Zinsser BIN Review – Shellac Based Primer

Updated Feb 7, 2024 | Posted Apr 16, 2020 | Product Review, Paints | 30 comments

Zinsser BIN is the industry leader in shellac-based primers. You wouldn’t use it as a finish coat, more of a problem-solving product before overpainting with something else. Zinsser BIN is a stain block, adhesion primer and barrier coat all in one. With a drying time of 15 minutes and re-coat in 45 minutes. Zinsser BIN can be very handy to have on any decorating project.

Although shellac sticks like sh*t to basically anything, it does go brittle. Therefore, it is only suitable for spot-priming when used outdoors. This is one of the very few limitations this product has. In fact, a lot of decorators believe Zinsser BIN to be the ultimate problem-solving paint. This is my Zinsser BIN review. I hope you find it useful. Click here to see online prices.


Using Zinsser BIN as an Adhesion Primer


Ok, let’s talk adhesion. As mentioned, Zinsser BIN does stick solid to most things. In fact, it is even used as a base coat for ladies (or some gentlemen’s) fingernails before applying nail varnish!! You can use Zinsser BIN to prime glass, ceramic tiles, glossy surfaces, wood and metal. I love to use this product on brown varnished wood which is to be painted white. It is one of, if not the best product on the market for adhesion on any of the materials listed above.

You wouldn’t think it, but it sprays lovely too. It lays off nicely, making it the perfect primer when spraying furniture. MDF paneling comes up lovely when sprayed with Zinsser BIN!!


Using Zinsser BIN as a Stain Block


Zinsser BIN kills most stains dead!! Much more effective than any of the water-based alternatives I have used to date. It comes in very handy when emulsioning a room with stains. Because the drying time is so short, you are not held up and you can crack on with the rest of the decorating work. The only products more effective than BIN are oil-based, so drying time can be a real pain. This is another reason to stick with a shellac based primer over oil.

It is great for knot bleeds on timber too!! If you ever get the brown circular marks on the white wooden trim in your home, you know the knots in the timber weren’t primed correctly. If you just ignore these marks when you decorate, they will appear again a few weeks after repainting. Spot prime them with Zinsser BIN and you’ll never have the issue again!!


Using Zinsser BIN as a Barrier coat


Apparently you can use Zinsser BIN on very porous surfaces as part of your prep. I have no doubt you could, but I’m unsure why you would. There are much easier products out there to use depending on your substrate. One thing I do use Zinsser BIN for is as a barrier between a thick bead of caulk and emulsion. It acts as a barrier and prevents moisture penetrating the caulk and expanding it, therefore stops the emulsion from cracking when the caulk contracts again.


The Downside


Yes, Zinsser BIN is a wonder product in so many circumstances. It is a pain in the backside too!! It is difficult to keep a wet edge when painting for a period of time. It wrecks your brushes too, and it can be awkward to apply. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it and I use it regularly. The high performance does come with the odd frustration though unfortunately. So, always use a cheap brush when using Zinsser BIN. A foam roller will help when applying the product over a flat surface like a door.


Other Zinsser BIN Products


Firstly, Zinsser BIN is obviously available as a paint, that is straight forward enough. You can also buy it in aerosol form, which is very handy for spot priming stains or tackling smaller areas. There is also a brush restorer. I’d recommend getting this, simply because it is cheap, and you’ll have a much better experience with Zinsser BIN if you swill your brush out every half an hour or so. Still, stick to cheap brushes when you use it.


Where to Buy


Listen, the product is awesome, so it’s available basically anywhere!! Most DIY shops, every trade paint outlet and several online stores. It is even in B&Q, so getting your hands on a tin will not be difficult. However, buying online is normally cheaper. Plus, you can see all the other Zinsser products in one place. Click here to see online prices.


The Best Tools to Use to Apply Zinsser BIN


Any shellac-based primer can be fairly sticky to apply, and even with Zinsser BIN Brush Cleaner, your tools will take a battering. A lint-free mini-roller will help you achieve a flat finish in less time. As for the brush, you need robust synthetic bristles without spending too much money. You might only use a brush once before replacing it.

I think Two Fussy Blokes Mini-Rollers are probably the way to go (They’re also my favourite rollers for satinwood, or water-based gloss). You’ll find they hold loads of paint and stand up well. Click here to see current prices.

