How To Get Rid of Water Stains on The Ceiling

What causes water stains on the ceiling?

Water stains are caused by a water leak above the ceiling. The leak may be from a bathroom (like an overflowing toilet, bathtub, or sink), precipitation leaking through a damaged roof, or even problems with pipes or radiators. The water leaks through the ceiling surface and then evaporates, leaving behind mineral deposits that cause discoloration. 

Will you have to paint after bleaching a water stain?

If your ceiling is white, there’s a good chance you won’t have to repaint it after treating the stain with bleach. If, however, your ceiling is an off-white, cream, or any other color, the bleach will lighten the paint in that area. If that’s the case, see if you have any matching paint you can use to cover the lightened area. Otherwise, you may need to repaint the entire ceiling.


How long does it take to fix ceiling water damage?

Cleaning, drying, priming, and painting the water stain on a ceiling should take about 4-5 hours, depending on the height and texture of your ceiling. 

Can you just paint over water damage?

Painting over a water stain can address the problem, but it only works after the source of the moisture is addressed. However, this method will cost more time and money than other more efficient strategies. If you don’t have the exact paint the match ceiling, it will be difficult to find something that fits the precise color and texture of the pre-existing paint. You’d likely have to paint the entire ceiling again to achieve a seamless finish.

Call In the Pros 

Painting over water stains (once the water damage is mitigated) can be an involved project that requires many steps to achieve the desired results. If you would rather focus your time and energy on other things, call the professionals at Five Star Painting. We can get your ceiling looking its best. We can also help you with any other paint project you may have, both inside and out. Give us a call at (888) 261-3633 or schedule your an appointment online  today. 

How to cover water stains on ceiling?

Try the following steps to learn how to cover water stains on ceiling:

  • Empty the entire room or cover the furniture and other expensive things with a plastic sheet.
  • Scour the entire ceiling to remove dust and spider webs (if there are any).
  • Remove lose paint flakes.
  • Use diluted bleach to clean water stains.
  • Let the ceiling dry and then apply a thin coating of stain-sealing primer.
  • Wait until the primer dries and then paint the primed spots.
  • Let the first coat dry and then apply another coat.

That’s how to cover water stains on ceiling. If you don’t have a reliable stain-blocking primer, then buy the KILZ Original Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior Oil-Based Primer/Sealer.

  • Being one of the top-rated primers, the KILZ Original Multi-Surface Stain Blocking primer can block smoke, water, tannin, pencil, ink, and grease stains. It also makes the paint stick better. Use this primer on the entire ceiling and then repaint it. There won’t be any stain on your ceiling for many years!

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Side Effects Of A Leak

The most obvious consequence of a leak is a compromised structure due to damaged rafters, ceiling joists, wall framing, or exterior trim. Wet wood leads to deterioration and rot. Another side effect would be high utility bills caused by water intrusion which destroys the insulation in the attic area. Another side effect is mold. Do not just paint or cover up the damage. You will need to tear out the damaged portion of the ceiling. If mold is present you must kill all the mold spores or it will come back. At this point you may want to call a professional to make sure all is completely clean and dry and ready to replace and paint.

Treat the Spot

Once you’ve found the source of the leak, give the ceiling plenty of time to dry before proceeding with a fix. While mold or mildew might not be visible, it’s best to assume that the stained area should be treated before painting the stain. There is some disagreement over whether bleach or vinegar is better at killing mold because of the different ways they work. Bleach kills surface mold, while vinegar soaks into the material you’re using it on. Wear gloves and use eye protection whether you use vinegar or bleach and lay a nonporous dropcloth under the work area.

Experts at Servicemaster Restore prefer vinegar at full strength. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, spray the stain and let the vinegar sit for an hour until it’s absorbed. If the stain persists, make a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 cups of water and pour it in a clean spray bottle. Spray the stain with the solution and scrub. Pat the area with a cloth dampened with clean water to remove any residue. If you prefer not to use spray bottles, a sponge or soft cloth works as well.

If you choose to use bleach, Clorox recommends mixing 3/4 cup of bleach and a gallon of warm water. Brush or sponge the solution onto the stain and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.

Ways To Get Rid Of Water Stains On The Ceiling

Stains on the ceiling may be the hardest to clean off. They require too much physical labor and time. But, we’ll take it over a moldy roof.  The way to cast off water stains from ceilings in five steps:

Fix The Leak That Induced The Stain First

After primary identification, necessary steps should be taken to fix the issue. If it’s caused by a leak, then you need to find the source of it. And then, take the necessary steps. If you have to block the water pipe or replace it, then do it immediately.

