What is Zinsser BIN? – A Full Guide

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Oct 4, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 1 comment

As a Professional Decorator, Zinsser BIN has been my ‘go to’ problem solving product for the past 20 years or more. I love this paint, so much so I thought I’d take the time to sit down and answer a few questions about it. I don’t work for Zinsser, so I can be honest and give my opinion where I think it’s helpful.  

What is Zinsser BIN?

Zinsser BIN is a shellac-based primer which can be used to aid adhesion of paint on difficult surfaces. BIN can also be used as a stain block to tackle water marks, nicotine, pen and more. I often use it as a primer on MDF, or to block sap bleed on timber. You can see now why I use it as a “problem solving product”.  BIN is never used as a ‘finish product’, meaning it is never seen when the decorating in a room has been completed, but rest assured, it’s the hardest working paint you’re ever likely to use. Click here to see online prices.  

What is the difference between Zinsser Bullseye 123 and Zinsser BIN?

On paper, these two paints are different versions of the same product. They’re both adhesion primers and stain blocks. However, even though occasionally you can use either product for the same job, they are very different. Zinsser BIN is shellac-based, whereas 123 is water-based. This makes Zinsser Bullseye 123 a lot quicker and easier to apply. It’s also better suited for use on bare wood, or to prime plastic and composite before painting. BIN may be harder to apply, but it is by far the better stain block. It is also better suited as an adhesion primer over old varnish or oil-based gloss. If you’re in any doubt, check the instructions of both products to see which is better for the task you need it to achieve. Click here to see a full list of products.

Can You Use Zinsser BIN Without Sanding?

Yes, you can use Zinsser BIN as an adhesion primer over surfaces like oil-based paint or varnish without sanding, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As a Decorator, I can tell you it is good practice to create a ‘key’ on a difficult surface before painting. A quick sand over leaves thousands of tiny scratches, which gives the paint something to grip to.  

Can you paint straight over Zinsser BIN?

Yes, you can paint over Zinsser BIN with almost any paint product without issue. Sanding it may reduce its effectiveness. Just leave your coat of BIN for the recommended 45 minutes, then apply your other paint.  

Which Zinsser is best for water stains?

Zinsser do have a few stain blocks, including Bullseye 123, Bullseye 123 Plus, Cover Stain, BIN Aqua and BIN. I can tell you categorically that Zinsser BIN is by far the most effective on water stains, followed by BIN Aqua. Water marks are difficult to cover, and there aren’t many products on the market that can cope. Zinsser BIN is one of the best available, and you can paint over it after 45 minutes, which is very impressive. Click here to see online prices.  

Is Zinsser BIN good for damp?

If you have an existing damp issue, then it’s going to take more than paint to sort it. A product like Zinsser BIN will stop the moisture coming through for a short period, but water will always find a way. Moisture will either seep through eventually or build up behind your BIN and cause it to peel. So, there really is no point in painting before your damp issue is fixed. However, if you have already fixed your damp issue and you just need a paint to block any stains, then Zinsser BIN is the perfect paint. Click here to see online prices.

Which Zinsser primer is best on mould?

There are a couple of Zinsser products that are good for mould. The first thing I’d recommend is Zinsser Mould Killer and Remover. This is a spray that kills the spores on your mould, goes some way to stopping it from coming back, and slows down the spread. Available on Amazon by clicking here. Then you could either use Zinsser Cover Stain or BIN to block the stain. Both will do the job, but if you need to buy one especially, then I’d probably go with Cover Stain. I just find it easier to apply and paint over once dry. Dilute it slightly with white spirit then apply two coats. Click here to see online prices.  

Can you use water-based paint over Zinsser BIN?

Absolutely, you can paint over Zinsser BIN with almost any type of paint, be it water-based undercoat, satinwood, gloss, eggshell, or emulsion. The only time you might struggle is when painting over it with cheap contract matt, so opt for good quality trade emulsion instead.  

How many coats of Zinsser BIN Primer do I need?

Most of the time you only need to apply one coat of Zinsser BIN Primer. This is particularly true when you’re using it as an adhesion primer. The only time I’d ever consider applying two coats is when I’m blocking a particularly bad stain.  

Can Zinsser BIN be used on bare plaster?

I suppose you could use Zinsser BIN on bare plaster, and I don’t think adhesion will ever be an issue, but I don’t see why you’d ever want to. If you are trying to block a stain, then mist coat your bare plaster with an appropriate emulsion or water-based primer first. If you’re thinking about using Zinsser BIN on bare plaster because you want to prime it before emulsioning, then don’t. Check out this blog on how to mist coat bare plaster for more advice. There are better products to use.


Can I use Zinsser bin as an undercoat?

Yes, you can use Zinsser BIN as an undercoat. Some people use it as an undercoat to cover old oil-based paints before applying water-based products. However, Zinsser BIN does not have good opacity compared to conventional undercoat paints.

Zinsser Cover Stain is a better product to use before applying water-based paint over oil-based coatings. You’ll find it easier to apply than Zinsser BIN, and it will make a better base. Click here for product details.


How long after using bin primer can I paint?

Zinsser BIN is touch dry in 15 to 20 minutes, but it has a recoat time of 45 minutes. This is more of a guideline, as drying times can be reduced in dry rooms with good ventilation. However, my advice would be to stick to the recommended recoat time. Otherwise, you may experience adhesion issues between the BIN and additional coatings. Click here to see online prices.


Can you use a roller with Zinsser bin?

Yes, you can use a paint roller to apply Zinsser BIN. However, the paint is quite sticky, so some rollers may shed slightly and leave bits in your paint. A good quality microfibre roller will do the trick, but I prefer sponge rollers. Click here to view some options on Amazon.


Can Zinsser BIN be used outside?

Traditional Zinsser BIN can only be used outside as a “spot primer”. This is because it is a shellac-based product, and shellac is quite brittle. It simply won’t stand up to the UK weather. However, Zinsser BIN Aqua is a water-based version, and CAN be used outside.

BIN Aqua will do everything BIN does, It’s a great adhesion primer, stain block, and undercoat. Click here to see online prices.


Final Thoughts


I hope that has answered any question you might have about BIN, but if there is anything you need guidance on, feel free to comment below and I’ll try to get back to you.

Zinsser is fantastic really. They make loads of good quality primers, some of which go under the radar. Peel Stop is used for fixing flaky paint. Gardz is good for priming wallpaper residue or bare plaster before wallpapering. AllClean is a durable matt emulsion that really goes under the radar. The list goes on!

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Oct 4, 2023 | 1 comment

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.

1 Comment

  1. Bernard Dean

    Hi Mike,
    I found your article on B.I.N very helpful. But I am undercoating a few different surfaces. I am decorating my hall stairs and landing. There is the arcitrave which has old oil based gloss, the stair spindles, which have a few knots that bled when first glossed, and banister which have now been mostly sanded back to bare wood (only just found out about Zinsser!!!) Then there is the understairs which is bare MDF.
    My question is what would be the best primer to use for all cases mentioned or is it better to by B.I.N and Cover stain for the remaining gloss woodwork, going to repaint with water based Satinwood.
    Many thanks in advance


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