Paint With Confidence

Exterior Common Issues & Solutions

Dirt Pickup

Text & image courtesy of the Rohm & Haas Paint Quality Institute

Dirt Pickup

Accumulation of dirt, dust particles and/or other debris on the paint film; may resemble mildew.

Possible Cause

  • Use of a low quality paint, especially lower grades of satin or semi-gloss.
  • Soil splashing onto siding.
  • Air pollution, car exhaust and flying dust collecting on house body and horizontal trim.


Wash off all surface dirt before priming and painting. If unsure whether the problem is dirt or mildew, conduct a simple spot-test (see Mildew). Clean off dirt with a scrub brush and detergent solution, followed by a thorough rinsing with a garden hose. Heavier dirt accumulations may require careful power washing. Dirt may be permanently embedded in the paint.

While dirt pickup can’t be eliminated entirely, top quality exterior latex paints typically offer superior dirt pickup resistance and washability. Also, higher gloss paints are more resistant to dirt pickup than flat paints, which are more porous and can more easily entrap dirt.