Will Tacky Paint Eventually Dry? (3 Quick Remedies)


Painting is one home improvement job that most of us could do without. If your paint still feels tacky, you’re left wondering whether it’ll eventually dry?

Tacky paint mostly dries within 8 hours. However, it’s possible for paint to remain tacky for days, weeks, months, or even years. The amount of time tacky paint takes to dry is dependent upon the temperature, humidity, number of coats, and type of paint. Failure to prime and using the wrong thinner can delay drying.

In this article, I’ll show you:

  • What’s caused your paint to be tacky
  • Three simple ways to fix tacky paint
  • Whether it’s possible to add a second coat to tacky paint

Why Is My Paint Still Tacky?

Some of the main causes of tacky paint are:

  • Humidity – The ideal painting humidity is between 40 and 70 percent, which gives the paint the best rate of evaporation. Too low and the paint dries too fast and cracks; too high, and the paint struggles to dry and stays tacky for much longer.
  • Temperature – Paint is temperature-sensitive, and below 50°F (10°C), paint struggles to release its solvents. Temperatures above 80°F (27°C) may also cause the paint to dry too fast and peel as a result.
  • Excessive Layering – Gloss paint is a good sealant, so good that there is a limit to the number of layers you should try to paint on. The upper limit for gloss is five coats.
  • Drying Time – You need to give each coat time to dry: the more coats, the longer it will take to dry.
  • Lack of Preparation – Primer sets up the surface for your paint and is even more critical for gloss paint. Without the primer, the gloss must battle it out with whatever residues and old paints you are trying to paint over.
  • Type of Gloss – Oil-based gloss paint is tackier and takes longer to dry than water-based satin gloss paint.
  • Wrong Thinner – Read the tin for the best ratio of thinner and whether you need to use water or a mineral spirit.

Tacky vs Sticky

Tacky paint is a different level of sticky. A tacky surface will stick to paper but will not leave paint on your fingers as would a sticky paint.

Paint drying times depend on a range of factors, including:

  • Sprays – Paint from a spray can is often the fastest drying paint, and in the right conditions, can reach touch-dry in under an hour.
  • Oils – Oils take the longest time to dry, though if done well, will also last the longest.
  • Water-Based – Water-based acrylics can dry quicker, and because they do not rely on oil, they are less tacky.
  • Thinner – Oil paints need a mineral spirit to separate the fat that makes up the base of the paint. The thinner the paint, the faster the drying time and the smoother the coat. Too much thinner, and the paint will leave streaks.

Can Paint Stay Tacky Forever?

Adding a mineral spirit to a gloss paint helps to break down the oil for ease of mixing. When you apply the paint to a surface, this thinned-out paint will sink in and settle better than a pure mix.

If no thinner is used, the oils will settle on the surface of the paint as it dries, which will prolong the drying time.

Even without thinner, an oil-based gloss should dry out given enough time. The instances where the tackiness does not go away are often due to a chemical reaction from not using a primer or from using old paint.

How to Fix Tacky Paint

If your paint still feels tacky after a couple of days, you may still have a chance of rescuing it. Here are some remedies for fixing tacky paint:

Talcum Powder

Talcum will take some of the shininess out of your gloss paint, but you should keep this method for light colors of gloss.

You can sprinkle a little over the tacky areas to soak up the excess oils or water left on the surface. Talc also helps the gloss combat the cold and high humidity.

Once it feels like the tackiness is gone, you will want to lightly brush off the excess talcum with a soft, clean brush. You can try blowing the talc off with an air gun if you have an air compressor.

Auto (Car) Wax

Auto wax is another common tacky paint remedy, and it will help to bring out the sheen in the gloss. The wax will seal off the oily layer and protect you and your furniture from the paint.

Auto wax will also protect the paint from the types of abuse that would scrape off a normal coat of gloss.

Heat Gun

An effective way of drying the paint faster, but it is also a way of destroying all your hard work if you rush it. You need to set the electric heat gun to a low setting. A high heat setting will turn the gloss yellow, then peel it away from the surface.

The heat will help evaporation, dry out the thinner or water, and harden the paint. The heat should also help the oils in the gloss sink into the material it is clinging to.

Note: Whether you use a heat gun or a hairdryer, you want to wear a mask, close the doors to other rooms and leave the windows open until the air freshens.

Can You Paint a Second Coat onto Tacky Paint?

You will have better coverage from applying several coats of thinned-out paint than trying to go full strength on a single layer. And if you want to apply several coats, you want an adhesive surface for the following coat to stick to.

Can You Repaint Tacky Paint?

The best way to start painting is with a primer, whether for gloss or emulsion paints. The primer gives the paint a clean and tacky surface to adhere to and will seal off any chemicals left on the bare surface.

If your surface is tacky because you painted it earlier in the week, then this should be the perfect surface to add another coat on. If the paint is years old, you may want to consider peeling off the paint until you get a dry surface.

If you peel off the paint, you still need to apply a primer before you repaint the surface.

Can You Clear Coat Over Tacky Paint?

A clear coat over the paint will even out any remaining bumps and make the paint look shiny. For the best results, you want to spray the clear coat onto a coat that has been drying for over 30 minutes.

You need to avoid using a clear coat on gloss water-based acrylic paint. It should be all right to use a clear coat on a full-matt acrylic. But to be safe, reserve clear coatings for oil-based paints.

Graham Walsh

I want to share everything I know about power tools 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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