Zinsser BIN Aqua Review – The Full Truth

Updated Jun 22, 2024 | Posted Sep 4, 2023 | Product Reviews, Paints | 14 comments

All Professional Decorators know and love Zinsser BIN. It is the ultimate problem-solving paint product, and the OG of shellac-based primers. However, it does have a couple of minor drawbacks: it is too brittle to use outside and shellac can be a difficult product to apply.

That said, Zinsser BIN has been a staple product for some time, and as other manufacturers have scrambled to try and develop their own shellac-based primer, Zinsser have taken it a step further, and created a water-based alternative that can do everything a traditional shellac can, and more, and better!! Introducing Zinsser BIN Aqua.

This is a fully water-based primer that can be used inside or out. Toch dry in a mere 25 minutes, and the recoat time is 45 minutes. It can be used to prime problem surfaces such as metal, plastic, walls, wood, and old oil-based coatings like gloss.

You can also use Zinsser BIN Aqua as an effective stain block for contaminants such as smoke damage, water stains, nicotine and grease. You can buy this primer online by clicking here, or various other stockists in white.

My Zinsser BIN Aqua Review


I’m going to start by saying I’m a massive paint geek, so innovations in paint technology really excite me. I was given the opportunity to test Zinsser BIN Aqua Primer before it’s launch date, (which was also exciting).

As Zinsser BIN Aqua is fully water-based, it’s a lot kinder on your tools than the origional version. Flow is brilliant, as is opacity, so less coats are needed. This, along with its rapid drying time, means Zinsser BIN Aqua really speeds the job up.

The overall performance is good too. Its stain blocking capabilities far exceeds any other water-based product I have used. Adhesion is also up there. I have tested Zinsser BIN Aqua extensively on different types of materials, and it’s been perfect every time.

For instance, it’s fantastic for priming previously stained or varnished timber. It aids adhesion, blocks tannins, and stops knot bleed. Having a water-based product that can cope with all that is astonishing!

It’s also great for coating old gloss or other alkyd coatings before using water-based topcoats! Not just for adhesion reasons, but the opacity is better than a lot of oil-based undercoats I have used.


A Recent Project Using Zinsser BIN Aqua


I thought it might be an idea to show you a recent job we did using Zinsser BIN Aqua. Below are a couple of pictures of an old gate we painted. As you can see, there were patches of bare timber, and patches of paint.

The first thing we did was sand everything down and spot prime the bare timber using Zinsser Peel Stop to prevent any more of the existing paint from failing. We then needed a primer that would adhere to the old paint, stop stains from coming through the timber, and stop any potential knot bleed. That is too much to ask of most water-based primers, but the Zinsser BIN Aqua was perfect!

Not only did it adhere and block stains, but look at how good the opacity is!! Going from green, or bare timber to white in almost one coat!

Zinsser Aqua BIN is a good primer for exterior wood
painting a timber gate with primer

Final Thoughts


I can see Zinsser BIN Aqua becoming the most popular paint primer on the UK market. It does everything! I’m gobsmacked a water-based paint can be so good at completing such challenging tasks like adhesion and stain blocking.


Review Summary

Zinsser BIN Aqua Review - The Full Truth - Decorator's forum UK

A water-based stain block and adhesion primer used to solve problems when decorating.

Product Brand: Zunsser

Editor's Rating:


  • Great opacity.
  • Very easy to apply.
  • Great stain block.
  • Great adhesion primer.
  • It makes the perfect base for other products (better than the original BIN).
  • Can be used inside or out.
  • Doesn’t wreck your paintbrushes.


  • Scraping the barrel, but it isn’t quite as good at blocking stains as the shellac-based BIN.
  • Fairly expensive.

Updated Jun 22, 2024 | Posted Sep 4, 2023 | 14 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.
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  1. Marta

    I’m looking for a primer to go on wallpaper before painting with F&B dead flat in colour green card. I looked at your previous articles about this but do you think the new Zinsser BIN Aqua would work? I know it’s recommended to use oil based primer but it can be messy so just wondered if this one would do the job? Thank you

    • Mick

      Zinsser do a product called Wallpaper Cover up specifically for that job, which I used a couple of times and is good stuff. It’s oil based though, but just use a cheap brush or roller and throw them away. A water-based primer will soak into the wallpaper, possibly weaken the dry wallpaper paste, and possibly mean the wallpaper starts to come off the wall.

  2. Mike

    Regarding exterior use, the Zinsser data sheet for this says: “Not recommended for full surface application on exterior substrates”. Like the original BIN, it appears to be for spot-priming only when used outside.

