Is there a way to determine what kind of paint is on the walls?

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Posted by: from Oakville
5/15/2015 at 10:47:22 AM

Without getting too technical, is there a test one could do at home to figure out what kind of paint (oil or water based) is on ones' walls or ceiling?

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Date/Time5/15/2015 at 12:08:45 PM


One can easily determine what kind of paint they have by either scrubbing the surface with a mild detergent. Or by sample test painting a spot with a oil based paint.

If you scrub the area and the paint rubs off then most likely it is latex based.

If you paint over the area with an oil based or alkyd based paint or product and the paint does not adhere. Then you most likely have latex paint on your walls and ceilings.

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Daniel from Bow Reno in Calgary
Date/Time5/15/2015 at 12:48:27 PM

Most new latex paints are considered "scrubbable" so scrubbing with a mild detergent may not yield any results (we can use latex in exterior applications which you can certainly scrub). A quick way to conduct a home test is to complete the test below using acetone (an ingredient in denatured alcohol) or to simply rub a stainless steel object (a dime, a spoon, etc) against the paint. If the paint receives a grey discolouration (similar to pencil marking) it is likely latex.

An easy way to test paint type is the use of methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) available at most hardware or painting supply stores. Rub an inconspicuous spot (inside a closets front wall) with the methylated spirits. If the paint softens or dissolves its an acrylic paint and can be top coated with an acrylic (latex) paint. If the paint is relatively unaffected it is an enamel and requires a special primer (Kilz or Bin) that will bond to an enamel paint and then can be top coated with latex. Very importantly make sure to wash the walls with a TSB before priming. Even if repainting, the inconspicuous spot is necessary because it affects the texture of the top coat.

Hope it helps!

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Date/Time5/15/2015 at 1:18:45 PM

Look for any cracks in the painted surface. Oil based paint will show cracks in the surface. Water based paint will not crack.

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Date/Time5/15/2015 at 7:55:43 PM

Use rubbing alcohol or methyl hydrate (gas line antifreeze) alcohol wipes or the like (nail polish remover is alcohol). If you put some on a dry cloth and wipe the surface the latex paint will melt quickly while the oil based paint will require a lot of scrubbing to break the paint down.

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Date/Time5/15/2015 at 8:12:07 PM

Clean a test area and get some rubbing alcohol and a Qtip. Dip the Qtip in the alcohol and rub it on the surface. If the colour is present on the Qtip you have latex paint.

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