Are you considering repainting a room or adding a new layer of paint to your trim? If so then there is one very important factor that you must take into consideration before starting the project. You have to determine whether the existing coat of paint is oil or latex based.

Why is this important? If you intend to add a layer of paint onto an existing coat, you need to match the paint base to achieve a lasting and even finish. Oil-based paint dries at a different rate than latex-based paint.

So let’s say you are covering oil-based paint with a new latex paint layer. The oil-based paint layer becomes wet but will dry slower than the new layer of latex paint. This can cause a lot of problems. First of all, the new latex layer may not adhere properly and run.

How to Tell if your Paint is Latex or Oil Based

Secondly, the new layer of paint may start to crack and peel before its time. You can use a latex or oil-based primer on an existing layer of paint, but in many cases, it’s just easier to match paint bases. But how can you tell if the paint you are dealing with is oil or latex-based? There are some simple testing methods that you can employ to find out.

The Acetone Test

Acetone is not a friend of latex. Acetone essentially dissolves latex on contact. So one way you can find out whether your paint is oil or latex-based is by rubbing a bit of nail polish remover, which is rich in acetone, onto a rag or paper towel and wiping the paint surface with it.

If the paint is broken down and rubs off onto your rag or paper towel, you are dealing with latex paint. If it has no effect, you have oil-based paint on your hands. We suggest using nail polish remover as it is a common household item that contains acetone but any acetone solution would work as well.

The Alcohol Test

You can also use alcohol to determine whether you have oil or latex-based paint. Start by cleaning the surface of the painted area thoroughly. We suggest using a solution of laundry or cleaning detergent with warm water.

Using a towel or rage, work the solution into the surface to clean it. Then wipe off the solution with a clean towel or rag. Once the test area is dry, dip a cotton swab into some rubbing alcohol and then wipe the test area with the swab.

If paint comes off onto the cotton swab, you have latex paint. If no paint comes off, it’s oil-based. Keep in mind that you can use these tests for virtually any painted surface including walls, trim and metal surfaces.

If you are still unsure what kind of paint you have, give us a call here at Century Painting. We would be glad to help you out and service all of your painting needs!