Why Does White Gloss Go Yellow? The Truth.

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You’ve spent hours, maybe even days painting the wood work that shiny gloss white, only to notice three weeks later it looks like 20 smokers have been in your house and turned that nice white, yellow.

There is a way to stop this from ever happening again, but let me explain to you what causes the yellowing, first.

Why Does White Gloss Go Yellow?

All oil based gloss and alkyd paints are very durable and can withstand harsh cleaning from scrubbing and most cleaning products.

These quality’s make them awesome for using in kitchens and bathrooms.

But the only issue with these oil based and alkyd paints, they are prone to yellowing, but is a lot more noticeable with the white.

The yellowing is caused by many factors, including the amount of sunlight a room gets, the environment the paint is in, and certain chemicals used in cleaning products.


The Real Truth…

Is that on January 1st 2010, new stricter EU regulations on the V.O.C (Volatile Organic Compounds) content in paint had to be lower.

The reason these stricter rules were brought into force, was because of the environmental impact high V.O.C’s had on the environment.

This had a massive impact on what paint company’s could put into there oil based paint formulations.

What They Didn’t Tell You

Once the paint manufacturers had done some swapping and changing with their paint formulations, the new low V.O.C paints were put through some vigorous testing.

They found under certain conditions the paint would yellow, fairly quickly.

Dulux got caught up in this ‘Yellowing’ with their gloss paints, and ended up having to answer to BBC One watchdog. (see the complaint here)

I will stick up for the paint company though in one aspect, it must be harder and harder each time a new regulations and stricter rules are introduced, but they should at least let consumers know any issues before you purchase.

Paint companies do NOW warn about the potential of yellowing on their oil based paints, but for most (and I’m sorry its you) better warnings should be easier to see on the labels.

On the back of this Dulux white gloss the warning is so small, and so easy to miss.

So,What’s The Best Gloss Paint That Doesn’t Go Yellow?

None of them!

Yep, that was kinda blunt but it’s the truth.

If you want a gloss paint that won’t yellow for years to come, then you want to start using a water based satinwood, or eggshell.

One downside though, Satin wood and egg shell will not give you the high sheen that oil based gloss gives you.

Instead, satinwood provides you with a mid sheen finish, and egg shell a low sheen finish.

My choice is always satin, I’ve rarely used egg shell (thinking about it…never), Satin gives you a really bright white and still provides a decent amount of sheen, which you really do need (in my opinion) for that bright , fresh, clean look.

One (well two..) Tiny Issue…

Painting with either satin or egg shell takes a different approach.

Unlike gloss, where you just brush it on and the brush marks disappear, satin and egg shell will leave brush strokes no matter what, so they both need to be treated with some ingenuity (and a good brush) for a great finish.

The First Issue

Water based gloss is no way near as durable as oil based, especially if put straight on top old of oil based gloss.

Come on, I know you all don’t like using primers (be honest πŸ˜‰ ).

But primers are a must for water based gloss if your going to paint over oil based gloss.

A bit of science… Oil and and water don’t mix, put them in a test tube together, give them a shake, and they will separate.

This is true when applying the water based gloss to oil based gloss, the same bit of science happens.

The oil based gloss will stop the water based gloss from adhering properly (sticking) and will cause the paint to have no durability.

Which means if you knock it, it will chip easily.

That’s why it’s very important to use a primer on top of old oil based gloss before you apply the water based satin.

But, if your applying to new bare wood, skirting and architraves etc you won’t need a primer, why?

Because satin wood and egg shell are self priming.

The first coat will soak into the wood to create a good grip, and then second coat will adhere nicely. Making the paint more durable.

Just remember when using WATER BASED SATIN and WATER BASED EGG SHELL…

Old gloss – use a primer

unpainted surface – no primer (most of the time)

Second Issue

You will always have brush strokes when using any satin wood and egg shell paint, but there will always be compromises.

Do you put up with yellowing paint? Or do you enjoy the long term white look of your wood work and only really see the brush strokes close up?

I know which I would choose πŸ˜‰

But you can keep the brush marks to a minimum, by learning how to paint with water based paints.

How to Paint With Water Based Satinwood


of all you need a synthetic brush or acrylic brush.

Both brush types are perfect for water based paints, the springness and the smooth texture of the bristles make it easier to achieve a smooth, even finish.

The springiness also helps when cutting in (creating straight lines between two different surfaces).


With water based satin and eggshell, aim for 2 coats, 3 if you have time and patience.

Make sure you lightly sand between each coat using a 120 grit sand paper, I myself like to use foam sanding sponges for ease of use, less messy and don’t fall apart.

The reason you should Sand between coats is to DE-NIB the paint.

DE-NIB’ing means to remove any dust particles that have landed on the paint while it has been drying, to ensure you have a smoother, quality finish.

Satin wood dries pretty quick, but it needs to fully cure before sanding can happen, wait a good 6 hours between coats.

If you plan your day right, you could actually have two coats done in a day.


When painting any large areas ALWAYS use a knit roller cover with satinwood and eggshell.

Knit roller covers will give a spray like finish, most desirable!

Try to avoid using the synthetic gloss naps, they will do the job (don’t get me wrong), but will cause air bubbles to form in the paint as you roll.

These bubbles eventually pop causing an orange peel effect to the finished paint work once dry.


Make sure you stir the paint thoroughly, working from the bottom of the tin to the top.

Failing to do this will give you an uneven sheen and even a milky appearance when applied.

This is because all the good stuff that helps the paint do what is supposed to do always settles at the bottom while in storage.

…And also, make sure you decant your paint into a suitable container to paint from.

