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Oil Vs. Latex Paint: Which One Should You Use?

We've had some questions from customers asking about the differences between oil vs. latex paint.


In this article, we're going to go over the differences between the two as well as the benefits of using latex paint over oil.


Keep scrolling to read the article, or click below to watch:

Over the last 15 years, oil paint has been phased out of the painting world and replaced with latex and acrylic paints.


Here are a couple of reasons why oil paint isn't preferred anymore:

  • First off, oil paint releases fumes called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can smell like rotten fish. As experienced painting contractors, we're used to the smell, but most homeowners won't appreciate it.

  • The second issue is the cleanup associated with using oil-based paints. Not only do you have to find mineral spirits and paint thinner to remove the coat, but then disposing of it can be a hassle. Many older paints like oil have to be taken to approved disposal locations because of the harmful chemicals they contain.

  • Oil doesn't have the same color retention as Latex paint. Over time, whites tend to yellow and after 3-4 years it'll crack.

  • Spraying with oil is heavier meaning it takes a lot longer to dry.

Ok, so we just laid into oil-based paint pretty good. Can you now see why it's lost all of its popularity over the last 15 or so years?


At Hillis Brothers Painting, we use latex-based paints for 95% of our painting projects.


With latex, the benefits are basically just the opposite of the drawbacks of oil, for example:

  • Latex paint is a breeze to clean up compared to oil. All you have to use is soap and water.

  • The disposal is environmentally friendly and easy as most latex paints can simply be dried out then thrown out with normal household trash.

  • Latex can dry to the touch within four hours and you're ready to go with another application quickly after that.

  • Latex is softer, more pliable, and does not yellow.

As we said earlier, we use latex for around 95% of our painting projects. For the rest, we use a mix of oil and other paints.


Here are a few of our current uses of oil-based paint:

  • On exterior painting projects, decking, and horizontal surfaces, we'll want to use an oil-based stain.

  • We'll sand decks, then put on an oil-based stain. Oil gets better penetration than latex, which tends to just lay on top. Oil goes deep and you won't have to worry about peeling. Instead, it will just wear away.

  • One specific example is on semi-transparent cedar shades on the outside of a home.

  • Another example is a stained front door or one with spar varnish.

To wrap up, we use latex-based paint for almost all of our painting projects because of superior color retention, easier application, and easier disposal.


Basically, it's a better experience when you use latex.


If you have leftover oil-based paint and you're not sure what to do with it, check PaintCare's Site Locator to find an approved location that will dispose of it for you.


NEVER pour liquid paint in the trash or garbage disposal and don't leave large amounts of oil-based paint out to dry since they build-up harmful fumes.


Want to up your painting game? Then head over to our painting tips blog to catch more of the action.


Jon and Nathan will share their best painting tips in helpful videos and blog posts.




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