Yellow Spots on Bathroom Ceilings

yellow stains on ceiling

Most people don't spend a whole lot of time looking at their own ceilings, but sometimes when you do, you see stuff you didn't want to see. There are reasons why you see yellow spots on bathroom ceilings, and yes, there is a way you can keep it from happening to you and fix it when it does.

Yellow spots on bathroom ceilings are unsightly, but it's nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, this is an extremely common problem, and it is one that you can fix without too much sweat.

What Causes Yellow Spots on Bathroom Ceilings?

Yellow spots can appear on bathroom ceilings for a number of different reasons, and they are fixable. First, try to identify what's causing the spots and then you can go from there.

Water Damage

Water is one of the most common culprits when you're trying to figure out why there are yellow spots on your ceiling. Leaks in the roof or from piping in the ceiling can cause yellow spots to appear.

The best way to tell if your yellow spots are caused by water damage is to examine them. Notice the size and shape and take pictures that clearly show the parameters of the spots.

After it rains or after you use the plumbing in the floor above the bathroom, look at the spots again to see if they are any bigger or if they have changed in any way.

If there is a leak in the roof, you should be able to see evidence of this on the ceiling after every hard rain. The yellow area will change in size and shape because new moisture will accumulate after every rain, a change that should be more noticeable after heavy rainfall.

If yellow spots are due to water damage, get the leak repaired immediately. This will help stop the spots and it will prevent mold and bigger problems that can result from a water leak.


Speaking of mold, this is another reason why yellow spots may appear on your ceiling. If your bathroom is moist and humid, as many bathrooms are, this creates an ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow.

You don't want mold or mildew in your bathroom, because this creates a serious health risk. The spores can cause respiratory problems and aggravate existing conditions.

Look closely at the yellow spots. If they have a texture to them, if they are slimy or fuzzy, you likely are looking at mold.

There are multiple ways to treat mold, luckily, and there are steps you can take to prevent new mold from growing in the bathroom in the future.


Bathrooms are smaller areas of the home, so they may be more affected by the smoke from cigars, cigarettes, and vape pens can gather here. Nicotine causes yellowing and discoloration to paint and to pretty much everything it encounters.

Stop allowing any form of smoking or vaping in your home to prevent this yellowing. Once you clean the existing stains and eliminate the smoke from your home, the yellow spots will disappear.

The Toilet

Do you flush your toilet with the seat down? If you're like most people, the answer is no.

Many people flush their toilets several times a day with the seat cover left up. That's because most people don't know that when you flush your toilet, particles of water and human waste are flung up out of the toilet into the room all around...and sometimes, all the way up to the ceiling.

Over time, this can cause yellow discoloration on the ceiling, and it's generally unsanitary.

Get into the habit of closing the seat cover every single time before you flush the toilet and maintain this habit, because you don't want even tiny particles of the stuff in the toilet to get flung to the ceiling and other areas of your bathroom.

How to Fix Yellow Stains

Once you've addressed the unlying issue causing the yellow spots, now it's time to get down to the real DIY and get them fixed.

Stains caused by water damage can be cleaned in most cases with a store-bought stain-killing product. This is available at home improvement stores and it is applied to the ceiling a lot like pain.

Otherwise, try diluting one part bleach with three parts water and apply the solution to the stain using a sponge. Wear gloves and safety glasses when doing this and when handling any chemical formula.

Yellow stains caused by mold must first be treated for the mold. Kill all the mold first and then attempt to remove the stains.

You may need a special nicotine-cleaning solution if your problem is due to smoke. Many home improvement stores carry this product.

If standard cleaning does not remove all the yellow stains, you will need to re-paint the ceiling. Choose something moisture-resistant and be prepared to give the ceiling two coats of paint, because the first coat may not cover the stains completely.

Cleaning the stain, repainting the ceiling, and even fixing the immediate cause of the yellow stains are all good and necessary. However, it might not be enough to prevent all future yellow spots on the ceiling, depending on what caused yours in the first place.

How to Prevent Yellow Spots on Bathroom Ceilings

Yellow spots on bathroom ceilings can be caused by all sorts of different things, not all of which are completely in your own control. But in most cases, it is moisture that is causing those yellow spots to appear.

Whether the moisture is coming from a leaky roof, a toilet, or a buildup of moisture from the steam in the room, there is an easy way to prevent future yellow stains and improve your bathroom in a number of different ways at the same time: install an exhaust fan.

Every bathroom actually should have an exhaust fan, and this is your most effective way of preventing moisture in the room.

