Latex or Oil Paint ~ Which Is It?

Latex or Oil Paint?

It will not be too many more years before most oil (alkyd) based paints will disappear from the paint store shelves.

What Is On There Now?

This page is not about disappearing oil paints, but rather, how do you know what is on your painted surface now?

Is it latex or oil paint?

You need to know what type of paint is on there now as if you intend to overcoat it with new paint, not taking into account what is on there now may lead to paint failure or disappointing results.

Got Nail Polish Remover?

Do you have nail polish remover on hand, or perhaps a bottle of fondue fuel, or even some acetone… any of these?

If not, your local paint supply store will have some for you.

If your existing paint surface is a light color, use a darker rag. If it is a dark painted surface, use a light rag.

Saturate a small part of the cloth rag with any of the above liquids, and rub a small section (1″ x 3″) of an out-of-the-way part of the painted surface with the wet rag, pressing mildly, not too hard, for 5 back and forths.

Caution: The products noted above are not good for you.

If would be best if you wore rubber gloves, and didn’t use them in a non-ventilated area, as the fumes can be intense, and also not good for you.

What Happens?

As you rub the painted spot you will notice a change in the surface.

If it’s oil paint, you may have a bit of color transfer from the surface to the rag, and the spot being rubbed will become shiny and clean.

If, on the other hand, you get a lot of paint color transfer, and more importantly, the paint surface being rubbed becomes tacky or soft, then the existing paint is latex based.

An exception is if the painted surface is an epoxy paint.

The surface may become shiny and there may or may not be a transfer of paint. Since not too many homeowners have an epoxy paint in their house, this might not be an issue.

If it is an epoxy, topcoating becomes a bit more of an issue, and that’s covered elsewhere.

Test It

To “get a feel” for the testing process, why not pick a surface that you know is oil painted, and another that you know is latex painted, and test both in an inconspicuous spot.

You will soon become adept at determining if a painted surface is coated with a latex or oil paint!


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