Zinsser BIN Primer Review

Updated on April 5, 2019
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

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


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 nicely with a sprayer. Cover Stain is thicker and doesn't level nearly as well 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 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, spattering all over the place if a brush or roller is used. 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. 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, 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 use Zinsser BIN primer on cabinets and recommend it for spraying them. 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. The downside is the strong smell before it dries, but the smell doesn't linger like oil-based primer.

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

  • 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?

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

© 2018 Matt G.


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    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      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. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      5 weeks ago from United States

      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.

    • profile image


      6 weeks ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Dayna Fowler 

      3 months ago

      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. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      10 months ago from United States

      Yes, sand between coats.

    • profile image

      Terry Vos 

      10 months ago

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

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience.


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