Difference Between Water and Oil Based Paint

Water vs Oil Based Paint

The difference between water and oil based paint exists in several factors such as VOC levels, durability, price, etc. Painting your home is an exercise that one has to undertake every few years to give a makeover to the home that starts to look dull and boring. Though, painting is a time consuming exercise that also takes a lot of money and effort, it certainly makes a home full of life and energy, outweighing all effort and money that’s spent. Today one has a choice of water and oil based paints, and to be sure in one’s selection of paints depending upon one’s requirements and budget, it is prudent to know the differences between water and oil based paints.

What is Water Based Paint?

Water based paint uses water as the base ingredient. If you are in a hurry, using water based paints may be better for you as these paints dry up faster than oil based paints. Water based paints also do not permeate the room with fumes and does not produce allergic effects on some people as much as the other paint type. To remove any smears, water based paints prove to be easier than oil based paints. If it is not written over the paint can, whether the paint inside is oil based or water based, you can know it by reading the instructions to clean the paint. If the instructions say that you can wash away the paint using water and soap, you can be sure that the paint is water based.

One feature of water paints that makes them more popular is the fact of being environmental friendly. It is possible to make water based paints dry slowly by using different additives. This means that water based paints are a first choice for most requirements, and unless there is a specific use of oil based paints, one can very well make do with water based paints.

Difference Between Water and Oil Based Paint

Water based paint is good for interiors

What is Oil Based Paint?

Oil based paint uses an oil base as opposed to water based paint. Oil based paints produce pungent vapors when being used and takes a lot more time to dry off than water based paints. Also, they have a hydrocarbon base, and they are hard to clean off. You need mineral spirits to clean them off. Despite these disadvantages, oil paints are desirable over some surfaces; especially, when one desires durability and a strong finish such as in the case of cabinets and furniture.

If the surface that requires painting is not even and is chalky at places, oil based paints are better because of superior adhesion of these paints. However, if you are one of those who have a super sensitive nose, oil based paints are not right for you because of smelly fumes coming off the paint. However, for repainting, your choices are limited if you are trying to apply paint over a surface that had oil paint previously as you can only apply oil based paint over it. This is because, oil based paints expand and shrink more with climate changes, and if you apply water based paint over a wall that has oil based paint previously, there is a chance of undercoating a peeling that may show up later with climate change.

 Water vs Oil Based Paint

Oil based paint is good for furniture

What is the difference between Water Based Paint and Oil Based Paint?

• Environment friendliness:

• Oil based paint generally has more VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). As a result, they pollute indoor air during and after painting.

• Water based paints are more environment friendly as they have less VOC.

• Durability:

• Oil paint can turn yellow with time.

• Water based paint does not yellow with time. They also do not crack with time.

• Appearance:

• Oil paint gives a glossy effect and smooth finish.

• Water based paints do not give glossy effect and also you need to give many coatings to get a levelled finish.

• Time taken to dry:

• Oil based paints take longer to dry and have a better penetration.

• Water based paints dry quickly.

• Cleaning:

• You need mineral spirits to clean oil based paint.

• Water based paint can be washed away easily with just water and soap.

• Surface applying instructions:

• If the surface has had oil paint earlier, it is better to reapply oil based paint.

• If the surface is uneven or chalky, oil paint is better.

• Water based paint is the best choice for the interior of a house.

• Where to apply:

• Oil paint is desirable for furniture because of its strong finish and durability.

• For all other requirements, water based paints are better.

• People who should use water and oil based paints:

• Water based paints are better for sensitive folks as they emit lesser vapors than oil based paints.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Painted room by Alan Bruce (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Queen Anne dressing table with cabriole legs. Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1730-1750 via Wikicommons (Public Domain)