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Latex Paint vs. Oil Based Paint: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 15, 2024
Latex paint is a water-based paint known for its quick drying time and easy cleanup, while oil-based paint is made with oil and offers a durable, high-gloss finish but requires longer drying times and special solvents for cleanup.

Key Differences

Latex paint, water-based, is popular for its ease of use and quick drying time. Oil-based paint, on the other hand, is known for its durability and resistance to wear, making it suitable for high-traffic areas.
When it comes to cleanup, latex paint can be washed off with water, simplifying the process. Oil-based paint requires solvents like mineral spirits for cleaning brushes and spills.
In terms of environmental impact, latex paints emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them a more eco-friendly option. Oil-based paints, however, release higher levels of VOCs, necessitating adequate ventilation during use.
Latex paint is flexible and less prone to cracking, ideal for a variety of surfaces. Oil-based paint, with its tough finish, is often preferred for surfaces that endure heavy use, such as doors and trims.
The finish of latex paint is generally softer and less shiny compared to the high-gloss finish achievable with oil-based paints, which is often sought after for its aesthetic appeal.

Comparison Chart



Drying Time

Quick drying
Longer drying time


Easy with water
Requires solvents like mineral spirits

VOC Emissions

Lower levels
Higher levels

Suitable Surfaces

Versatile for various surfaces
Ideal for surfaces with heavy use

Latex Paint and Oil Based Paint Definitions

Latex Paint

A water-based paint known for easy application and cleanup.
I chose latex paint for the bedroom walls for easy maintenance.

Oil Based Paint

Requires longer drying times and special solvents for cleanup.
After using oil-based paint, we needed mineral spirits for cleanup.

Latex Paint

Flexible and suitable for various indoor and outdoor surfaces.
The exterior siding was painted with durable latex paint.

Oil Based Paint

Made with oil, known for its durability and high-gloss finish.
The kitchen cabinets were painted with oil-based paint for a durable finish.

Latex Paint

Dries quickly and is less prone to cracking.
The latex paint dried within hours, speeding up the renovation.

Oil Based Paint

Ideal for surfaces that endure heavy use, like trims and doors.
The door's oil-based paint withstands frequent cleaning.

Latex Paint

Offers a wide range of finishes from matte to semi-gloss.
The living room walls look great with the matte latex paint.

Oil Based Paint

Provides a tough, long-lasting finish.
The high-gloss oil-based paint gave the banister a classic look.

Latex Paint

Emits lower levels of VOCs, making it eco-friendlier.
We opted for latex paint to keep our home's air quality better.

Oil Based Paint

Emits higher levels of VOCs, requiring good ventilation.
We made sure to ventilate the room well when applying oil-based paint.


What is latex paint?

Latex paint is a water-based paint known for its quick drying time and easy cleanup.

Is latex paint waterproof?

It's water-resistant, but not completely waterproof.

Can latex paint be used outdoors?

Yes, but it's best to use exterior-grade latex paint for durability.

How long does latex paint last?

On a surface, it can last up to 10 years. In an unopened can, around 2-5 years.

How long does oil-based paint take to dry?

It takes about 6-8 hours to touch dry and up to 24 hours to fully cure.

Is latex paint environmentally friendly?

Generally, yes. It has lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to oil-based paints.

Is latex paint suitable for bathrooms?

Yes, especially if it's a moisture-resistant formula.

Is oil-based paint more durable than latex?

Yes, it's generally more durable and resistant to wear and tear.

Can I paint over oil-based paint with latex paint?

Yes, but you need to properly prime the surface first.

How do I clean up latex paint spills?

Use soap and water. It cleans up easily while wet.

Can latex paint be used on metal?

It can, but a primer is recommended for better adhesion.

What is oil-based paint?

Oil-based paint is a durable paint made with oil and has a longer drying time.

Can oil-based paint be used indoors?

Yes, but ensure good ventilation due to stronger fumes.

Is oil-based paint waterproof?

It's highly water-resistant, making it suitable for high-moisture areas.

Can I paint latex over oil-based paint?

Not directly. You need to prime the surface first.

Is latex paint flammable?

No, it's not flammable.

What surfaces are best for oil-based paint?

It's great for wood, metal, and surfaces needing high durability.

Is oil-based paint environmentally friendly?

Less so than latex paint due to higher VOCs and more complex cleanup.

How do I clean up oil-based paint?

Use mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleanup.

Does oil-based paint yellow over time?

Yes, it can yellow, especially in low-light areas.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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