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A Professional Review of Zinsser BIN Primer

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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, etc.).

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

BIN vs. Oil-Based Primer

Here are some differences you should keep in mind.


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 out over wood better than any other primer I have used.

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


The fumes with either one are 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 45 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 and spatters all over the place if a brush or roller is used to apply it. Oil primer is messy too, but it's the better option for brushwork.


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 in my experience. 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 my 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 $70 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 $50 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 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 as BIN.

Is It Worth the Price?

I use Zinsser BIN primer on cabinets and for spot priming, and I do recommend the primer for spraying. The aerosol cans come in handy too when you need to do quick spot priming before painting. Brushing this stuff is extremely messy because the consistency is so thin. I only spray this product.

The primer lays out exceptionally well and won't sag easily because it dries fast. I can sand it and apply a second coat within one hour. It doesn't sand as easily as some of the oil-based primer I've used, but the durability and coverage is very good. I've never had a problem with bleed-through using this product. One downside is the strong smell before it dries, but (thankfully, unlike an oil-based primer) the smell doesn't linger.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can I spray Zinsser BIN primer with a compressor spray gun?

Answer: Yes.

Question: I have just primed some old Pickwick paneling in our home with BIN. The paneling had been lightly sanded then cleaned. I applied 2 coats of BIN with about 1 day in between coats. Then Iapplied 1 coat of Sherwin Williams Primer in 200 Eggshell. It has cured for a little over a day. The paint is easily scratched off with my finger nail. Is this normal? Does it need longer to cure before I apply the second coat?

Answer: The primer should have been sanded too, but the problem here is the ProMar 200 paint. It's not a durable product for paneling. It dries too soft. Emerald urethane enamel in the semi-gloss finish would have been a much more durable product for your paneling. It dries hard. The ProMar paint might harden a little over the next couple weeks, but your best bet is probably going to be removing the paint and applying a durable product like the one I mentioned.

Question: I need to use the primer to prime cabinets that are stained. Do I need to sand the cabinets enough to completely remove the stain or do I even need to sand at all if using this primer? Also I would really prefer to use a brush and roller, does this mean I shouldn't use the BIN or SW?

Answer: The cabinets should be cleaned and sanded to remove the glossy clear coat. This allows the primer to bond stronger to the surface. Use an electric sander with 150-grit sandpaper. You can brush and roll BIN, but it's messy to work with because it's as thin as water. It sprinkles everywhere. You have to be careful to cover everything around and beneath the cabinets, you're priming.

Question: Can bin primer be sprayed with an HVLP gun?

Answer: Yes, but you'll have to thin the primer to the right viscosity. Cover Stain primer is thick and won't spray through an HVLP gun without thinning it first.

Question: Could you use BIN Primer for an entire wood floor (knotty pine) in a heavy traffic area (living room). Also, have pine in the kitchen and would like to use it in there as well. I hear great things about the stuff but in its limitations, it states not for use on whole floors. Just wondered why?

Answer: I would be hesitant to use BIN as a floor primer. While the primer is very durable on vertical surfaces, I'm really not sure how well it would hold up on a floor, long term, because I've only used this product on cabinets and drywall. I would explore primer meant for flooring, or you could contact Zinseer customer service and ask them if BIN can be used on floors.

Question: Do I have to use a top coat after using the BIN white primer on a desk? I wanted to paint it white anyways and it looks great after 2 coats of the BIN.

Answer: No, you don't have to, but the paint adds color and more durability.

Question: Do you think Zinsser BIN would cover mold spots on a bathroom wall, prior to painting?

Answer: Yes, the primer will cover dark stains left behind from mold, but the actual mold itself should be removed before priming and painting.

Question: How bad is the smell when painting a stairway?

Answer: If you mean priming and painting stairway walls or the wood railings/spindles in the stairway, the smell of the primer would be strong in an enclosed area like that without using a fan to help circulate the air. Opening windows with a couple of box fans set up will remove the fumes really fast though. The smell of BIN doesn't linger as oil primer does. Use low VOC paint to reduce odor.

Question: I need to paint over some wallpaper. What is your recommendation?

Answer: The wallpaper needs to be primed first before you can paint it. Use oil primer, not latex. Whenever I prime wallpaper, I always use Cover Stain oil primer. BIN would probably be fine too, but Cover Stain's always worked great for me without any problems. You can topcoat the primer with any latex paint.

Question: How can I eliminate fish eyes on cabinets I sprayed the cover stain on?

Answer: The fish eye likely happened because there was a contaminant on the surface that you primed with Cover Stain. You didn't mention if you cleaned the surface or not. You can try cleaning the surface with a surface prep cleaner, or denatured alcohol, then apply another coat of your primer. Make sure you're following the air temperature and RH specs for the primer too. Most fisheye is caused by surface contaminants.

Question: I make signs and such. It was recommended that I use Zinsser Bin Primer to block any resin that leaks through (pine). I tried this yesterday, and the finish is really bumpy. Is there any way to of mak the surface flatter?

Answer: Sand the surface.

Question: How long do I have to wait after I apply BIN primer to apply the top coat over the color?

Answer: The recoat time is only 45 minutes, which is one of the reasons I love using this product for kitchen cabinet priming. The recoat time also depends on air temperature. If it's cold or humid in the room, it might take longer to dry fully.

Question: We've just bought a house and the previous owner smoked inside...would B-I-N seal/eliminate the odor?

