Pipes burst? Bath left overflowing? Radiator leaking? Water stains coming through the ceiling are quite the pain and don’t look too great either. Luckily, getting rid of discolouration and water stains on your ceiling is actually quite a simple process with little equipment needed. In fact, it’s something you should be able to handle within a couple of hours. Just follow our easy steps below on how to cover a water stain on the ceiling and get your ceiling looking pristine in no time!

Stained Ceiling

Why Cover Water Stains on Ceiling?

Treating water stains on ceilings is essential, not just to cover up unsightly discolouration but to check out the causes of water stains on your ceiling. You will be able to identify if there is a damp problem, a build-up of mould, or other issues that need to be addressed. And then once the problems are handled, you can work to remove the stains that have been the result.

Clearing up your ceiling will help to elevate the overall look and feel of your room. No matter how nicely the walls are decorated, if you look up and see unpleasant stains, the overall effect will be ruined repeatedly!

How to Cover Water Stains on Ceiling?

When you first discover water stains on the ceiling, the first step is to check what is causing them and fix the underlying issue. There will be no point in covering water-damage stains on your ceiling now if you only need to do the same again a few months down the line. But once you have the damp problem sorted, the next obvious step is to improve the appeal of the room by starting to remove water stains from walls and ceilings.

What You Need

  • Mild Household Bleach
  • Sponge
  • Gloves
  • Protective gloves
  • A ladder
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Paint Primer (amazon link – opens in a new tab)
  • Paint
  • Paint Roller

Step 1 – Clean the Watermarks with a Household Bleach Solution

Before you apply a coat of paint to the area, you should mix up a bleach solution and apply it to the area with a sponge. Putting bleach cleaner on the stain will help to ensure that it doesn’t show up under newer layers of paint and remove any mould or mildew which remains.

  • Place an old dust sheet across the floor and place the ladder under the stain. Put on the glove and goggles and move up the ladder with your mixed bleach solution. Use a sponge to apply the bleach over the water-leak-stained area.
  • Then spray some clean water on the area and use a dry cloth to remove the solution from the area along with any dirt or dust you spot.
  • Then leave the ceiling to dry.

Step 2 – Apply the Paint Primer Across the Area

Applying primer as a base coat before you begin to paint the whole ceiling will help to ensure that the stains don’t end up showing through again. Many ceiling paints are water-soluble so if the paint comes directly into contact with a water stain, the minerals on the stain could end up mixing with the new paint and causing a new discolouration on the layer of paint.

  • Applying a good base coat of oil-based primer before painting the ceiling will help to stop this. A paint roller will usually be the quickest and most effective way of applying the primer evenly across the area.
  • If you have a textured ceiling, you may need to opt for a thicker padded roller than those normally used on flat ceilings.
  • Once you have applied your base coat you should wait for two to three hours to let it dry.

Step 3 – Paint Over Water Stains and the Entire Ceiling

It may be tempting to just slap some paint on the stained areas of the ceiling and call it a day. But this will result in an uneven colour distribution on the ceiling. The new paint is unlikely to match completely. Even if you have selected the same colour shade the paint that is already on the ceiling will have discoloured as it has been exposed to sunlight and oxygen. Make sure to buy paint that is best suited to painting the ceiling (amazon link – opens in a new tab).

Apply your first layer of paint and then let it dry for about four hours. make sure to keep windows open to allow good ventilation in the room during this time. After the paint layer has dried, you should apply a second layer to ensure that you get rid of water stains and discolouration completely.

Step 4 – Leave the Paint to Dry and Assess the Results

Once you have applied the second layer of paint, you need to leave it to dry completely. This is when you will be able to get a good idea about whether the stains have been completely covered or if you need to apply another coat. If you are having trouble covering the stains, you should consider whether you are using paint with the right consistency for painting a ceiling, or if you should adjust the brand you are using.

Once the final layer has dried and the stains are no longer visible, you can put all your furniture back, sit back and look up at your new spotless ceiling!


When deciding how to cover water stains on a ceiling, it can be tempting to simply throw a layer of paint at the issue and how that it is covered consistently. However, as we have seen above to make sure all parts of your ceilings match and that stains don’t start to show through again, you should use paint primer and apply a full coat to the whole area. But even then, the job shouldn’t take too long or be too labour-intensive. Just follow our simple steps on How to Cover Water Stains on Ceilings and the marks will be invisible in no time!

4 Tips for Painting Over Water Stains on the Ceiling Infographic

Plumbing Wizard Tips

“Thoroughly clean the area to remove any mildew or mould spores!”

“Be sure to use a primer as an undercoat, this may be more work, but it is worth it!”

“Always paint the whole ceiling otherwise the freshly painted area is likely to stand out!”

“Don’t waste time painting until you have discovered the cause as the problem will quickly return!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I paint over water stains?

Yes, you can paint over water stains as long as the surface is dry, and the cause of the water damage has been fixed. If you’re not sure what caused the water damage in the first place, it’s best to call a professional to assess and repair the issue before painting. Otherwise, you may experience another round of water damage in the future.

How do you seal watermarks before painting?

There are a few different ways that you can seal watermarks before painting. One way is to use a primer specifically designed to seal watermarks. You can also try using a sealer or an oil-based paint. These will all help to prevent the water from seeping through and affecting your paint job.

Why do water stains come through paint?

Water stains can come through paint because the original cause of the water damage (e.g. a leaky roof) has not been identified and fixed, and the area is still wet or mouldy.

If you have a water stain on your ceiling, you should identify and fix the source of the water damage as soon as possible, so that it does not continue to damage the ceiling (and potentially affect other parts of your home). You may also want to consider hiring a professional to assess and fix the water damage since it can be difficult to diagnose and repair properly on your own.


Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.

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