Can You Use Exterior Paint on Interior Doors?

If you have an old tin of exterior door paint lying around unused, you won’t want to waste money buying interior paint if it’s not necessary. So what’s the deal?

While exterior paint will adhere to the inside of a door, the United States Environment Protection Agency states that exterior paint contains fungicides and UV-protective additives that are not suitable for indoor use. Ensure you use wooden door paint that is specifically labeled for indoor use.

If you’ve accidentally painted your doors with exterior paint, then it’s important to act quickly to remove it.

What Happens When You Use Exterior Paint on Interior Doors?

While it is possible to use exterior door paint on an interior door, the biggest issue is fumes. Exterior door paints will contain additives to prevent mold, pests, and the weather from destroying the door. The additives often create toxic fumes that you do not want floating around indoors.

Accidentally Used Exterior Paint on Interior Doors?

Using exterior paints on an interior door is not a disaster for the appearance, but it may be a health issue. And if this paint covers the doors to the bedrooms, you may want to take it off quickly before the rooms you sleep in become overrun with fumes.

How to Fix Using Exterior Paint on Interior Doors

You have the choice of leaving all the windows open to air the room and dissipate the fumes. But this can take weeks with exterior door paints. To fix it, you can try painting primer over the exterior paint to seal it in.

If the primer works to stop the release of the odor, you can go ahead and repaint the door. If it does not seal the fumes, you may want to look at peeling off all the exterior paint and starting again.

What Types of Paint Should You Use for Interior Doors?

The best paints to use on interior doors are those that completely seal the door, such as gloss or semi-gloss. Both make cleaning easier, and both gloss and semi-gloss are resilient to abuse from slams and knocks.

Painting tips for an inside door:

  • Latex – Test the door for latex paint by rubbing isopropyl alcohol on it with a rag. If the paint comes off, it’s latex-based paint. This means you’ll need to use a primer.
  • Trim – Paint the door with the same color as the trim if it is a light shade. Darker shades will need contrast.
  • One Session – Paint each door in one session, as pausing will lead you to make streaks as you continue.
  • Parallel Strokes – Paint in the direction of the wood grain or one direction for single-panel doors.
  • Roller – Use a roller, this will speed up painting and drying time, and it will help you achieve an even coat.
  • Open Door – Leave the door open when you finish for a few days. Gloss takes time to cure, and closing the door early may result in it gluing itself to the door frame.
  • Pop Colors – Painting a single door with a striking color adds a fun feeling, but if you use too many different colors, it will end up looking like a kindergarten.

Best Paint for Interior Doors and Trims

For your interior doors and trims, Giani Wood Look Paint KitOpens in a new tab. gives you everything you need to modernize your internal doors with. The kit consists of brushes, rollers, a grain sponge, and two shades of oak paint.

For a single color, you can try True Values White Gloss Enamel. This enamel paint will seal your door to protect it against warping from moisture absorption. The gloss paint will leave your door looking brand new with a shiny, easy-to-wipe-down coat.

Best Spray Paint for Interior Doors

Though spray paint does give you good coverage, the mist from the paint will get everywhere, so you may want to use it outdoors. Self-leveling spray paints work well and are a mixture of primer and paint, meaning a single all-in-one application.

You will need to own an electric or air-sprayer to spray paints onto your interior door, but you can also buy it ready-to-go in a spray can. Whenever spraying on paint, be sure to wear eye protection and a high-quality ventilation mask.

Rust-OleumOpens in a new tab. makes a range of spray-on colors that come straight from the can and are ready to evenly coat your door. KILZ also makes spray-on paint which includes primer and stain-blocking chemicals to prevent the old paint from soaking through.

How to Paint Interior Doors

Painting a door is simple, but you can mess it up if you jump into painting it. To save yourself both time and effort, follow these steps when painting your interior door.

1. Protect

Taking a door off its hinges is difficult to do, even with help, so you want to try to paint it while it is hanging. Open the door halfway and tuck a wide plastic sheet, or several newspapers, under it to catch any splashes.

You should remove the door handle and latch, but you can use painter’s tape and risk the paint seeping through. It is also good to cover the hinges with painter’s tape, as it will give you a cleaner finish.

2. Sand the Surface

You need to remove all loose flakes of paint and smooth out the surface with a scraper. Use wood filler in small dents and holes, then sand everything flat. A smooth surface is easier to paint, and it will give you a better finish.

Wipe down the frame to remove clumps of dust and paint. You want a clean surface that will give you the best adhesion for your paint.

3. Choose Your Tools

Rollers give you an even coat over flat surfaces. 4-inch rollers are best for a flat door and 2-inch rollers are best for panel doors. You may want a 2-inch roller or a brush for the trims and edges of the door. Brushes may leave streaks, but there are a few tricks to brushing on paint streak-free.

4. Dampen

Dry wood can suck up the first coat of paint or primer, leaving you with patches. By dampening the door before you begin, you can slow down the drying of the paint and reduce absorption.

This trick of dampening the door will also give you more time to apply the paint as well as more time for brush strokes to settle.

5. Primer

Primer is the key to good paint adhesion, though it is a step that many choose to ignore. A primer will fill in the smaller imperfections on a door and smooth out the texture. Once dry, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth it out further.

You will also want to apply primer to the bottom of the door to seal it. A paint pad will help you apply paint to the base of the door without having to take it off its hinges. This will prevent the flaking, chipping, and warping of the wood.

6. Paint

When it comes to applying the paint, you want to end up with a consistent finish. Avoid things like cross-painting and pushing the brush or roller into the door to add small touches.

You should stroke the brush in the same direction. Do not load up the brush or roller with too much paint, as this will cause drips and a mess on the floor. Allow plenty of drying time before applying another coat of paint.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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