Asked on Apr 09, 2015

Bathroom walls "sweating" sticky stuff? What is it?

We bought a home last year and the master bath has been beautifully remodeled, however, when you take a shower the walls are sweating. The fan is rated for the sq footage of the bathroom and it is properly working. We think that when they did a faux plastering on the walls they did not take down the old wallpaper and the sticky residue is wallpaper glue. Could that be what it is? If so, do I need to pull the wallpaper under the paint and the plaster completely off or can I just seal it when it is all dry with a good sealer/primer? HE#LP!
The sticky streaks never fully dry, they are always tacky to the touch. They are a slightly clear and yellow/amber color. The house was never smoked in either.
  33 answers
  • Home on Hidden Oaks Home on Hidden Oaks on Apr 09, 2015
    This happens in our bathroom too! I don't think it has ever had wall paper.
  • Andrea Andrea on Apr 09, 2015
    This was happening in our bathroom too, I bought a fan that was bigger than suggested, plus we had a window so I made sure that it stayed open.....that helped it until someone would like to take an extremely long hot shower. Mine was an older home, maybe that's why
  • Babz Babz on Apr 09, 2015
    I have a hallway that is doing this too. I had my attic insulated about two years ago and that is when It began. I'm wondering if more vents need to be put in the attic.
    • See 2 previous
    • Kellie Kellie on May 29, 2021

      did you ever figure out the problem. Mine is doing it too. We had insulation blowed in the attic and wonder if that is causing it.

  • Becky Wood Becky Wood on Apr 09, 2015
    I will be following this post carefully. I live in a mobile home. We have the wallpaper looking wallboard stuff. A few years ago we used Kilz primer and painted two of the walls in the bathroom. Started noticing this same thing, so we never painted the other walls. I have tried leaving the window open when showering and even leaving the bathroom door and then both bathroom and bedroom doors open.
  • Cariana Cloe Szatkowski Cariana Cloe Szatkowski on Apr 09, 2015
    I'm going to talk to Sherwin Williams tomorrowor Saturday and see if they know why it does this? I understand if it was just humidity, but this is sticky...Yuck, and it stains the walls. I will let you all know what they say. :)
    • Nora Nora on Nov 01, 2018

      Hi. What was the solution! Did an oil based paint:primer work? My master bathroom walls do the same thing... not a good look ... thanks

  • D & K D & K on Apr 09, 2015
    Your are correct in your assumptions. Years ago when I first attempted painting wallpaper I got the same results as you have. The problem was I'd used a latex primer/sealer on the wall paper. But here's the catch, all latex paints and primers are designed to allow moisture to penetrate regardless if the label says its also a sealer. That's just the nature of their makeup. The solution I found was switching to an oil based primer. Since switching to oil base I've done numerous wallpaper painting, texture and faux plaster and not one has demonstrated the problem. I'd go over the existing walls with an oil base primer and repaint.
    • See 3 previous
    • Cariana Cloe Szatkowski Cariana Cloe Szatkowski on Apr 13, 2015
      @D & K Thank you so much, I think you are right! I was going to attempt to rip all the old wallpaper down but my husband said that he thinks I would do too much damage to the existing wall. The paint can that the previous owners left is from Sherwin Williams so I will get an oil based from them and let you know how it works. Thank you for your thoughts!
  • Katie Lloyd Mansfield Katie Lloyd Mansfield on Apr 09, 2015
    This happened in our bathroom after I took down wallpaper. I think it was the left over glue from the wallpaper. I've painted several times and it has finally quit.
  • Adrianne C Adrianne C on Apr 10, 2015
    I think it's the glue as well, and the fan isn't pulling out the moisture it should.
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Apr 10, 2015
    You pretty much answered your own question on cause and remedy. The wallpaper is acting like aluminum foil with paper towels on top if you will. The plaster is the "paper towels" and absorb any moisture. There is no where else for the moisture to go except back out where it came from.
    • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Apr 10, 2015
      A new fan is only putting a bandaid on a gushing wound. You will continue to have a moisture problem regardless of fan size. Mold and mildew will surely follow. It might be between the wall paper and plaster, but it WILL be there. Fix the problem right the first time and you won't have mold remediation costs later and quadruple the total if fixed now.
  • Belinda Elliott Belinda Elliott on Apr 10, 2015
    @ Cariana, you will have to take down the wallpaper and get rid of the glue properly. Then paint with enamel paint. Always keep the windows open even if it is cold!!
  • Hor1528804 Hor1528804 on Apr 10, 2015
    Well I read this because I kinda have the same type issue, the above reasons do not make sense for me though, mine is a spare bathroom not used therefore has nothing to do with showers and fans, and has not had wallpaper. Disappointed no solution for me.. Good luck everybody but obviously there could be another reason since none of those apply in my situation.
    • See 3 previous
    • Urszula Zurawicz Urszula Zurawicz on Jul 06, 2018

      Same problem, I run fan 24 hrs per day, and keep the door open all the time, then the walls are dry. There is no wallpaper. It happens mostly on hot days in summer. I think that the hot air enters in through the went and meet the cold walls , cause the air condition is running, and the precipitation happens. I am still worki in better solution then running fan all the time.

