Zinsser Paint Review and Guide

Updated Feb 27, 2024 | Posted May 29, 2021 | Product Reviews, Paints | 3 comments

Zinsser are the brand leader when it comes to problem solving paints in the UK. The products are widespread. In this blog I’m going to go through each of the more popular Zinsser paint products and offer up a review for each. I hope you find it useful. You can find more information on their website.


Zinsser BIN Review


Zinsser BIN is a shellac-based primer / sealer. The shellac itself is made from the secretions of a beetle, which I find a little odd. Zinsser BIN is an awesome product!! Capable of blocking almost any stain, including sap, which might otherwise bleed through your paint finish from knots on timber. It will also stick hard and fast to just about any surface. This product is only suitable for interior use or spot priming on an external project due to its brittle nature once dry.

You would not use Zinsser BIN as a “finish product”. Instead, use it as an adhesion primer over difficult surfaces, a stain block, a primer over bare timber, or a stabiliser. Re-coat time is a mere 20 minutes. You can buy BIN as an aerosol, or a liquid paint. Use cheap brushes and rollers with BIN as it’ll wreck them!! Even if you go for the brush restorer. Full Zinsser BIN review here. Or you can click here to see latest prices.


Zinsser BIN Aqua Review

Zinsser BIN Aqua is the water-based version of, well, Zinsser BIN. It does everything that Zinsser BIN does, but the opacity is better, you can use it outside and it has a much better flow.

I think the stain blocking capabilities of the original version are better. Zinsser BIN Aqua needs to be left for four hours in between coats when you’re using it as a stain block. Other than that, this is a remarkable paint. It is expensive, but I can vouch for the performance.

Tin of Zinsser BIN Aqua, which is a water-based primer / undercoat

Zinsser Cover Stain Review


Zinsser Cover Stain is another primer, sealer and stain block. This time it’s oil-based and drying time is extended to a couple of hours. Cover Stain is probably one of the best adhesion primers on the market when used over old gloss paint, varnish, or wood stain. It’s also one of the best MDF primers you can get, as you tend to avoid those fluffy edges when you use it.

This is a superb product and there’s nothing else quite like it. Ironically, the one thing Cover Stain doesn’t do very well is cover stains. Other than that, it’s brilliant. Click here to see latest prices.


Zinsser Bullseye 123 Review


Yet another primer, sealer and stain block. Bullseye 123 is a water-based product with a drying time of around 4 hours. You can use this product to block light stains such as nicotine. However it comes into its own as a primer for bare timber, or an adhesion primer on things such as uPVC windows and doors. Available here.


Zinsser DIF Wallpaper Remover Review


This is a liquid you add to water and apply to perforated wallpaper when you need to remove it. DIF works by penetrating the paper, then dissolving the wallpaper paste. I use it and like it and think it definitely helps move the job along.

After you’ve stripped all your wallpaper, you can use a diluted DIF solution to wash any remaining paste residue off the walls. Click here to see current prices.


Zinsser Gardz Review


This is a remarkably interesting product. Used mainly as a stabiliser and alkali primer, you’ll find Zinsser gardz cheap and very easy to use. In fact, it’s just a clear, watery liquid. I often use it to stabilise an old wall before applying wallpaper, or to seal paste residue on a wall before painting. You must always adhere to the 4-hour drying time when painting over gardz, as otherwise your paint may craze…. Click here to see online prices.


Zinsser Peel Stop Review


Another stabilising solution, but this one goes a little bit further. Zinsser Peel Stop can be used to stabilise render on the exterior of a property, flaky paint on the inside, or as a barrier coat between a problematic surface and coatings of a new paint. It is the number one solution to issues with crazing emulsion and its got me out of a lot the sh1t many a time.


Wallpaper Cover Up Review


This is an oil-based product used as a barrier coat / adhesion primer when painting over wallpaper. It does the job well and completely seals the paper to the wall, allowing a good base for you to paint over. It does stink though, so ventilate the room as best you can before you apply the paint.


Zinsser Allcoat water-based Satin Review


I love this product. A truly water-based exterior satinwood with great adhesion and capable of coating almost anything!! You can use it on masonry, woodwork, or even metal work. You’ll get a great finish with this paint, and it remains flexible, meaning it will last for years in the UK climate. Available here


Zinsser AllClean Interior Scrubbable Matt Review


This stands out on the list of Zinsser products, as in essence, it is just a durable matt emulsion. One of the best durable matt emulsion products on the market too!! Touch dry in an hour, re-coat in 2 hours. Opacity, ease of use and overall finish are absolutely spot on, especially in white, which can be a nightmare to work with in other brands. The low sheen level makes this paint very desirable for the homeowner. It can pull on itself a little bit, so allow your cutting in to dry before rolling a wall. Touches up without issue. Full AllClean review here.


Do I need a primer for Zinsser AllCoat?

Zinsser AllCoat has been developed as a primer and finish coat in one. You can use it on multiple surfaces including wood and masonry. The only time I’d recommend using a primer is when using white and going for a colour change. An undercoat or primer will help with opacity.


Can you use Zinsser as undercoat?

There are various Zinsser products that you can use as an undercoat, including Cover Stain, BIN and BIN Aqua.


Why is Zinsser primer good?

Zinsser make a range of specialist primers, each developed to perform as well as it possibly can in a specific situation.


