air of perfection. But why does white paint turn yellow? Thanks to exposure and lack of exposure to various elements, your once white walls can start to suffer from a yellowish tinge. Read on to find out why your white paint is turning yellow, and what you can do to prevent or reverse yellowing paint.

walk-in closet inside master suite

White décor starts out beautiful and pure

Common Reasons for Yellowing Paint

If you’ve been asking yourself, why is my white paint turning yellow, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place. The effect of white paint turning yellow is not only common on painted walls. It is also likely you’ve experienced white paint turning yellow on wood, or noticed white-painted cabinets turning yellow.

Oil Based Paint

One of the main reasons for yellowing paint is the makeup of the paint itself. If your paint is yellowing, the likelihood is it was an oil-based paint. Oil-based paints have many advantages, including resistance to scuffing, however, yellowing white shades are one of the drawbacks.


If it has been a while since you painted your home, it’s likely that the cause of your yellowing paint is just down to the test of time. Yellowing is often a natural and common side-effect of the drying process and the aging of oil paint. Aging is a common cause of white painted cabinets turning yellow and white paint turning yellow on wood.

Lack of Light

Have you ever moved aside an older cupboard and found the paint behind it no longer matches the exposed wall? Light, and lack of light, can affect how well paint color is preserved and how quickly it yellows. In the case of yellowing due to lack of light, chromophores are to blame. Chromophores are produced as oil-based paint dries, and are a natural part of the process. Chromophores are broken down by exposure to light. If your white painted wall is exposed to light most of the time, it will likely stay beautiful and white. The parts hidden behind the furniture are likely to suffer from the yellow tinge of chromophores.


Moisture is another common environmental cause of yellowing paint. If you suspect a water leak nearby, that’s your first place to start. Smoking in the home and cooking can also cause moisture to be released into the air and settle on the paintwork, leaving yellow stains. Moisture is a common cause of white paint turning yellow on wood and white painted cabinets turning yellow, as cabinets are often located in places that receive more moisture, for example in kitchens and bathrooms.


Is Yellowing Paint Reversible?

Yes! In fact, if yellowing paint is due to a lack of light, it is often easily resolved. As above, when light cannot reach the paintwork, chromophores are produced – but when the paint has access to light, chromophores are broken down and disappear. If you’ve discovered a yellowing patch behind a piece of furniture, simply move the furniture and let the light work its magic. Chromophores are broken down by both natural and artificial light, so you can even set up lamps facing the yellowed paintwork to speed up the process. You may start to see results in as little as a day, but for it to completely change it will likely be a longer term project.

If yellowing paint has been caused by moisture, there is also hope of correction. If the cause of moisture is a leak, find that leak and fix it, then sand down the stained area. Paint over the stain with stain-blocking primer in the shade that matches the rest of your paintwork.

Other stains, caused by cooking or smoking, can be removed by a professional, or by using a mixture of trisodium phosphate and water – be sure to seek advice on how much of each to use and protect eyes and skin when using this mixture if you choose to try this at home.


Re-Paint Using Water-Based Paints

If the methods above don’t work for you, it’s likely your yellowing paint is due to natural oxidizing of your oil-painted walls. A simple way to cover this is to prime and re-paint it using a water-based paint, which will dry through evaporation rather than oxidization, leaving colors vibrant.

Dual vanities with grey marble counters

You can bring beauty back to your white paint

Contact Reliable Home Improvement

Ready to repaint or remodel? Reliable Home Improvement can help get rid of yellowing paint, remove stains and repaint your home. Contact Reliable Home Improvement today to discuss your home design goals!

Contact Reliable Home Improvement