  • DNY DNY on Apr 10, 2015
    I noticed this same problem in our main bathroom a couple of years ago after a remodel including fresh paint on the upper half of the walls. What you're seeing is actually material that is leaching out of the paint supposedly caused by poor ventilation. This is the answer I found online from a Benjamin Moore rep: "What you are experiencing is not uncommon when a latex paint is used in a bathroom that does not have adequate ventilation installed. Film discoloration due to a concentration of water-soluble ingredients on the painted surface, typically found on ceiling surfaces in rooms that have high humidity, for example, bathrooms and kitchens. The discoloration may appear as a light tan or brown spots showing a glossy, soapy appearance.Latex paints will exhibit this tendency if the coating is applied under very humid and cool temperature conditions. Dark colors made with large quantities of colorant are more susceptible.Remedies: Wash the affected area with soap and water using a soft cotton cloth and then rinse with cool, clean, water. This problem may occur once or twice again before leachable material is completely removed. When paint is applied in a bathroom, it is important to have it dry thoroughly before using the shower/bath. A more permanent solution would be to invest in suitable ventilation-the best choice being an exhaust fan that directly vents to the exterior of your home. Best regards,Mark Lamborn Benjamin Moore & Co." Let me add that we have an exhaust fan that works well (and is used during every shower) but still ran into this problem. Our walls are a deep cinnamon color, satin finish. This method worked for me but I did have to repeat it several times over the course of about a year. We've been streak-free for close to a year now and it's a much simpler solution than stripping or repainting. Give it a try. P.S. Just an FYI, according to home repair experts I familiar with, they recommend that you always leave your exhaust fan running 15-20 minutes after you've finished showering. We do not do this but I believe our problem with streaks has been solved. We've experienced no other dampness issues in our bathroom.
    • See 8 previous
    • Harvey Harvey on Oct 23, 2018

      Thank you!!

  • Candy Candy on Apr 10, 2015
    I too have this same problem but I don't have nor ever had wallpaper on these walls and we built the house 34 yrs ago so I know for sure it has never had wallpaper. So it does seem that there are other reasons behind it but not sure why. I am constantly wiping the walls down because it is sticky. We use exhaust fan with every shower too.
  • Mary Heyden Mary Heyden on Apr 10, 2015
    Probably need new exhaust fan.
  • Patrick Smith Patrick Smith on Apr 10, 2015
    I have this problem as well, more prevalent in my wifes bathroom where she obviously uses more personal care products i.e. perfumes, hair sprays, and makeup. Fans are only as good as is the ability to circulate your air. In other words, the fan is exhausting the air to the outside, but what is it being replaced with? Is there adequate "flow" INTO the bathroom? If your seal around your door is so tight (Bottom air gap) that it cannot enter while its being exhausted, the room becomes stagnant. The steam from the bath/shower interacts with all those hair care and make up products, and makes the wall feel sticky. You have to have not only an adequate fan to exhaust the air, but you need adequate draw INTO the bathroom to help circulate air and steam.
    • DNY DNY on Apr 10, 2015
      @Patrick Smith Please read my answer posted above. I think you might find it's a paint issue (and probably ventilation issue) but not a "product" issue and it has a very simple solution.
  • Antcp3 Antcp3 on Apr 10, 2015
  • Carol Burkhardt Rask Carol Burkhardt Rask on Apr 10, 2015
    Thanks Dennis. : )
  • Linda Linda on Apr 10, 2015
    Good old hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle might be just what you need. Buy your own bottle, make sure it's opaque so no light can get thru. It can't possibly hurt, and it's a really cheap cleaner. Spray, and wipe with a dry cloth. It won't bleach out color, and it has little to no odor. I can't even begin to say the things we use it on, besides cleaning wedding gowns and the church's altar linens.
  • Connie Carroll Connie Carroll on Apr 13, 2015
    Good morning to everyone. I own a paint and decorating store. While it is possible that this is related to wallpaper glue, it is not likely. It is more likely that you are dealing with a paint "surfactant" issue. If paint did not get a chance to cure properly before it was exposed to moisture, these soaps can leach out. Quite often, one would paint a bathroom and take a shower the next morning causing this issue. It can usually be washed off but tends to come back. It can also happen in an exterior application where someone painted late in the day and the temperature dropped before the paint was cured. The best solution is to clean the walls thoroughly, repaint with a 100% acrylic paint and give the area up to 10 days to cure before showering. There should always be a good fan, of course but it is the curing time that is critical.
  • Rachael Provost Rachael Provost on Apr 14, 2015
    I would have guessed it was nicotine.... My parents bathroom would sweat nictonie (both were heavy smokers) and it was an amber color and sticky... If the previous owner didn't smoke maybe the owner prior to them did?
  • Kat Hammers Kat Hammers on Apr 14, 2015
    It's from not being vented enough. I have the same problem in my master bath. My master bath was an addition that I had done so I know none of those things that you think it might be has happened in my bath. My painter told me it's from not being vented good enough every time you shower.
  • Lynn Whinery Lynn Whinery on Apr 17, 2015
    The apartment we lived in when we first got married did this, and there had never b een wallpaper. It also did to a degree in the hallway right outside the bathroom door. It turned out that earlier tenants had smoked. Apparently the tar was bleeding through.
  • Ann Thompson Ann Thompson on May 10, 2015
    I had this problem in a house in Memphis. It looked like little droplets of paint. It was bug poop. We got a contract for treatment and it didn't happen again, before someone goes after me for using chemicals, to me it is less dangerous than bugs and poop.
  • Tanya Tanya on Oct 08, 2015
    We had the same problem...not enough ventilation...visitors not using the exhaust fan while showering. We painted with Benjamin Moore Bath and Spa paint...Aura I think was the name. No more sweating streaks. Best paint ever.
  • Debbie Barbee Lehman Debbie Barbee Lehman on Sep 29, 2016
    Have you checked to see if vent goes outside properly and not just into the Attic?
  • Tom Tom on Oct 06, 2017

