Preparing surfaces with Zinsser primer and undercoat products 

At we’re great believers in the idea that preparation is key. Having the right paint and equipment is critical to the success of a project. But just as important is making sure that your surfaces are prepared.  

A poorly prepared surface can cause problems in the short and long term, from longer-than-normal drying time to flaking paint and visible stains. Zinsser has the answer with its range of surface preparation, primer and undercoat products. recently uploaded a series of videos to YouTube that outline the Zinsser range and provide some great practical tips for application.  

To help chose the right Zinsser product for your project, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions. And of course, all Zinsser products listed here are available at  

I managed to get crayon or candle wax on my walls. How do I get it off?   

You don’t need to. Zinsser Cover Stain can be painted directly onto waxy crayon or candle wax stains, hiding it behind a layer of undercoat and sealing it so that it can’t “bleed” through to ruin your topcoat. Zinsser Cover Stain has amazing “hiding” capability and can be re-coated in 1 hour, perfect for those quick cover-up projects. 

My kids have drawn on my walls with permanent marker. Can I just paint over it?  

Not with normal paint, no. Permanent marker includes substances that can “bleed” through normal house paint. While it might look like you have covered those latest artworks, eventually you could see some of those stains working their way through your clean paint. The answer is Zinsser Cover Stain. It seals permanent marker behind a layer of undercoat, hiding it from view and allowing almost any topcoat to be painting right over the top.  


I have a timber window frame with greasy spots and a timber hand-rail with grimy streaks. What should I use?  

Zinsser Smart Prime is the answer. It is designed to prime timber that has greasy streaks or spots, especially varnished timber. Zinsser Smart Prime is a low-odour, water-based primer that sticks to most surfaces with ease. It has a short drying-time of around 2 hours and covers most stains. For tougher stains like crayon or wax, try Zinsser Cover Stain. 

I’m painting the wall near my dining table. It has food stains and fingerprints all over it. What’s the best solution?  

If you want to prepare dirty or damaged surfaces for painting, Zinsser BIN is the way to go. Zinsser BIN is a Primer-Sealer and Stain Blocker with outstanding stain-hiding abilities. It eliminates odours and has a fast-drying time of just 45 mins. It also works with all topcoat paints, making it super-versatile and suitable for almost any project. Being a shellac-based paint, you will need to wash your brushes in methylated spirits. 


I want to do something extreme, like painting bathroom tiles. Is that weird?  


Not at all, in fact that’s exactly what Zinsser Extreme Adhesion Primer is designed to do. Painting bathroom tiles, rather than replacing them, is becoming more and more popular as a renovating technique. Most household paints won’t stick to bathroom tiles, and so the only way to paint tiles is to prepare and prime them properly. Zinsser Extreme Adhesion Primer sticks to a wide range of surfaces including porcelain tiles, laminates and glass. It’s also tint-able which means you can prime with a colour that is much closer to your finishing topcoat.  


One of my external brick walls has damage from rising damp. The damp has been treated but the stains remain. Do I have to live with them forever?  


Absolutely not. Zinsser Smart Prime is water-based, low-odour, quick-drying, and sticks to most surfaces, making it perfect for indoor and outdoor applications. Zinsser Smart Prime is an amazing undercoat for outdoor projects and is specifically designed to cover, seal and hide stains from things like rising damp. And covering those stains effectively means a consistent even result when you apply your topcoat.   

I want to paint older style stained and varnished timber window and door frames. Do I need to sand back to bare timber?   

No, you just need to prepare and prime them with a high-quality undercoat. Zinsser Cover Stain uses an advanced oil-based formula which cuts drying time, covers most stains, and adheres to most surfaces. Being oil-based, you will need to clean your brushes using methylated spirits and ensure you are working in a well-ventilated space.  

I want to paint my house, but I can’t stand that typical “paint smell”. It gives me a headache and makes me nauseous. Help?   


No problem, you need Zinsser Odourless Primer which is, as the name suggests, odourless and is touch-dry in just 30 mins. No need to move out while you paint, in fact you can continue your project while your family is at home. For bigger jobs, Zinsser Odourless Primer is perfect for spraying.  

I need a universal primer that I can use on different surfaces that will be painted with different topcoats. What should I use?  


Stay on target, with Zinsser Bulls Eye 123, a water-based enamel undercoat, primer, sealer and stain blocker that is the ultimate undercoat for almost any project. Zinsser Bulls Eye 123’s advanced water-based formula is fast-drying, rust-prohibitive, and adheres to most surfaces. Its easy to apply and prepares surfaces for almost any topcoat.  

I am painting an old house. Some of the original paint is cracked, damaged or peeling. Do I have to replace the plasterboard (or the wall) before I paint?  


No, just use Zinsser Peel Stop, a clear binding primer that seals cracks, binds chalky surfaces, and prevents further peeling. Zinsser Peel Stop is water-based, low-odour, and suitable for both indoor and outdoor projects. Once your surface has been repaired and prepared with Zinsser Peel Stop, you can apply your patching compound to fill any larger cracks and gaps. The ability of Zinsser Peel Stop to bind all surfaces means you can achieve a professional finish even on cracked and damaged surfaces.   

As always, recommends reading your material safety and data sheet (MSDS) before starting each project, and that you follow all instructions for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). 


“With Zinsser, no probs.”