Moisture in bathrooms causes a lot of problems, which means that you can end up waging this battle for a lifetime if you haven't got a proper exhaust fan to deal with the moisture in the room.

Installing an exhaust fan is an extensive DIY, but the end result is very much worth it, and you will notice a difference in the moisture levels in the room. Manage the moisture in the room and yellow spots on ceilings are very unlikely to occur again.

Yellow Spots on Bathroom Ceilings FAQs

What's causing yellow spots on my bathroom ceiling?

Bathroom ceilings are more prone to yellow spots than any other area of the home because this is a room where moisture is always happening. The moisture and humidity from taking baths and showers can affect the ceiling, particularly in a bathroom without proper ventilation.

Yellow spots are usually a strong indicator of moisture and may be caused by moisture buildup inside the room or leaks from above the room. When you don't have an easy target to blame for yellow spots, such as frequent nicotine smoke, water is the most likely enemy.

Can yellow spots on bathroom ceilings be painted over?

Yellow spots on the bathroom ceiling can be painted over, though you will have better results if you clean the stain first. Also, painting the stains won't prevent future stains.

Make sure you identify the source of the yellow spots before you paint the ceiling. Otherwise, you will find yourself painting it again when the problem continues to happen.

Are yellow spots on the bathroom ceiling always an indication of a leak?

Yellow spots on the bathroom ceiling can be caused by pipe or roof leaks, depending on what's above your bathroom, but they don't always mean you have a leak.

There are other issues that can cause yellow spots, so don't assume you have a water leak the moment you notice the spots.

Check for a leak as your first course of action, because this is the most likely cause of the problem. But until you confirm that a leak is behind the discoloration, don’t panic.

How do you know if your roof is leaking?

If you're seeing yellow discoloration on your ceiling, it might be caused by a leaky roof. Now, how do you figure out if you have a leaky roof?

The best way to determine whether or not you have a roof leak is to look at the roof. If you cracked, damaged, or missing shingles or you set wet spots on a dry day, this is a very strong indication that you have a leak.

How do you know if your pipes are leaking?

If your pipes are leaking in a ceiling or a wall, it's really difficult to know that you have a leak in the first place. There's one sure way to find out if you have a leak in your home, though it will take a bit more work to locate that leak and repair it.

Shut off the main water valve to your home. This is usually somewhere outside the home but may be under a kitchen sink or in a utility room.

If the main shut-off is turned off, it is impossible for any fixture, faucet, or appliance in your home to use water. So now, go look at your water meter.

If the water meter is moving at all, and that means even the tiniest little bit, you absolutely have a water leak, and there's no question about it. Now that you know, the real work of locating and fixing that leak can begin.

It’s best to consult with a plumber when you have a leak. The ceiling will need to be cut so the pipes can be accessed, so this will need to be repaired with new drywall after the leak has been fixed.

How can you prevent moisture and humidity in small bathrooms?

Small bathrooms are even more difficult to work with than other bathrooms because they tend to get extremely humid. In a small environment, running the shower just for 10 minutes can create a whole lot of steam and humidity.

Moist, humid air can cause mold to grow and create moisture buildup that leads to ceiling discoloration. This means that managing moisture and keeping the bathroom dry is essential.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to do this. A strong bathroom exhaust fan works wonders to keep the room dry and remove moisture from the air.

A fan works best, but any ventilation will help keep the bathroom dryer. If there is a window, crack it open slightly when you take a shower and leave it this way for a few minutes afterward.

Also, don't close the bathroom door tightly and then take a shower. Leave it open whenever you can, and open it just a crack when you need privacy.

You can also simply place a fan of any kind in the bathroom. If there is no ceiling fan, try a small table fan or a standing fan.

The moving air will help dry everything off and provide ventilation. Any kind of moving air is helpful for keeping spaces dry.

A dehumidifier is literally made to remove humidity from the air, so of course, this will work extremely well to keep the space dry. However, these little machines can be somewhat expensive, so you can always try more affordable alternatives if needed.

Hanging moisture absorbers are designed to remove moisture from the air, and they are much more affordable than dehumidifiers.

If you're looking for a more DIY solution, just get ahold of some rock salt. This stuff acts as a natural dehumidifier, and it's pretty affordable, especially when compared to your other options.

Further Reading

3 Tips to Prevent Mold in Your Bathroom

8 Ways to Transform Your Bathroom In One Day

Add a Humidity Switch for a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Can You Remodel a Bathroom for $20,000?

How to Eliminate Mold from Your Bathroom

How to Retile Your Bathroom

Tips for Turning Your Bathroom into a Calming, Luxurious Spa