Water Based Paint vs Oil Based Paint

When you set out to begin a painting project you will run into aisles upon aisles of paint to choose from but there are only two kinds: water based paint and oil based paint. With so many possible selections of paint it is important to know which paint is right for the job at hand. Deciding if water based paint or oil based paint should be used is a little tricky depending on your needs but this article will help you to understand the differences.

Interior or Exterior Use

Determining which paint to use will usually hinge on whether you are planning on using it inside the home or outside. You need to keep in mind that paint used outside has to be able to stand up to the cold, heat and other extremes like force winds and rain. Water based paint is obviously the last choice since it is easily cleaned with water and alcohol. Oil based paint, otherwise known as enamel or acrylic paint, dries harder than water based paint. This makes it more durable so it will stand up to the harsh elements presented to it.

Able to be Cleaned

A paint that can be cleaned is ideal in a home where there are children and pets. Everything from spaghetti sauce being thrown on a wall or ceiling to crayons and markers creating a mural you want to be able to remove it. Oil based paint is easier to clean than water based paint. The hard finish associated with oil based paint makes it ideal for cleaning using soap, water and a rag. Water based paint can be cleaned as well but care needs to be taken. Rubbing alcohol will remove the paint along with any smudges or stains. Vinegar is a good substitute to alcohol and will not damage the paint.

Drying Time

Painting is a chore where drying time matters as it'll impact other things you may want to do. This alone can decide which paint you'll choose. Oil based paint has a long drying time than water based paint. There are additives added to oil based paint which shorten the drying time but it still does not come close to water based paint. Water based paint dries as fast as water evaporates. If you run a dehumidifier in a room that was painted with water based paint it will dry faster as the dehumidifier removes moisture from the air.


When you are painting a room, a piece of furniture or the entire home the coverage of the paint matters. This is what determines how long it may take you to paint the home. A paint that covers more space means you will have less of a need for multiple coats and the job will get done much faster. Water based paint is thinner than oil based paint which means when it dries you may be able to see the layer of paint below. Oil based paint is thicker than water based paint and one coat is all that is usually needed.