    • Bruce Kennedy

      Not quiet correct here Mike as it does state:
      B-I-N® AQUA works brilliantly as a full-surface primer on building boards, doors, plywood and varnish, and is ideal for exterior surfaces such as brick, concrete, aluminium and PVC.

      B-I-N® AQUA is a ground-breaking water-based formula, developed for both professional and commercial applications.

      • Ultra-low odour.
      • Contains only trace VOCs (<0.1%).
      • Interior and exterior use.
      • Effectively primes, seals and blocks stains.
      • Locks in problem odours.
      • Superior adhesion without the need for sanding.
      • Blocks knot stain and sap streaks

      Link to the datasheet: https://www.zinsseruk.com/core/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/B-I-N-AQUA-TDS.pdf

  3. Charlie

    So I got myself a tin of this to decorate our home. Pre-primed mdf skirts and arc’s have taken it really well. The pre-primed doors however, well I’m pulling my hair out with them. I wonder what I’ve done wrong, and would appreciate any advice. Here’s my process:

    – sanded with 80 grit, wiped down and left to dry.
    – used an older purdy brush for the aqua primer.
    – next day I de-nib with 180 grit and my glove leaves a little black streak
    – I wipe down with a damp cloth and rub harder to remove the mark, and the paint comes clean off! I could scratch right through it!
    – so I re-do that side with another coat, wondering if I hadn’t stirred the tin enough or something (which I’m sure I did, but stir extra anyway)
    – 8 hours later I de-nib with 240 grit this time, and wipe down dust….but it’s not stopping, the cloth gets whiter and whiter no matter how many times I wipe down. I’m not rubbing hard or anything, but it’s like it’s just gradually removing the paint. I’m pretty sure it would peel off like before if I rub harder, but I don’t want to re-prime it again, so I’ve stopped and am waiting for it to dry.

    Is 8 hours too soon to wipe down? Is it the original primer (maybe I didn’t sand enough to begin with)? The doors are ‘smooth’ pre-primed shaker doors from Howdens. I’ll make some calls tomorrow to find out more.

    If anyone has bothered to read this far though (sorry it got so long), do you have any thoughts on this? Tia

    • Phil

      Hi, having not used the product myself I can only really say that the primer hasn’t hardened off enough yet to take that much punishment. I know some grip primers can take as long as 30 days to reach full cure. As long as you can lightly de-nib then that’s all the primer really needs to take. I would say gently does it, if you feel that the mark from your glove will burn through your topcoat then give it a light de-nib and then another coat of primer?

  4. Lee

    I’ve used both the shellac and aqua over varnished pine a fair amount of times. What I would say is painting over varnish will never be as durable as painting previously painted or new doors for example, especially with kids in the house. You have to remember that the paint is just sitting on top of the varnish so will take very little abuse as can be chipped or scraped back to the varnish much more easily than new or previously painted woodwork.
    I’ve also used other very good brand adhesion primers over varnish and the results are much the same.

  5. Anna

    Can I use this primer to prime old oil paint or will I need to use the oil based bin? Is an anti peel coat before the bin primer strictly necessary?

    I just ordered the aqua bin for a wardrobe project, but I will have leftover primer. I want to use it to paint over an old interior door which I’m pretty sure is oil painted because of age and look of finish. I’d be a nightmare if I get Peeling. I don’t know how many coats of paint this door has had already, so really want to avoid having to remove paint. I want to use farrow and ball paint on top. Thank you for your help!

  6. Charlie

    Definitely need to let it cure before any kind of scratch test – at least 5 days. I tested it on melamine without sanding first, and it wouldn’t come off when scraped with a Yale key. Have just covered a hallway/stairs/landing, again without deeglossing the oil based gloss, just a thorough clean with Zinsser Degreaser, especially round door handles and newel posts.
    Will apply 2 coats of Permawhite over the Bin Aqua..
    If it fails, I’ll report back.
    The Permawhite is supposed to go in glossy substrates without sanding, but I just didn’t feel it was up to it, so went with a coat of Bin Aqua.

  7. Simon Leah

    Used it last week to block heavy water staining which it successfully done after 3 coats 🙂 also used to prime over oil gloss surfaces which needed to be tougher than 123 ie. Handrails, Newels and window sills followed by a coat of 123 and then 2 topcoats of WRX satin. Fingers crossed its up to the task (although I done proper prep procedure of degrease and deploys as never fully trust “painting with no sanding”.
    Will report back if u have any call backs to job.

  8. James Wright

    Whilst the Bin Aqua is a great addition dont expect miracles when sealing water stains. Just taken 4 coats to fully obliterate staining coming back.

  9. Mick

    The shellac Zinsser BIN is one of the best primers for MDF I believe, what is Zinsser BIN Aqua like as a primer for MDF?


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