Zinsser BIN Primer Review

Updated on January 30, 2018
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter sharing house painting tips and related product reviews. Matt writes about various topics.

What Is Zinsser BIN Primer Sealer?

Zinsser BIN is a white pigmented, shellac-based primer that seals surfaces to keep sap and tannin from bleeding into paint when painting wood. BIN is what I use the most for priming kitchen cabinets and tough stains on drywall. This product can also be used for minor spot priming outside (wood knots, sap stains, nail rust).

I'll share a few pros and cons of this product, based on my experience.

BIN vs. Oil-Based Primer


I use BIN shellac primer and Cover Stain (oil primer) a lot in different situations. When applying the material with an airless sprayer, I prefer BIN, especially for priming cabinets. The material is very thin and levels over wood better than any other product I have used.

The super thin consistency fills in pores and small surface cracks in wood really nice with a sprayer. Cover Stain is thicker and doesn't level nearly as nice as shellac does. If the spray gun spits onto the surface while spraying, the imperfections won't level out, which means more sanding.


The fumes with either one is horrible. Unless you're spot priming, a respirator should be worn when coating doors or whole walls. But since pigmented shellac dries faster, the smell doesn't linger as long. The dry time is only forty five minutes.

Brushing and Rolling

I never brush and roll BIN because it's horribly messy. For that reason, I only use it with my sprayer, or the spray can. The material is the consistency of milk, spattering all over the place if a brush or roller is used. Oil primer is messy too, but it's the better option for brush work.


Shellac-based primer dries harder, making it a little more difficult to sand than oil primer. Both sand into a white powder, but Cover Stain sands a little easier. Shellac reaches maximum hardness three days after application.


Shellac cleans up with denatured alcohol or ammonia. I find ammonia to work the best for cleaning, especially for a sprayer. Ammonia is cheaper too. The disadvantage is the horrible vapor. Oil primer cleans up with mineral spirits, which smells bad too.

BIN vs. Sherwin Williams White Pigmented Shellac Primer

The white pigmented shellac primer from Sherwin Williams is almost exactly the same as BIN, but in my experience, there are a few differences.

The first difference is the cost. The white shellac from Sherwin Williams is $60 per gallon at full retail price. However, you can get a discounted in-store price by signing up for their free Paint Perks benefits.

A gallon of BIN is $42 per gallon. For spot priming exterior trim, or drywall, it's cheaper and less messy to buy a spray can, but even the gallon price is the better deal unless you get contractor discounts at Sherwin Williams.

The shellac from Sherwin Williams dries slower and smells worse too in my experience. The consistency of the material is the same with both, but the coverage with the Sherwin Williams one isn't as good. It also doesn't sand as easily.

Is It Worth the Price?

I definitely recommend BIN as a primer for cabinets when spraying, and the spray can version comes in handy for spot priming stains on drywall or exterior wood trim. The durability is excellent, drying harder than oil-based primer. The downside is the cost. At $42 per gallon, the cost is about $20 more per gallon than oil primer, but the product does exactly what it's meant to do. The smell is the biggest disadvantage, but with the fast dry time, it goes away relatively fast.

Questions & Answers


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      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 2 months ago from the short journey

        Thanks for sharing your experience.