5 Paint Colors That Make Your House Appear Dingy

Stay away from these lackluster paint colors for a fresher finish.

By Steph Coelho | Published Apr 13, 2021 3:08 PM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

new home decisions

Photo: istockphoto.com

A new coat of paint is often a perfect way to refresh a room. Years of grubby handprints and paws tracking in dirt can do a number on painted walls and trim. Unfortunately, not every paint color is a winner. Some hues can actually make rooms look dingier than before. If you want a fresh, clean appearance, avoid these paint colors that can instantly turn a room from fab to drab.

Related: Paint by Numbers: Top Paint Brands Reveal Their Most Popular Colors

Warm Earth Tones

Jerith Bailey, an interior designer and general contractor with Mahogany Builders in Chicago, says that she tries to stay away from warm earthy tones because they tend to take on a dingy appearance. Wall paint has a significant visual impact, she says, so staying away from anything tan or brown is key.

“Builder’s beige and tan are generally easy to pair furniture with, but their foggy tones are a nightmare when you want to make a space seem clean and bright,” she adds. Her tip for indecisive DIYers? If you can’t instinctively name the color you’re considering, it’s probably going to look terrible on your walls.

For those searching for a clean neutral, Angela Hall, a certified home stager and residential redesigner with Friar Tuck Home, suggests going with a greige hue like Accessible Beige from Sherwin-Williams.

Details in the interior. Ceiling moldings, part of intricate corner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Anything Other than White Trim

When creating a clean-looking room, Bailey notes the importance of trim paint and that crisp white is the way to go. She suggests staying away from muddy hues and opting for classics like Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace or Decorator’s White.

But, pairing a clean white with an earthy, warm tone may actually make walls look dirty by causing them to stand out. Avoid bogging down the walls by picking a color that pairs well with a crisp white. A few of Bailey’s favorites include Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy, Sherwin-Williams’s Mineral Deposit, and Behr’s Silver Drop.

Related: How To: Paint Trim

Paints That Don’t Hide Imperfections 

Paying attention to a paint’s light reflectance value (LRV) is also essential, says Bailey. Lower LRV colors, like deep plums and navies, aren’t just great for creating a clean room. They also tend to hide actual dirt, smudges, and fingerprints. Higher LRV colors, like whites and cool grays, tend to brighten up a room. “Those extremes, where you either bounce a lot of light around or swallow it, are the sweet spot,” offers Bailey.

When it comes to paint sheen, though, she suggests aiming for a middle ground. Paint that’s ultra matte is challenging to clean, but super high sheen paints tend to put imperfections on display. The best choice for most walls is somewhere in-between, like an eggshell paint finish.

Related: 11 Problems You Can Solve with Paint

Vintage alarm clock and home plant in white pot on a wooden desk on a pink wall background.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Dusty Rose

Dusty, romantic rose was once a favorite wall and accent color. Anyone who’s seen the Sopranos, for instance, has likely spotted the dated dusty rose-peppered window treatments prominently on display. Andra DelMonico, Lead Interior Designer for Trendey, explains that the wrong color rose—one that’s too dark—can make your walls look dull.

If you have your heart set on pink, she suggests opting for a pink with light undertones, like Behr’s Rose Sorbet.

Modern vintage living room with yellow wall 3d rendering image.There are yellow paint wall and wood floor ,Funished with vintage wood chair

Photo: istockphoto.com

Yellowy White

White seems like a mistake-proof color choice, but hues with yellow undertones, says Hall, can sometimes leave walls looking dirty. Pairing a yellowish-white with a bright, cool white can make walls look even dirtier.

Neutral whites or those with cool undertones—with hints of blue, green, or purple—are a safer bet for a crisp, fresh look. Hall’s favorite is Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.