Faux Finish Blog

How to tell if Paint is Latex or Oil-based

Before you start any paint job, you should first determine if it was painted with latex or oil paint. Here’s a really good example of why this is soooo important …

I had client a few years back that bought a house from the bank that was foreclosed on. The bank hired a painting company to come in and paint the entire house. They picked this painting company because they had the lowest bid. That painting contractor sprayed everything with latex paint: walls, ceilings, columns trim – EVERYTHING!

To the average home owner, it looked clean and move in ready. Right? Wrong! The week they moved in they called me to come over and give them a quote to paint 12 columns to look like marble. Unfortunately, I had to be the one to break the bad news. Every column, all the floor boards, 56 doors in the house (it was a 5,000-square foot house) and all the molding was originally painted in oil paint, but the contractors never checked and painted over everything in latex paint. The homeowners had to pay someone to strip all the doors and columns in the house. I felt so bad for them.


If you try to apply latex paint over oil-based paints, the paint will not adhere properly and it will peel off!

Here are two examples of the Latex paint over Oil-based paint.

Here’s a quick trick on How To Tell If Paint is Latex or Oil:


Latex vs Oil Paint: Cotton Balls Latex vs Oil Paint: Rubbing Alcohol

1. Add some rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab or a clean rag. You can use finger nail polish remover as well.

2. Find an area where no one will notice and wipe the surface back and forth with the cottonball.

3. If the paint comes off it latex. If doesn’t come off its oil.

Once I determine what I’m working with – latex or oil –  it helps me to decide on the proper paint and primer that I will need to use for that project. As those previous homeowners saw, this quick step could save you time and money.


More Paint Questions Answered

Do you have more paint questions? Ask away in my private Facebook group: Ask Cheryl Phan – where you can find helpful Q&As about DIY and painting tips.

If you want to try painting an accent wall with a fun faux finish, try my free tutorial here. All the supplies and steps you need to get a beautiful finish that adds rich texture and dimension.

Please subscribe to my weekly blog here for more weekly painting inspiration!

How to Faux Finish Ebook

Please share my latex or oil paint test pin and visit me on Pinterest for more painting tips!

How to quickly determine if it was painted with latex or oil paint | Cheryl Phan of ArtzyFartzyCreations.com | How to tell if latex paint was used

Cheryl PhanHow to tell if Paint is Latex or Oil-based

Related Posts