Zinsser 1-2-3 vs. Kilz Premium Primer: Which One I Think is Better?

Zinsser 1-2-3 vs. Kilz Premium Primer

Of the many primers that I have tried over the years, the Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 water-based primer has been one of the best for interior and exterior use.

This primer may be matched by the Kilz Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking primer. But, of the two products, I have to say that the Zinsser is superior – thanks to its ability to cover the area quickly and with few issues.

While the Kilz is also quite good, it is subject to some bleed-through depending on the surface to which it is applied. This means applying a thicker coat of paint on top, which means more work and expense compared to using the Zinsser.

One area that I’ve found the Zinsser to be relatively superior is its ability to cover metal surfaces. Because their Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer has a rust inhibitor, it will create a stronger bond to the metal surface, even if it is rusted.

Apart from those, the Kilz primer matches the Zinsser in most other ways. Both primers are pretty good at covering stains. Plus, they create a uniform appearance once they are applied.

But, before you plan to pick one for your project, let’s compare both these options head-to-head in the detailed guide below…

Comparing the Zinsser 1-2-3 to the Kilz Primer

Created by Masterchem Industries, Kilz primers carry a strong reputation and a wide array of choices. The product is known for covering stains and sealing off odors. Their High-Hide Stain Blocking primer for interior or exterior use is arguably the best of all Kilz primers.

Meanwhile, the Zinsser is from the Rust-Oleum company, which is highly respected around the world for its paints and primers. Their Bulls Eye 1-2-3 has a strong, well-deserved reputation which was garnered from the product’s performance.

The B-I-N Shellac-Based primer from Zinsser is quite good at blocking odors created by pets, tobacco, and smoke. In contrast, the Original Primer and Adhesion Primer from Kilz are well-suited for surfaces that are difficult to paint.

Both brands are popular with professional painters and contractors. However, in the following comparison, I will discuss the Zinsser 1-2-3 and the Kilz Premium Primer.

Zinsser vs. Kilz - which primer is good?

1- Adhesive Qualities

Ideally, you will want to prep the surface no matter the primer that is used. At the very least, the surface should be cleaned of any grime, dirt, wax, or other contaminants.

When using the Zinsser 1-2-3, what I have experienced is that you do not need to sand the surface unless it is high gloss. The adhesive qualities of the product are pretty remarkable in this regard.

However, the Kilz Premium Primer works best when the surface is sanded, which means you will need more time to prepare the surface compared to the Zinsser 1-2-3. While it may be possible to avoid sanding the surface, it is not recommended.

Winner: Zinsser

2- Primer Odor

Working in a well-ventilated area is a must, no matter the primer, because all of them come with a certain level of odor. The stronger the odor, the harder it is to focus and finish the job. So, you should avoid stronger odors that are unbearable.

The odor that emanates from the Zinsser primer is stronger but not that bad compared to the Kilz, which is not only distinctive but quite foul, in my honest opinion.

Although both are low in VOCs, the water-based primer from Zinsser is better in terms of its odor, so I recommend the Zinsser 1-2-3 if the odor is an important consideration.

Winner: Kilz

3- Resistance to Mold

In terms of how each product resists the buildup of mold, I have to say that both the Zinsser and Kilz do about the same type of job.

They both block mold quite well and prevent it from establishing a beachhead on surfaces that include walls, furniture, cabinets, and more.

So, I can recommend both products equally in terms of how they resist mold buildup on the surface.

The only thing you need to remember is that these primers don’t work effectively if you apply them over a mold-affected surface. Although Zinsser’s mold-killing primer helps to deal with mold, it will not kill it.

To prevent mold growth and allow proper adhesion of the primer, you need to clean and dry the surface thoroughly. Then apply at least two coats when using either Kilz or Zinsser primer for maximum protection.

Winner: Tie

4- Consistency

When choosing a primer, consistency is one of my top expectations. Sometimes it needs to be thinner; other times, it should be thicker.

In terms of overall consistency, if you want a thinner primer that is easy to stir, the Kilz products are generally better. It’s not only easy to stir but also easy to spread on the surface. And that’s the reason I recommend this brand to those who have never painted before.

However, keep in mind the bleed-through of the Kilz primer is considerably greater compared to the Zinsser because of its thinner consistency. Depending on your desired results and experience, this may be good or bad.

Plus, a thinner primer may not have the coverage you want compared to a thicker one. And hence for those who have some experience in painting, Kilz usually is not their first choice.

Zinsser has a thicker consistency which means better adhesion and durability. And given the fact that a thicker layer means fewer coats are needed, less overall work is required when choosing the Zinsser primers.

Zinsser gets my recommendation over Kilz in terms of overall consistency. The fact that it has little to no bleed-through is another point for this product.

Winner: Zinsser

5- Cost of the Primer

If price is an important consideration, then the Kilz is generally the better choice. I’ve seen prices as low as $8 per gallon, although depending on the selection, that may go up to $42 per gallon.

The Zinsser is considerably higher, with some of their primer products reaching $10 per quart. However, other primers from the Zinsser line are lower.

Still, Kilz wins the battle in terms of the overall cost.

Winner: Kilz

Tips to Get Most From Kilz and Zinsser 123 Primers

Whether you select Kilz or Zinsser for your project, there are a few tips you should always keep in mind to get the most out of them.

1. Always follow manufacturer instructions. Not reading the instructions could result in an unsatisfactory finish and potentially damage your project.

2. Properly prepare the surface before applying Kilz or Zinsser. Clean, dry, and patch any holes or cracks in the surface before painting to ensure a smooth finish.

3. Apply enough coats to get the desired results. When using Kilz, apply three coats to ensure complete coverage and surface protection. Zinsser is formulated to provide complete coverage in one coat, but applying two coats for added protection is still a good idea.

4. Allow sufficient drying time between coats. Read the instructions on the can to determine the exact drying time. Typically, Zinsser takes longer than Kilz to dry, but waiting an hour or more between coats can help reduce brush strokes.

5. Never leave the primed surface unpainted. Leaving the surface bare defeats the purpose of using a base coat and could potentially cause further damage. Always top-coat with paint to protect against mildew, water, and stains.

Above all, wear gloves and protective clothing when using Kilz and Zinsser primer. If you have the primer on your skin, remove it using warm water mixed with dish soap, rubbing alcohol, or white vinegar. Apply the solution to the affected area and gently scrub with a cloth or brush. Rinse well with water and repeat if necessary.

Zinsser 123 vs. Kilz – The bottom line

It is true that both primers have names that are difficult to fit on the label, but they have built a reputation for being quite good for most painting situations.

Keeping the above notes and comparison in mind, the endpoint is that both the Zinsser 1-2-3 and Kilz primers are good choices, depending on your needs.

I recommend the Zinsser 1-2-3 primer for those with some painting experience. It is also a good choice if you are looking for a primer with fewer odors, durability, and longer-lasting properties.

However, if you are working on a larger project or want to save some money, the Kilz Primer is generally the better choice. It’s also a good choice if you are new to painting, as the thinner consistency makes it easier to work with.

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