As for the brush, Hamilton For The Trade takes some beating. They’re cheap, but good quality and hold their shape well. Click here to see current prices.


An Alternative to Zinsser BIN

Zinsser Cover Stain is a completely different product, but I thought I’d cover it briefly because there are some similarities between that and BIN.

Cover stain is an oil-based product, rather than shellac. Drying time is roughly 30 minutes and you can recoat after 2 hours. You can use it to block stains, or as an adhesion primer on most substrates.

You’ll find it easier to use than BIN and it won’t ruin your brushes. The finish is flatter too. I prefer this product when covering large areas such as previously varnished doors.

This too is a very widespread product. You will find cover stain in all trade and most DIY outlets.

cover stain adhesion primer



What is Zinsser BIN good for?

Zinsser BIN is a fantastic stain block You can use it over smoke damage, nicotine, grease, graffiti and almost anything else. It’s also a good adhesion primer for surfaces like melamine and varnished wood.


Can you paint straight over Zinsser BIN?

You certainly can!! No other prep needed; once your Zinsser BIN is dry, you can paint over it with almost any product.


Is Zinsser BIN good for damp?

Zinsser BIN is one of the best stain blocks available for damage caused by damp. However, it won’t hold damp back. If moisture is still present and builds up behind the Zinsser BIN, then the paint will eventually fail.


Can you use Zinsser BIN without sanding?

You can use Zinsser BIN without sanding. However, I’d still advise sanding a surface to create a key when using Zinsser BIN as an adhesion primer. Especially when painting over old oil-based paint or varnish.


Final Thoughts


Zinsser BIN is the punchline answer to everything amongst decorators on DFUK. Every time one decorator has a problem, another decorator recommends BIN. Got a stain to block? Use Zinsser BIN! Need an adhesion primer to paint old varnished timber? Go with Zinsser BIN! No milk for your cornflakes? Use Zinsser BIN!

I think just about every decorator does use this product and carries it in the van. This is for good reason too, because it does get you out of a lot of scrapes. I’d fully recommend.

Zinsser BIN Review – Shellac Based Primer – by Mike Gregory

Updated Feb 7, 2024 | Posted Apr 16, 2020 | 30 comments


  1. Roy Ledesma

    I am using BIN and when I place waterborne product is starts to dimple in the coatings

    • Mike Cupit

      Dimple? That sounds like it could be sessing, which would happen if your BIN primer hasn’t cured properly before applying your water-based product

  2. Janette Denny

    I love this product for stain blocking but when I recently re opened the tin to use it to block water stains on an old chimney breast the colour of the Zinsser BIN was yellow…It absolutely blocked the stains but I had to apply four coats of white emulsion over it…..does it ‘go off’ and should I throw the rest of the tin away?

    • Mush

      That’s the shellac just shake the tin

      • Richard w eddy

        It’s brilliant stuff

  3. ZT

    Currently renting a property that has a bad pet urine smell in a room which is getting worse as it gets warmer. I think as well as the floor it could possibly be coming from the painted wallpapered walls. Without stripping this wallpaper would you recommend any of these products for blocking the smell?
    I read a few reviews online and suggests that the Zinsser oil based primer might be a good solution?

    • Leah Ray

      I used it for this same purpose 15 years ago and forgot about the smell until reading your question. So yes, it works great to cover pet urine smells on wooden floors. I obviously painted the floor, and am just now needing to repaint.

  4. Bill Johnstone

    I have an artexted ceiling to paint with Dulux matt emulsion. The problem is that I don’t know which emulsion the previous owners used — all I know is that it has a slight sheen to it, so I’m guessing that it may be ‘soft sheen’ or something similar.

    Before applying the new emulsion, should I first apply a coat of Dulux base coat, or something else like Zinzer BIN?

  5. Carol Henshaw

    Have used Dulax emulsion on walls which bubbles when any form of moisture goes on it. We have decided to wallpaper and have sized the walls with a solvite paste but this bubbled as well. We have purchased Zinsser BIN to seal what we have done. My question is will it go on the solvite sizing and can we wallpaper on top of it.

