Somehow this paint never seems to dry completely

Sticky Paint

by The Natural Handyman

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Dear NH,
A few months ago, I painted some built-in shelves with a few coats of semi-gloss latex paint. Even after all this drying time, the books and bric-a-brac still lightly stick to the shelves. In a few spots, the paint came off onto some of my collectibles. I am afraid something is going to be ruined by this paint problem. Please help!
MP from Boulder, CO

Dear MP,
I have talked about this problem before and I am sure that, until the latex paint manufacturer's figure out a way to solve it, I will be doing so again! Latex paint, due to its chemical nature, can retain a certain amount of "stickiness" for a long period of time after it dries. This residual tack is known in the latex biz as blocking. Though all latex paints, interior and exterior, have anti-blocking agents added to them, the final results are mixed. How much blocking you will experience with a given paint job is related to various factors... the number of coats you apply, the thickness of the paint coats, the temperature and humidity in the room, how well you mixed the paint, and the manufacturer.

Blocking is not a consideration with walls and, in most circumstances, doors and trim. One problem is that exterior doors painted with latex paints are notorious for sticking to their weatherstripping. I always advise against using latex paints for surfaces that will be in regular contact with anything. In sympathy with your plight, I too have seen books lightly sticking to latex-coated shelves after years of drying! Though there are "prophylactic" solutions, such as waxing the shelves or dusting with talcum powder, the best and most permanent solution is to repaint the shelves. The paint of choice for shelves and cabinets is a high quality alkyd paint. Alkyd is the best of the oil-based paints, drying to a hard, non-tacky surface every time!

My advice is to lightly sand the shelves with a fine (220 grit) sandpaper, then give them a complete coat of a fast drying primer... you can use a latex PRIMER such as Zinnser 123 if you want. The primer is important... alkyd oil directly over latex FINISH PAINT is not advisable. Then apply one or two coats of a matching alkyd paint in either gloss or semi-gloss. If you are a careful painter, you can probably just paint the top surfaces of the shelves... it will save you some work! Once dry, your sticking problems will be gone forever.

copyright G.G. Alonzy

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