Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell blistering on bannister

21 Jun 2007
Reaction score
United Kingdom

I painted our bannister and spindles in F&B Estate Eggshell a couple of years ago. I used F&B primer and three top coats. The original bannister was varnish and I sanded this back before priming. All was fine several months.

Over time, the paint has blistered on the bannister, but only in places regularly touched when you use the stairs. I've contacted F&B asking whether there is a known reaction between sweat their paint, they said they didn't think it was sweat or touching but cleaning products, but we've never used anything harsh to clean it.

Has anyone else seen this or aware of this type of reaction? F&B are just recommended sanding down and re-priming/painting, but I want to avoid a repeat, if possible.

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Waterbased paints become soft when they come into contact with oils. Your hands have oils in your skin.

Handrails are regularly touched by hands.

I decorate for a living....

I often see water based paints fail where they are touched. My mum's best friend uses coco oil on her skin. After painting her hallway woodwork, every part that she regularly touches has become so soft that you can use your fingernail to drag the waterbased paint off.

I would recommend that you ask F&B if oils in ones' skin soften paints (rather than sweat). I can assure you that they do. If you repaint it with waterbased paints, the same thing will happen again.

I'd recommend that you get the handrail paint colour "matched" in an oil based finish- unfortunately F&B went completely water based in 2010.
Thanks Opps

I did specify oils as well in my email to F&B, the specific part of their response was:

As you suggested in your previous message it may be possible that oils or fatty hand acids have softened the coating, but from reviewing the images and seeing the reaction it is in my opinion unlikely. As this was painting a couple of years ago and the breakdown has only recently occurred, the issues you are experiencing are far more likely to be a result of something that has been sprayed or wiped over the surface.

I believe it is hand oil as all of the bannister has been cleaned the same, but the only places that are blistered are where we touch frequently.

It appears they are just denying that oils from hands is a problem. I guess they risk opening up a can of worms if they admit it as they would have to warn people that the paint may not be suitable in such circumstances.

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