Clean The Ceiling Stain With A Bleach Solution

Bleach is actually a whitening agent. Given that, be careful before using it on a colored wall. Because you may have to re-paint later on.

Apply An Oil-Based Undercoat

This is the secret to holding the stain from bleeding via new paint. But let me tell you, if the leak is deep, it may not work. So, identify exactly how deep the damage is.

These are some of our favorite brands for the oil-based undercoat:

Repaint The Ceiling, Now No Longer Simply The Stain

It is a better idea if the water damage is minimal. In that case, you can dry out wet walls easily.

Use A Magic Eraser

The solution works like bleach but is effective on every surface. This will remove molds and stains without leaving any residue. 

Our personal suggestion would be to use a Magic Eraser. Let us walk you through the reasons and usage of it.

Why Use A Magic Eraser?

The simple reason would be its effectiveness. They are known for their super cleaning ability hence making them the best of the best.

Magic Eraser makes these melamine sponges which are very versatile and safe cleaning material. It doesn’t matter how tough the stain is, Magic Eraser is able to get rid of any kind of marks even if it’s a permanent ink.

The Melamine resin rebuilds into a foam with a microstructure which turns into something hard as. But, they still maintain the appearance and texture of regular foam. 

As a Mr. Clean sponge is produced with open-cell foam, they clean with very mild coarse and gross smut and filth.

How to Cover the Water Stain on the Ceiling

Unfortunately, there are not too many ways to clean a water stain on the ceiling without using chemicals like bleach. 

1. Put a Drop Cloth on the Floor

  • With goggles on and gloves, put a drop cloth on the floor.  Then, take 3 glasses of warm water and one cup of bleach and mix it together.  Set up a ladder and climb up to the stain.  Use a sponge that is soaked in the concoction to rub it on the water stain to get it to come off.  Take a spray bottle of plain water and spray the stain to get the bleach mixture off.  This is important because you want to be able to prime it and paint it.  Take a dry towel and rub the stain to help it dry faster. 
  • Next, put painters tape around the ceiling if the spot is near the walls. 

2. Apply an Oil Based, Stain Blocking Primer

  • Apply an oil based, stain blocking primer that is mold resistant that matches the ceiling.  It is important to put the primer on first so the paint doesn’t soak into the ceiling.  If you have a flat ceiling, you can use a paint roller with an extension to apply it.  Once the primer has dried, apply the paint.  If you have a textured ceiling, a spray on primer might work better. 

3. Choose a Latex or Alkyd Ceiling Paint

  • The latex ceiling paint is water-based and dries faster than the oil-based paints and also is thicker than wall paint. Make sure that the paint matches the ceiling color. Using a roller, paint it on over the primer and let it dry for up to four hours. Then, apply a second coat and let it dry.  The second coat should make the stain disappear. 

If you want to try removing the stain and not paint over it, here is an idea of how to do that:


Question: How long does it take for stains to appear on the ceiling?

Answer: 2-3 days maximum is taken for a stain to appear on the occurs after moisture creates a comfortable space for bacteria to grow.

Question: Is Magic Eraser abrasive?

Answer: Yes, they could be abrasive. So it’s better to avoid using them on marble and granite countertops. 

Question: Does water stain on the ceiling mean mold?

Answer: Mould needs a damp and dark space to inhabit. Water stains provide both damp and dark environments which further proves they are actually molding infestations. 

Types of Ceiling Stains

Even though this article is specifically about water ceiling stains, there are other common ceiling stains you can find. It’s important to know what these stains are so you can make sure that the stain you are dealing with is a water stain and not something else.

1. Water Stains

Water stains are typically dark yellow and have a deformed Halo shape. This yellow color will turn dark brown. Water stains are typically caused by leaks in your roof, HVAC system, or bathroom. You will need to target the leak before targeting the stain.

2. Mold Stains

Mold stains actually aren’t stains at all. Instead, it’s mold growth that looks like a stain. A lot of times, water stains and mold stains go hand in hand, but the two stain types are dealt with differently. Mold stains typically have green or black colors and can be found in many patterns. Since mold is caused by excess moisture, there is likely some sort of moisture issue in your home.

3. Smoke Stains

Smoke stains aren’t as common as they used to be as fewer people are smoking. Still, you can find smoke stains. Smoke stains are most often brown and have a tar-like appearance. They are a lot more consistent and uniform than water stains, resulting in a thick layer of dust spread across your ceiling. Smoke stains are most often caused by smoking.


A dirty and stained ceiling is a sign that you do not pay attention to the maintenance needs of your property. Do not let people presume that. Use the information shared in this post to treat water stains on ceiling. These solutions will also help you in prevent such issues in the future.


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