    This is an interesting thread. We JUST noticed yesterday this scenario on our hallway walls outside the bathroom. It is NOT happening in the bathroom, and the hallway was painted approximately 2 years ago. Only thing we have done is put a metal roof on the house approximately one year ago. Its clear, slightly sticky, and -if it were colored-it would remind me of Amityville Horror...

    • See 4 previous
    • Duncan Duncan on Oct 04, 2019

      Hi Tom. Did you ever find an answer? Exactly the same problem we have. The hallway walls have this on them that surround the bathroom but nothing in the bathroom itself.

  • Kathy Epperson Kathy Epperson on Nov 28, 2017

    That’s exactly what our bathroom walls look like.

  • Chassedy Saffel Wilson Chassedy Saffel Wilson on Dec 18, 2017

    ours is sticky to the point hair sticks in it....we bought the house after it sat for over a year? not exact on time. Both bathrooms are doing it. no where else in the house...being an ex smoker I pick up on the smell easy and once in a great while I smell old smoke. This stuff is very sticky and a wet cloth removed some. It is like its running down the walls in some spots its almost to the floor. I thought wallpaper glue. Every room in the house was the same exact color when we moved in. awful baby formula off white/tan color.

  • Tom Tom on Jun 24, 2018

    The most likely cause is poor ventilation after painting. I cleaned and put in a new bathroom fan and it is gone.

    • Stacey Stacey on Sep 21, 2018

      What did you use to clean it? We have the exact same thing in our hallway that connects to a bathroom and 3 bedrooms.

  • Karen Humbert Karen Humbert on Aug 09, 2018

    I still have no idea what this stuff is but I found a great cleaner for it at Whole Foods! It's called bac-out from biokleen. It's literally the only thing that completely got the stickiness off 😐

  • Cindy Cindy on Nov 23, 2018

    Same issue here! Bathroom painted satin white by handyman. Have washed the walls with TSP twice, still leeching. Paint was Delux brand. Contacted the store, they never heard of this issue before. Seeing all the feedback I now think the person who painted rushed the job and did not wait long enough between coats... it's so gross.

  • Kelly Denoyer Russell Kelly Denoyer Russell on Dec 01, 2018 Surfactant is an ingredient in latex paint that reduces the paint’s surface tension, giving it more stability and allowing it to last longer. However, the moisture in your bathroom during a hot shower can make the surfactant separate from the paint and seep through, showing up on the surface of the paint as darker spots or streaks.

  • Debbie Gilchrist Debbie Gilchrist on Nov 22, 2022

    I painted our bathroom after 10 years of living in our home, it never did this until I painted it, now it does. I am going to sand it back slightly and paint with acrylic paint and see what happens. My feeling is its the brand paint I used and it didnt dry properly before I used the bathroom, I painted in cooler weather