Water based vs Oil based paint 

One tragic mistake a lot of people make when trying to paint a wall is rushing into the painting project. Sometimes not allowing the paint to dry before touching or maybe a poor choice of color.

Sadly, it is none of those issues; it is important to note that the primary job is to understand what paint works better on the wall of choice.

Choosing among different two coats of paint or more, but in this case, deciding whether to opt for water based paints or oil based paints depends heavily on the surface of the wall.

As such, it is important to get the necessary information that allows you to spot the difference between water based paints and oil-based paints.

It is understandable that you may not be in the league of certified painters, but the information is power, and with that, you know the right conditions for the application of any kind of paint and color. 

First things first

So instead of hopping into your truck and going off to the store like one of the official painters who can recognize a coat from afar, but checking the surface which you intend on painting should be the first step before heading out.

You need to do this to see the surface’s paint formula to know what coat or color to get at the store. Unfortunately, you may not be able to tell whether the formula on the surface is covered with oil-based paints or water-based paints. 

Take a rag and add alcohol to it, then use that to clean the surface of the drywall; if the paint rubs off on the rag, then it is water based, but if not, it is obviously Oil based. 

Furthermore, consider the durability when picking the type and color of the paint you want to use on the surface.

Painters usually use different types of paint to ensure durability on surfaces, especially areas that are prone to high traffic. 

Difference Between water based paints and oil based paints

Now that we know how to check the history of the paint, we will need to know the significant differences between these two types of paints.

When juxtaposing between water-based paints and oil-based paints, all that is being said is the type of solvent that is used in the paint, which in simpler terms is the liquid content of the paint that evaporates after the paint dries.

Water based paints, usually called latex paint, consists of almost water as the name implies, while oil-based paint contains less water and is made up of an organic solvent, which is mineral turpentine.


You all know that paint smell that we all dread, but somehow kids love; that smell is called Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which is a vapor form of an organic solvent.

The gas that is released as the organic solvent is released to the air are VOCs. This is one of the reasons why it is advised to air the area where the painting project is being carried out as the gas can cause a lot of damage to the skin and even lead to a headache. 

Consequently, Latex paints release less VOCs, definitely not as much as Oil paints compared to organic solvent in the former than in the latter. 

When to use water based Paints

Water based paint can be used on top of an oil based type of paint without any issues whatsoever. As a result of its durability, water-based paint is often used for exterior walls open to different substances and elements of nature; they can also be used in interior areas of the house where water is prone to touch.

As the name implies, water-based types of paint last longer in areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms. Furthermore, water-based type of paint can be cleaned with soap and water and comes in a Flory of finish as well, making drying seamless. 

When to use Oil based paints

If you are looking for the finish to have a long-lasting effect then the best option is the oil-based paint. They contain substances like synthetic alkyd, which is a natural oil that contributes to the hardness of the coating.

Although it takes longer to dry than the water-based paint, the oil-based paint has the ability to refuse dirt and stains due to its hard coating feature. Oil based paint is the very idea of melding and trims that are susceptible to regular contact.

Due to the difficulty in rubbing off, it is expedient to have solutions like paint thinner, turpentine, and mineral spirits to correct any mishaps during the application of the oil-based paint. Hence, soap and water are no good when it comes to oil-based paint. 

Also, it helps to clean up your brush after application on any surface of walls.   


To achieve a high sheen finish, the Oil based provides better options for your painting project since it contains synthetic alkyd and other components to give that shine effect.

However, the sheen will begin to have a dull effect, which latex paint thrives above oil-based paint. The water-based paint does not have a high sheen finish but maintains the sheen for a longer period of time. 


Water based paint edge over oil-based paint here is in the flexibility it affords the painting project. Oil paint dries harder, although providing a strong resistance to wear and tear, but it will eventually crack as it is not adaptable to different weather conditions like the water based.

One of the pros of using water-based paint which is adaptable to any type of weather and is not prone to cracking. Oil paint does not perform well in exterior use as they are susceptible to UV rays, which make the sheen get dull over time while the water base thrives under the UV rays well and stays a longer period of time and less susceptible to the issues stated. 


Oil paints are typically slower to apply on walls as they have a sticker, but the high VOC feature about it makes it easy to repel stains and dirt well, unlike latex paint, which are susceptible to dirt but can be washed with soap and water which some may classify as part of its cons. 

Although, you have to be a lot careful when using Oil as it may be difficult to correct a mistake unless there are mineral spirits available. 


The painting project for which the oil paint is to be used has to be dry before application as it does not have strong adherence against moisture while water based can be applied even with a little bit of moisture on the surface of the painting project even in interior parts of your home.

Drying time

The drying time for both types of paint is very different as for oil paint, the touch drying time is 6 – 8 hours, while for the other paint, it is 30 – 60 minutes.

It takes the recoat to dry when using oil paint, 16 – 20 hours but the recoat ready time for the water based 2 – 3 hours. For the fully cured finish project, the oil paint can take up to 2 – 3 days while the water based takes 1 – 4 weeks.



When it comes to a proper cleanup, the water based paints are better options than the oil form of paint; this is because the solvent is made up of water, and the brush can be easily cleaned.

Regardless of how hard the brushes used for your project are, the water based form allows for them to be clean.

Getting the right type of paint for your project is imperative than the job itself.

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