If the paint color on the banisters and railings inside your home is fading unevenly, the cause may be the type of paint that was used on them. Certain enamel paints tend to soften when exposed to natural oils left from handprints and fingerprints. That, in turn, can make the paint wear down and fade.
The problem isn’t confined to banisters, either. Uneven fading can also occur around doorknobs, on the edges of doors, on trim around the entryways to rooms, even around light switches – in fact, anywhere that hands frequently come into contact with woodwork and walls.
There’s only one way to resolve this problem: You’ll have to repaint.
If possible, start by removing all of the softened, existing paint by scraping it off, being careful not to mar the wood or other surface below. Then, sand the banister, door, or other affected area with fine grit (#220) sandpaper. Finally, remove any dust left from the sanding by thoroughly washing down the surface.
The next step is to apply a quality latex interior stain-blocking primer to the banister or other area. Be sure that the primer you use is intended to block stains, or your work may be for naught.
When you go to buy your paint, ask for a product that resists “oil-softening”. To make sure the coating has this property, you might want to ask to see the product data sheet. You will probably end up with either gloss latex enamel paint or top quality semi-gloss latex enamel paint (most top quality semi-gloss latex paints have good oil-softening resistance).
Fading banisters are just one of the countless problems that can arise when the wrong type of paint is used for a particular application. If you are at all unsure that you have the right paint for your next paint job, be sure to seek out a knowledgeable counterperson at your local paint store or home center, and ask for his or her advice.