  6. David Butterfield

    I am using Zinsser bin on my varnished stair case parts and it will not adhere to the varnish, it will stick to the varnish but will peel when applying a light scrape. The you tube videos are not telling the truth about this product based on my experience with this paint. What is Zinsser definition of adhesion? I worked as a Quality Engineer with experience on Paint lines in my last life

    • Mike Cupit

      Zinsser BIN should be fine over the top of varnish with the correct prep

  7. Peter Colclough

    Can I use Zinsser BIN to prime a concrete exterior cill before applying Dulux Weathershield Smooth Masonary paint?

    • Mike Cupit

      not really

  8. Chris

    We have a chipboard floor that we want to paint to a smooth, glossy finish if possible; would this be primer provide a better base than standard water based primer?

    • Mike Cupit

      Hi Chris,

      This may be too brittle for something like that. I’d opt for a diluted coat of Zinsser Coverstain

  9. Geraldine Hulston

    I am looking for something to cover a rust stain on a balcony floor The rust seems to be coming from one of the railings that goes into the concrete (There is no visible rust on the top of the metal railing) Would this product work ??

    • Mike Cupit

      Not really. Zinsser BIN doesn’t last very well on an exterior. You can use oxi primer to stop rust (or at least slow it down). Any oil-based product should block the stains. Metal paint such as Hammerite has rust inhibitors in it.

  10. Miranda

    Can I use this over Polyurethane walls?

  11. Joanna powell

    I’m struggling painting many items within our french holiday home . I’ve used bin so many times but french oak has so much tannin bleed ! I’ve used two coats bin and no bleed but as soon as I add the white top colour the bleed still shows through. I really want to have a white finish any suggestions please thank u

  12. Peter

    Will BIN cover and prime silicon window edging filler?

  13. Michelle Twomey

    Hello Mike, I got a dado rail fitted in the hall but there is dried adhesive both above and below the rail and no amount of painting hides it. Will a coat of BIN hide it. I’m asking as there’s a lot of stuff online that suggests I need to use product to remove the adhesive, however if shellac primer does the job of hiding it, that would be so much easier.

  14. Elizabeth

    My staircase is French polished. I’m thinking of painting it. Would BIN work as a prime, allowing me to choose whatever type of paint I want over the top of it? And, if I need to prep the French polish before the BIN prime, what exactly is the prep that’s required?

    • Dan

      A true French polish uses Shellac as the varnish. Zinsser BIN is a pigmented shellac. It’s a match made in heaven. However, there may be a wax coat overtop that you will want to remove with a cleaner like Krud Kutter.

  15. gary rodgers

    hi there, I am just using zinsser b.i.n on little bedroom wall, it has a couple of condensation patches, I have washed it all down, sanded the surface, I have just applied x2 coats, the wall looks great, but I want to add a colour emulsion to the wall, will the patches come back if I paint over with the emulsion.
    Many thanks for any advice in advance

  16. Kathryn

    Hiya, just found your handy guide!

    Would this product be suitable for covering large walls that someone (unbelievably) had used white gloss paint on?!

    Skimming the walls isn’t an option right now so I wondered if it was possible to use on very large surfaces? It’s pricey but I need a solution as I’m being blinded by the reflection of the gloss on the walls!

    If so, would a normal roller suffice?

    Thank you!

    • Richard

      Sand the walls, wash with sugar soap and water, a standard cheap acrylic primer undercoat would do fine.

  17. Richard

    Great review as always Mike, l use Fossa Shellac primer from Decorating direct its only £27 inc VAT for 2.5l they have both standard and extended wet edge versions.

    Fossa also has own brand coverstain copy 2.5l ” Primeout ” £25.28 inc VAT.

    Both these products loads cheaper than Zinnser and pretty good.

    l tried Johnstones own brand BIN but it was very thin more expensive and not that great coverage, perhaps trade merchants could stock FOSSA range it would attract customers in from other main merchants they are missing a trick there…

  18. Nai

    I am redecorating a rental property that has really bad mould stains on the ceilings. they have already been mould treated and sanded down ( mould was due to overloading rads with layers of wet clothing and not ventilating. So I know it is not an exterior issue). I was recommended Bullseye, but the reviews for covering pre-existing stains aren’t great). Question is… which Zinsser primer would be best?

  19. Sg

    Can it be used as a vapour control layer on the bedroom ceilings before adding loft insulation?

  20. Jenny

    I have bought a house & the kitchen walls & ceiling are very greasy. Would Z. Bin stick to grease?


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