Painting from the tin will contaminate the paint with dust and debris from your brush (if you do end up picking any up), and it’s also easier to carry a small tub around than a 10 litre tin when painting/cutting in.


Do not, i repeat DO NOT go back over an area you have just painted until, I repeat UNTIL it dries.

If you do, you will learn quickly how claggy (bitty) the paint will go and you will have some god awful deep brush strokes.

And it is all caused by how quick water based paints dry.

So, wait until it dries if you need to go back over an area (I’m begging you).

How Long Does Water Based Satinwood Take to Dry?

I mentioned earlier that satinwood dries quick, and it does!

Most satinwoods are touch dry within one or two hours and fully dry in six hours.

Depending on conditions (time of the year etc) satinwood can usually dry even quicker.

That makes satinwood a perfect choice for anyone who has children or pets.

How Long Does Water Based Eggshell Paint Take to Dry?

Like water based satinwood, water based eggshell dries just as quick.

Touch dry in one hour and fully dry in four to six hours.

Just take note, that the final coat you do with both paints will take slightly longer than the first coat.

But still relatively quick! Also a great choice for parents and pet lovers!

Is Water Based Satinwood Washable?

Both water based satinwood and water based eggshell paints are still quite durable (as long as the prep as been done, sanding, priming etc), which makes them practical for everyday life.

Use a sponge or a cloth dipped in some hot soapy water, make sure you use a mild detergent like washing up liquid, a gentle wipe is all that’s needed.

But please do not use a scourer! Eventually the scourer will begin to remove the paint.

Did This Post Help?

Hopefully I’ve answered your ‘why does white gloss go yellow’ question?

Switching to a water based satinwood or eggshell will give you piece of mind that once you’ve painted it will stay white for years to come.

It is a different experience painting with water based paints, but once you’ve mastered it, or developed your own technique, I’m pretty sure you wont go back to oil based gloss.

And don’t get me wrong they aren’t as good as oil based, but I would rather compromise for the lasting white colour.

Especially when you have to go back over an entire hallway,stairs and landing (I curse you oil based gloss!).

Let me know in the comments section below if you have or are using water based satinwood or eggshell?

Whether you like it or not?

And what you think is the best water based satinwood or eggshell you’ve used.

Each and every week I put my heart and soul into providing you with great content to help with any DIY jobs around the home.

If you think this post could help someone you know, please share.

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13 thoughts on “Why Does White Gloss Go Yellow? The Truth.”

  1. Josephine wood says:

    Excellent advice . Clearly put , and reasons explained. Very helpful. Thank you

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Thank you Josephine πŸ˜‰ glad I could help

  2. Helen says:

    Very helpful , thanku

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Glad i could help Helen πŸ˜‰

  3. Sarah says:

    Such a great article! We had all the woodwork in our house (there is a lot – 3 of the bedrooms have fitted wardrobes with wooden doors and frames…) painted with Dulux gloss brilliant white in March/April 2018. The downstairs loo has no window, so no natural light. We began to notice over lockdown that the gloss in there was yellowing, and now it looks hideous. I think brilliant white gloss looks so much nicer than the satin paint, but now understand why it’s become the fashion. The new build developers will have changed to it instantly so the inhabitants of their new homes won’t complain – the tiny windows in the new builds and, like ours, downstairs loos with no windows, the gloss paint would probably have gone yellow before the whole development was finished…
    So we’ll have to have the downstairs loo brilliant gloss white, and have it done this year, otherwise it’ll look different to all the other woodwork in the house.
    Do you know if any brand is slower to yellow than Dulux or are they all about the same?

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Hey Sarah, thank you! I totally agree once it starts to yellow you can’t live with it. I would say all oil based gloss is about the same, I’ve had experience with crown, leyland and valspar and they all seem to yellow at about the same rate. The only thing I can suggest with oil based, mix a little black paint in with the gloss (a tiny bit). It will then be a slight off white, but to the naked eye you won’t be able to tell. The yellowing shouldn’t happen or it will keep at bay for some time. When you do go back through the house in the future, I would recommend you switch to water based, and like I’ve mentioned before, it takes some getting use to the way it paints, but it will be white for a very, very long time.

  4. David Cressey says:

    Very interesting re yellow gloss thought I was cracking up

  5. Sylvia Achahboun says:

    I’m so glad I came upon your article, I’m about to repaint a very yellowed staircase, I’ve always wondered why the paint turned yellow and I was about to do it all again with gloss ! I shall now buy the satinwood paint instead. Thank you so much for explaining all this , it’s so very helpful.

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Sylvia, not a problem at all πŸ˜‰

  6. Dawn says:

    Thank you! This was most helpful!

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Glad I could help Dawn πŸ™‚

  7. Deb says:

    Extremely useful article, thank you for that. I too have painted all of my new skirting boards with Dulux oil based gloss and was dismayed to see that if anything had been standing in front of a particular area it turned yellow leaving me with yellow patches in rooms. I was just about to complain to Dulux when I saw this article and see they have covered their back (in tiny writing which I have never noticed) I have tried satinwood and water based and it is an art not to leave brushstrokes but I guess it is better than patchy skirting boards which will all have to be done again.

    1. sherlockmaintenance says:

      Deb, I’ve been using leyland satinwood which is solvent based not long after I wrote this article (April 2020) and found it to stay brilliant white still to today. It is has a slight more sheen than the water based stuff but it self primes, most of the time one coat is enough…The only downside it lets off some fumes, so keep those windows open! It dries reasonably quick for a solvent based paint (5-6 hours depending on humidity, temperature etc). I will write a post on the paint in the very near future, but for now here is a screwfix link to the paint https://tinyurl.com/leylandpaint and also an amazon link for convenience https://amzn.to/3rBk3Yn

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