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Oil- vs. Water-Based Paint: Solving the Question of Solvents
Color choices can be daunting, but choosing the right paint type ensures your shade always looks good. Check out Groupon’s guide to paint types and get ready to roll.
From color to finish, paint shopping presents a rainbow of options. When choosing the right wall covering for your needs, your first consideration will likely be between oil-based (alkyd) and water-based (latex or acrylic) paint. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you decide:
Surface: If you’re adding a new coat to something that’s already been covered with oil paint, oil-based paint will stick more smoothly (though it’s likely to crack if applied over water-based paint). In fact, it tends to keep a tougher, airtight grip on hard-to-paint surfaces in general, including wood, metal, and anything that’s chalky or likely to rust or stain. With the appropriate bonding primer, on the other hand, latex can be applied to oil-based paint.
Drying Time: Water-based paint takes the prize here—most coats dry in less than six hours. Oil-based paints can stay damp for up to 24 hours, stretching a multicoat job across several days. That can actually be a virtue, though. That’s because a longer drying time means that brush, roller, and frantic eraser marks are less likely to remain visible, since the paint will tend to relax as it dries.
Cleanup: The durability that makes oil-based paint a good fit for challenging surfaces also makes it more difficult to clean up, requiring paint thinner or mineral spirits. Water-based paint, however, wipes away with a little soap, water, and elbow grease.
Odor: Consider what each of these kinds of paint is made of and you’ll easily predict which has the stronger odor. When paint dries, what’s happening is that the solvent that turns it liquid is evaporating, leaving only the pigment behind. Water is always in our atmosphere, so it produces no ill effects as it gets sucked into the air by greedy clouds. Oil-based paint requires more careful ventilation: the petroleum solvent evaporates into strong-smelling volatile organic compounds that can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.