Answer: Yes, the primer will seal over the smoke stains and help remove the odor, but you should clean the surface before priming.

Question: I need to seal the concrete floors in my house to get rid of pet odors. Which product works best? What primer is best for walls to block odors?

Answer: Sherwin Williams Loxon floor sealer might be a good choice for your concrete floor, but I have no personal experience with that product. For blocking odor on walls, Zinsser BIN will do the trick or Sherwin Williams white pigmented shellac. Both products are the same. This primer smells horrible, but the smell goes away in a couple of hours.

Question: When is it okay to use the water-based version of BIN primer?

Answer: It depends what you're priming. I have only used the shellac BIN, so I can't comment on the water-based version, but I'd be hesitant to rely on it to cover tough stains. Shellac is best for that, but for minor stains, or as a primer coat for a major color change, it might be fine. For tough stains and sealing raw wood, the shellac version, or oil-based primer, is your best bet.

Question: I am painting my kitchen cabinet and I doing two coats of BIN, I actually love the color of the BIN. Can I just topcoat twice with the BIN?

Answer: You can, but the primer serves only as a stain blocker and a bond coat for paint. It's meant to be painted. BIN primer might also react badly over time from direct water exposure. With paint on top, it's fine, but without primer, if drawers underneath the sink area get splashed a lot by water it might start to chip, so you'd want to at least topcoat the primer with a clear protective coat if you're not going to paint it.

Question: Regarding a textured ceiling: Will latex paint adhere to B.I.N. without sanding?

Answer: Yes, but the paint will form a stronger bond scuff sanding the primer before painting. If you're able to sand the ceiling without damaging the texture, scuff sand it with a drywall sanding sponge. If you don't sand the primer, the paint's not going to peel off the ceiling.

Question: Can BIN be sprayed with the Homeright Finish Max Super? If so, what’s the best way to thin BIN?

Answer: You don't have to thin BIN. It's already very thin and sprays really nice with an airless sprayer and a fine finish tip, or an HVLP sprayer. Yes, you can spray BIN with the Homeright sprayer, but I've tried it and it doesn't produce a nice smooth finish. I don't recommend using that sprayer for spraying cabinets, or any projects that call for a fine finish. Out of curiosity, I bought a Homeright sprayer, in hopes of using it only for spraying BIN, but on my sample door, the primer would just splatter onto the surface when sprayed and not form a nice finish. I'll be writing a review on it.

Question: Will this primer work on laminate kitchen cabinets? Or is there something else you would recommend? Also curious if your painting process changes at all for laminate

Answer: Yes, BIN primer's a good choice for laminate cabinets, or oil-based primer. The process is the same for most other cabinets I've painted (clean, sand, prime, paint).

Question: I bought a house that the former owner was a smoker. I can't decide on either BIN or cover stain. I am only concerned with the covering of the stains and odor-blocking performance. Does either product have an advantage over the other for covering stains and odor blocking?

Answer: Both products work great for blocking nicotine stains. There are pros and cons of both. BIN is over $20 more per gallon, although in some cases you can get a cheaper price if you buy a 5 gallon container instead of singles. BIN dries really fast with the windows open. You can paint over the primer in 45 min to 1 hour. It sprays like a dream. Both products splatter and sprinkle like crazy when brushing and rolling, especially BIN because it's as thin as milk. You need eye protection if you're rolling either onto a ceiling. I highly recommend using an airless sprayer over rolling. Cover Stain dries a little slower. It sands easier. The smell lingers. Clean up is more toxic, requiring the use of paint thinner. With BIN, all you need is a cheap bottle of ammonia and warm water. Both products smell horrible. You absolutely must wear a respirator and open all of the windows to ventilate the fumes. If it were me, I'd use BIN, but not in high moisture areas like a bathroom. Everywhere else it's fine. You can paint over it with any latex paint.

© 2018 Matt G.


Brian on July 18, 2020:

I have applied BIN over CAT pee rotted pressure treated 2x4 were the base boards go. I took as much rot out as i could but the 2x4 stil looks soft and black . I dont think it can dry out anymore, it looks like soft rot. Well, i primed over it anyway to kill the odor, do you see any harm in what I did? Did I block in the decay? Or the chance of really drying out more?

Matt G. (author) from United States on July 03, 2020:

Remove the grease first. If the cleaning exposes bare wood spot prime those areas and paint the doors again. You can try touching them up, but it's hard to blend in touchups with glossy enamel, especially if the cabinets were sprayed. If the cleaning doesn't burn through the enamel down to the bare wood you can just repaint them without primer.

Michelle on July 02, 2020:

Hey! I painted my kitchen cabinets this summer. I cleaned with TSP, sanded, and put on BIN. I sanded again, and then 2 coats of alkyd enamel paint. However, some cabinets have grease coming through!! Agh! Do I need to start completely over? Can I just do primer + paint again? Do I need to sand it? Please help!

Dayna Fowler on May 08, 2020:

I am painting my oak cabinets. After 2 coats of Kilz primer and 2 top coats, the wood grain is still very visible. I bought BIN today in the hopes it will tone down the grain. My question is can I use BIN on top of all those coats? Do I need to sand the doors before applying BIN? Thank you!

Matt G. (author) from United States on September 30, 2019:

Yes, sand between coats.

Terry Vos on September 30, 2019:

After I apply BIN, should I sand before I paint?

RTalloni on January 28, 2018:

Thanks for sharing your experience.