How to Get Rid of Brown Water Stains on the Ceiling

Brown water stains on the ceiling result from excess moisture, often caused by a plumbing or roof leak. Once you find and address the root of the problem, you can clean and paint your ceiling so that the brown water stain doesn’t show through.

How to Get Rid of Brown Water Stains on the Ceiling

What Causes Brown Water Stains on the Ceiling?

If you have a brown water stain, moisture is making its way to your ceiling. Check for one of these causes.

Leaks From Pipes, Roofs, or Appliances

Slow plumbing leaks and roof leaks are the most common causes of brown ceiling spots. If the affected ceiling is under your roofline and you don’t suspect a plumbing issue, have your roof inspected. Heavy rain and melting snow can seep in through small holes or cracks, allowing water inside your house.

If the affected ceiling is on the first floor, a plumbing leak is the likely culprit, and you need to call a plumber. Malfunctioning appliances like air conditioners can also cause leaks, leading to ceiling stains.

Condensation From Humid Air

Poor ventilation in humid rooms, like the bathroom, can lead to condensation forming on the ceiling. When this happens repeatedly, the condensation can leave brown spots behind. If brown ceiling spots are in a bathroom where family members don’t use the bathroom exhaust fan while showering, condensation might be the cause.

How to Clean Brown Water Stains on the Ceiling

Since brown stains are the result of excess moisture, they provide the perfect breeding ground for ceiling mold. Kill this mold with a bleach solution before priming or painting your ceilings.


  • Sponge or soft cloth
  • Spray bottle
  • Protective gloves and goggles
  • Soft brush
  • Bleach
  • Water

Put on your safety gear and mix a solution of one part bleach and three parts water. Add this to a bucket or spray bottle. Spray the brown spot and allow the bleach mixture to sit for five minutes. Use a wet rag dampened in water to rinse the bleach from the ceiling. Dry with a towel.

Prime and Paint Brown Ceiling Spots

In mild cases, cleaning the brown spots with bleach might be enough to whiten the ceiling. If the brown is dark or covers a large area, you’ll need to prime and paint.

  • Apply a stain-blocking primer over the brown water spot. (Use a stain-blocking product. Regular primers may allow the brown to show through.)
  • Repaint the entire ceiling. After the primer is cured (about 24 hours), repaint the ceiling with ceiling paint. If you only paint the stained area, it will be noticeable.

Common Prevention Tips

  • Fix leaks: If you have a leak, fix it immediately to prevent water damage. Check water supply lines and pipes.
  • Maintain gutters and downspouts: Clogged gutters allow water to overflow, leading to roof leaks that ruin the ceiling.
  • Improve ventilation: High-humidity areas, such as bathrooms or kitchens, need proper ventilation. Use a hygrometer to keep the humidity between 30% and 50%.
  • Use your bathroom exhaust fan: The exhaust fan will prevent condensation build-up during showers.
  • Use moisture-resistant drywall in the bathroom: Moisture-resistant drywall is less prone to mold, mildew, and brown water spots.
  • Seal cracks and use water-resistant paint: Proper sealing protects your ceiling from water intrusion, while water-resistant paint repels water and prevents stains.