Painting Tips by a Professional

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Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside? Be Careful Here!

Please be careful—using exterior paints indoors is poison! We all want to re-use and recycle, (and save money). I was recently asked in an email, "Can you use exterior paint inside my bathroom?
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There is a major safety hazard here, even if your old cans of paint are still good, you will not be saving money trying to use exterior paint inside. You’ll get sick.

We have a section below on how to find low-cost, good paint.

If you just want a decent low-cost bathroom paint, start with  ONLY IF you need primer (read why you might not here), and a very decent paint for high moisture areas is  

If you are looking for a way to keep mildew from growing in a high moisture area, add a mildew-cide to your interior paint.  


Our tool post for every basic professional painter’s tools at the best prices we can find

Can You Use Old Paint? Yes, If Your Paint Passes a 3-Question Test
How Long is Paint Good For? Until Hell Freezes Over

Interior vs exterior paint?

Exterior Paint on wallThe difference between interior and exterior paint is that exterior paint contains a lot more toxic chemicals. Additives that make exterior paint softer, so it can flex in the extremes of outdoor existence. That is why it is not always a good idea to use exterior paint inside.

Exterior paint contains fungicides, mildewcides, and UV blockers that are toxic anywhere. Using exterior paints indoors will expose you and your family to harmful chemicals—if you use exterior paint inside, that is forever.


If you can’t use it, what can you do?

Exterior paint in can

There are lots of great community recycling programs, (find yours here)…but if the old paint is beyond help…

If you cannot save all that leftover exterior paint for the next time you need it, there is a product to quickly turn old paint into a solid for safe disposal. Paint in landfills leaks and pollutes our drinking water.  

Tempted to be using exterior paint inside? You will be hurting your real bottom line: your lifespan!

Once in a blue moon: “Can you use exterior paints indoors?”—Yes if…

One time we can say that you can use exterior paints inside is if the area is a storage shed or other outdoor building (pool cabana or detached garage) where nobody sleeps. In that case, using exterior paint indoors would be a great way to use up the old paint.

Just stay away from the area until the paint cures (off-gases), which takes some weeks in the summer, or months when it’s cool out. Doing this, if you don’t have good ventilation, use a respirator. We simplified the complex filters/masks of those products.

How to find low-cost paints

There are alternatives to using exterior paint inside. Reduced-cost, high-quality paint is available at most paint shops in the form of ‘mis-tints’. These are gallons of paint that came out slightly wrong. You just have to accept the colors available on the store shelf at the time. Look for bathroom paints, especially  

Bottom line regarding the question ‘can you use exterior paint inside’?

Using exterior paint indoors is a bad idea, but only in outdoor sheds or a pool house etc, can you use exterior paint inside. So to my reader who emailed us asking, “can I use exterior paint indoors?”, please don’t try to save on paint this way.

Related: be sure to read our complete list of every painting tool you could ever need.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments!

Children are especially vulnerable to toxins in the air
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5 thoughts on “Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside? Be Careful Here!”

  1. We had painters who used exterior paint when painting the cabinets in our kitchen. I was concerned about that but they insisted and said there isn’t a problem. Is the issue based on health gone once the paint dries or is it always gonna be a health issue?

    • Yes the danger is gone, but those painters are wrong and they endangered your health. Self-taught creeps. The off-gassing is quick, but the curing takes a few weeks in summer, months in winter… so keep the house ventilated until it’s cured…I’d say 4-6 mo.

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