It's been 31 days from this post since I moved into this apartment. I've noticed that if I take a steamy shower, then close the door on the bathroom after I get out, then the bathroom will smell strongly of paint for at least 5 hours afterwards. Well I did that again last night, and upon noticing the smell this morning, I decided to test scratch the white-painted drawers and found that the paint immediately peeled of. I know nothing about paint, what's in it, how it cures, or how paint is supposed to properly dry.

Here is two pictures of the paint peeling: https://imgur.com/a/KG253TT Questions:

-Why am I smelling paint after a steamy shower?

-Is smelling paint harmful to my health? If it's not, how come?

-Why would the paint be peeling? Was the paint applied improperly?

-What's the best way to remove the peeling paint while preserving the paint beneath it?

-What can I fix to make it so that I won't smell paint anymore after a steamy shower?

I don't trust the landlord to do a proper job of helping me with this.

  • Looks to me like a "landlord special" type of effort - as if "wall paint" has been used on the cabinets instead of the correct paint and required surface preparation. It's not really surprising that the paint is peeling of the cabinets...
    – brhans
    Jan 24 at 17:51
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    It depends on the paint, the health concerns will be. Mainly it is the amount you are expose to. Breathing it in all day compared to to in going in the room, saying stinky, and walking out. They do let anybody buy and paint, so it is usually not dangerous unless working with it everyday.
    – crip659
    Jan 24 at 22:31
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    Do not, under any circumstances, use the phrase ‘steamy shower’ with your landlord. That would be taken by some landlords as the cause of the paint issues. (It’s probably not, fwiw.) Jan 25 at 1:19

2 Answers 2


Since it is a new problem (if it was an old problem then you'd have peeling paint all over the bathroom already), I suspect a combination of two things:

  • New Paint

The apartment was likely painted right before you moved in. That is extremely common, as it is a relatively inexpensive way to make an old apartment look new. A quick search shows that latex paint takes anywhere from a week to a month to dry. It is dry to the touch within a day, but not fully cured for weeks.

  • Bathroom Humidity

"Steamy shower" says it all. Instead of letting the paint keep drying, you are adding water every time you shower. That will slow down the curing process tremendously, and can in fact lead to the paint not curing properly, as you have found out the hard way.

The key, in general, is to use a good exhaust fan. Generally speaking, bathrooms require either an operable window or an exhaust fan. But if you have just a window then lots of people never use the window because it is either too cold or too hot outside (depending on the time of year) or for privacy reasons. Exhaust fans are often noisy (especially in many apartments - save $20 on one fan is not much, save $20 x 100 apartments = vacation for the landlord). Exhaust fans are sometimes undersized. But most of all, they are often simply not used. Actually, many newer fans are installed with a humidity sensor so that they will run automatically, solving the "not used" problem.

You have a situation that really, really needs a good exhaust fan. If you have one, use it during and after (suggest for 15 minutes after) every shower. That will get the humid air out quickly. If you don't have one or if it doesn't work properly, talk to your landlord about getting one - code requires it if you don't have a window in the bathroom and it is a good idea even if you do have a window.

As far as existing damage to the paint, there may not be much you can do. Deal with the humidity first, and repaint (you or landlord, depending on factors) once the humidity problem is resolved.


Likely it's latex paint and not particularly harmful unless you eat/drink it. In any case, just smelling it when you take a long shower isn't enough to exposure to any kind of mostly-dried paint to worry about.

This is 100% a "Landlord Issue". You shouldn't mess around with their problems in a situation where you don't trust the landlord...unless you want to share some/all of the blame. It's likely to resolve itself as time goes on and the paint fully dries/cures. In the meantime, don't take long, steamy showers for a while to give it a fighting chance to fully cure. The cupboards may have required more/better surface preparation before painting, or a different kind of paint to adhere completely.

You're paying, presumably, for a "working" apartment you shouldn't have any reluctance to ask for what you're paying for. And the landlord shouldn't have any issue with providing it.

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    If the space is becoming steam-filled because the tenant chose not to use existing means of ventilation, then that would be "tenant abuse".
    – kreemoweet
    Jan 25 at 3:34
  • @kreemoweet Agreed. What we don't know though is whether (a) there is a functioning window (not ideal but technically compliant in most places) and/or (b) a functioning exhaust fan (usually there is one but sometimes they don't work properly). Jan 25 at 4:49
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact I do have an exhaust fan that I use, but it still gets steamy. I've been trying to keep the door open when I shower now to get the humidity out.
    – distresoo
    Jan 26 at 19:36

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