What is the difference between Zinsser BIN and Zinsser Bullseye?

Zinsser BIN is a shellac-based paint, Bullseye 123 is water-based. They’re both adhesion primers and stain blocks, but each one is better for different jobs. For example, Zinsser BIN is better for blocking water stains and gripping to varnished wood. Zinsser Bullseye 123 can be used outside and works better on plastic.


Final Thoughts


As you can tell, Zinsser have a wide variety of products ranging from problem solving primers to finish paints. Every decorator in the UK knows and loves Zinsser products, particularly the primers. If you come across a problem in decorating, then Zinsser is often the answer.

Click here for more info on the full range.

Zinsser Paint Review and Guide – by Mike Gregory


What Other Decorators Have to Say

I know it’s a new member of the lineup but Zinsser BIN Aqua is my new ‘go to’ primer. It’s easy to apply, great adhesion, will block stains to a certain extent (not to the same degree that BIN and Cover Stain do) and has excellent recoat time. Yes, it’s expensive, but it goes further than a lot of other primers and it saves time. To my mind it’s now the best all round primer they produce and might even replace some of the others such as Bullseye.

Tim Lowe

Professional Decorator

I must admit that I do like Zinsser BIN Aqua. It’s a good all-round product and good for undercoating woodwork. I like the red BIN for using on darker water stains.

My ‘go to’ for bathroom paint or areas of mould or damp conditions is Zinsser Perma White. It’s smooth to use, dries great and has a nice finish. Zinsser All Coat is a great paint also, especially on uPVC it nice as it doesn’t need a primer. It sticks, is hard wearing and leaves a nice finish.

Gavin Baker

Professional Decorator

Want me to give you my Zinsser paint review? I’m a huge fan. I used Peel Stop, Guardz, BIN and Cover Stain today alone.

Zinsser Peel Stop to bind some flaking paint and the edge of some plasterboard for a patch repair.

BIN for some knots on the woodwork then a full coat of Cover Stain as I prefer that for adhesion.

Then Guardz to seal any wallpaper adhesive residue after stripping the feature wallpaper.

I can’t fault Zinsser products much really.

I’ve used DIF but not sure that does too much if I’m honest and feel the Bullseye 123 is pointless with the 123+ available.

The brush cleaner is brilliant and had a pot for years. 👌🏼

Richard Irons

Professional Decorator

Red Zinsser B.I.N every time. Never failed for me in all my years.

Kevin Young

Professional Decorator


Zinsser Cover Stain is the ‘go to’ primer undercoat , tint-able, thin-able and mixable with any other solvent/oil based , grade 1 is top shelf for the same reasons as an allrounder for historic applications and gardz the best sealer for the unknown.

Jef Newsam

Professional Decorator

I probably use red Zinsser BIN more than any other product, but they all have their place when the situation dictates.

Mark Willcocks

Professional Decorator

Zinsser AllCoat is great for spraying cabinets etc.

David Whittaker

Professional Decorator

Great range of products for some quite specific jobs. I carry a small tin of each Zinsser paint product in the van so I can deal with any eventuality if an emergency occurs. Then buy bigger tins if I know I’m going to need them on a job. Cover Stain is my favourite, although it is not water-based.

Alex Greenhalgh

Professional Decorator

Zinsser paper tigers aren’t up to much. They break nearly straight away. Do they make any other tools? It’s bit strange they make the paper tiger and nothing else tool wise.

Let’s not forget Zinsser DIF as well. I’m Not convinced that’s anything special but rarely use it when stripping wallpaper.

John Swinton

Professional Decorator

Zinsser Cover Stain is oil-based and my’ go to’ always,,, best on the market,, I’ve never had a problem using it 👍👍

Mark O'hanlon

I like Zinsser Cover Stain because it does what it says on the tin and dries quick. Zinsser BIN is great but hard to use if you don’t know how to use it. Bullseye 123 I’d say is a good primer but not much else.

Martin Peskett

We use all the Zinsser paint products regularly, great paints 👍

Dave Easton

Did my old damp brick shed out in Zinsser WaterTite 8 years ago and still solid with no mould or water stains coming throughout 👍

Carl Coleman

Zinsser products are brilliant at what they do, the trick is knowing which to use when. Reading the tin, checking the guidebook or going online is easy enough and once you’ve managed that you can’t go wrong. When it comes to problem surfaces there’s very few issues a Zinsser product can’t solve.

Matt Tidd

I loathe BIN. It’s not the holy grail for Decs. Zinsser Cover Stain is the only one I use and it’s great. DIF is the best product they do, and I use it a lot.

Lisa Storey

Updated Feb 27, 2024 | Posted May 29, 2021 | 3 comments

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. Richard

    Johnstones make own BIN sheallac primer at half price BIN.

    Absolutely ridiculous the price BIN is even for the trade.

    Also decorating direct have own very good sheallac product.
    An other excellent product is Johnsone trade stainaway which is water based far easier to roll ceilings etc, mixed to any colour as a finish and actually works!
    Beats stinking sheallac primer for most problems any day!
    4hr recoat time must be followed.

  2. Michael Worthington

    This by FAR , the absolute Worst, primer or paint I have ever used. Tried different surfaces and applicators and they are all extremely disappointing. Will never buy a rustoleum product again

    • Mike Cupit

      Which primer did you use?


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