Recently (4 days ago) I replaced a solid radiator with a column one. On removing the solid radiator the wallpaper was as you might expect an old colour.

I managed to find an opened tin of paint the same colour that we used 3 years ago when we painted the room and applied it to the wallpaper before fitting the new radiator.

However, once it dried it was clear there was an unusual smell coming from the paint. It smells like washing does when you forget to take it out of the washing machine for a day or so. It smells like damp/off water. There is certainly something bad about the paint...

The smell is still there after 4 days so I want to seal the section of paint with something and repaint it with a fresh tin. Luckily I haven't plumbed in the radiator yet so this will be a quick job.

My question is: what's the best thing to seal the bad paint with? Obviously I want to prevent the smell coming through. To hand I have the following:

I'm happy to go and buy something else of course. What's the best way to seal off this smelly paint?

  • This leans dangerously close to a product recommendation, but I would say Most if not all heavy duty primers will help with this (Zinsser, Kilz, Mad Dog Primer, Etc.). Glues are meant to be an adhesive, not a sealer, and may affect subsequent attempts at painting. Nov 4, 2015 at 20:54
  • It might be best to just peel off the wallpaper, then re-paint. Otherwise, I second/3rd all the suggestions to use a quality primer designed to cover stains and smells.
    – DA01
    Nov 4, 2015 at 21:35
  • Brownredhawk - I actually thought twice about posting the link, but I wasn't sure if the Zinsser products were familiar to the us market.
    – Edwardr
    Nov 4, 2015 at 23:06

2 Answers 2


You're describing the smell of mold or mildew. It's a living fungus that sometimes grows on walls, paint, wood, clothes when conditions are right. You want to kill it and remove it.

Mold can grow under wall paper and paint.

If it were me I would clean it with some mold killing cleaner according to directions. Remove the wallpaper, bag it and throw it out. Clean the area again. Prime and paint.

There are special encapsulating paints to cover up mold and recently Zinsser came out with a Mold Killing Primer. I haven't used it myself but I've used other Zinsser mold/mildew resistant paints and have been pleased but as I said I'd use it in conjunction with wallpaper removal.

  • Unless mood can grow in a tin or paints it's not that. It's in the paint, rather than on the wall. I've confirmed by painting some of the paint on a scrap piece of wood.
    – Edwardr
    Nov 4, 2015 at 23:07
  • 1
    @Edwardr - I've had mildew in old paint cans before. It's also possible that the moisture from the paint reactivated dormant mildew spores in the wallpaper.
    – Comintern
    Nov 4, 2015 at 23:41
  • @Edwardr you said " It smells like washing does when you forget to take it out of the washing machine for a day or so." There's only one thing that smells like that. Mold. Nov 6, 2015 at 22:10
  • @organiclawndiy I guess my less to learn is that mold can grow in tins of paint!
    – Edwardr
    Nov 7, 2015 at 8:39

I had this problem and tho it sounds terrible I used pump up sprayer, with a 50/50 bleach/ water solution with a little dishwashing detergent in it (as a wetting agent). Left it for a few hours. Sprayed with a DETERGENT solution again. Then wiped this off This worked for me. Warning*** WEAR EYE PROTECTION, GLOVES, MASK, LONG SLEEVED CLOTHES TO DO THIS.***

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