Oil vs. Latex: Which Paint Is Best for Your Home?

We'll supply recommendations of the type of paint that will provide the best results.

You’ve finally decided it’s time to tackle that paint job you’ve been putting off for so long. Now, you have to choose the color and supplies so you can get started. Before you reach for the paint, you need to make sure you understand the differences between oil and latex paint so you choose the one that will work best for your needs. There are several differences between oil and latex that can have a major impact on your project and how it stands up to the test of time. Don’t try to guess which one is the right option – take the time to find out first to save yourself tons of headaches in the future.


Latex vs. Oil-Based Paint

The main difference between these two paints is their makeup. Obviously, oil-based paints have an oil base, which may be linseed or alkyd depending on the brand. Latex paints are water-based. These differences have a major impact on cleanup – with latex, you can clean up your work area, supplies and yourself with soap and water. Oil paints, however, require some type of solvent, such as mineral spirits or paint thinner, for cleanup. However, beyond this major difference, there are others related to each type, along with pros and cons that will help you choose which one is right for using in your home. 

Paint cans with brush and Pantone color guide


Latex Paint Advantages

In addition to being easier to clean up, latex paints also dry more quickly. This means you won’t have to wait as long for adding multiple coats, which can be important if you are painting in an area in your home that your family currently uses. Latex paint is also less susceptible to yellowing over time, which is a major bonus when using lighter colors. Generally, it is also easier to find a wider variety of colors when choosing latex, which means you might be able to find a unique color that will match the style and personality you are trying to capture. 


Latex Paint Disadvantages

Latex paint does have some disadvantages that are worth noting. If you are painting wood, the latex will cause the grain to swell. When this happens, you will have to sand the surface lightly between coats to make sure the finished result is smooth. Additionally, latex does lack a bit in durability when compared with oil-based paint. Another consideration is that because it dries quickly, latex paint is more likely to show brush strokes.



Oil-Based Advantages

Oil-based paint has its advantages as well. The longer drying time means that each coat will have more time to level out, eliminating brush strokes. This type of paint also covers better with each coat, which could minimize the amount of paint you need for the job. The finished project will also have a more durable finish than what latex can provide, making it a good option for areas that receive a lot of traffic. 


Oil-Based Disadvantages

Oil-based paint is more likely to develop cracks and to yellow and fade over time – especially in areas that receive a lot of exposure to sunlight. The difficult cleanup and the fumes can also make this paint an issue for some – especially if ventilation is an issue. You will also have to be very careful not to get the paint on any other surface, or to let it go down the drain since it can cause plumbing issues as well.




Both latex and oil-based paints have advantages and disadvantages. Understanding which one will work best for your project is important, but you should also read up on painting the material as well. Most come with recommendations of the type of paint that will provide the best overall results. 


Images used with permission, courtesy of www.bigstock.com and www.dreamstime.com

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