Help! Paint won’t stick to walls

28 Jun 2020
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United Kingdom
I’m in the process of redecorating our living room. I stripped off the wallpaper and found a layer of white paint beneath that wad flaking off in many places, so I decided to strip this all off as well. I want to paint the walls so I patched and sanded them where needed and then washed down with soapy water. Then I applied a mist coat of Wickes Matt white emulsion diluted by 1/3. So far so good, but when the mist coat was dry I found that, running my hand over it, it comes away in a chalky powder. Never having mist coated a wall before, I wasn’t sure if this was normal, so today I tried test painting a couple of small areas with undiluted emulsion. When dry the emulsion comes away in a chalky powder too. I tried wiping the painted area with a damp cloth and it wipes right off!
Can anyone tell me what I have done wrong? And what I need to do to rectify matters? I’d be very grateful for any help or advice.
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If you are lucky it will be paste residue but it might be glue. Or worse.

how old is the house?

Hi, thanks for your reply. The house was built in the early 60s. Have you any idea how I would find out what the problem is or how best to proceed?
Distemper was still in use then.

First, see if it is wallpaper paste or glue remnants. Spray a section of the wall a few times with a fine mist from a garden sprayer. Scrape it lightly with a broad metal scraper to remove any sludge. Wipe it off the scraper onto kitchen roll or something. If you see much, scrape it all off. do the wall a second time, until there is no more sludge when wet, then spray it and rub it dry with an old, coarse towel.

If it is not paste or PVA glue, scrub a small section with boiling water (or a wallpaper steamer if you have one) and scrape it while hot and wet. Does paint come off?

Distemper dissolves in hot water, but not in cold. It has a distinctive unpleasant smell. It was mostly used in pastel colours in kitchens and bathrooms because it could be washed or wiped with cold water, but it may be anywhere. it is a very bad surface to try to decorate and you may need lining paper if you cant get it off.
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Hi, the I used a steamer to remove the layer of white paint from the wall. It came off quite easily in most places in big flakes, could this have been distemper? If it was, would paint still not stick to the wall now it has been removed. I will try scraping the walls as you suggest, but as the wallpaper was on top of the paint layer I removed I don’t think it should be paste. Thanks very much for the advice. If distemper is the problem, is lining the only solution?

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