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What’s the Difference between Enamels, Latex-base and Oil-base paints?

Q: What’s the difference between enamels, latex-base and oil-base paints?

A: According to the experts at Sherwin-Williams, enamel is a broad classification for finishing materials that dry to a smooth finish. In the past this term referred only to oil-base coatings, but some new latex products area also referred to as enamels, which makes the word somewhat ambiguous as a paint term. Oil-base products are typically composed of pigments dissolved in a mineral spirit such as paint thinner. Latex-base products are an emulsion suspended in water. From a practical standpoint, the biggest difference is that oil-base paint requires mineral spirits for cleanup, have a longer dry time, have a stronger odor, but dry to a harder finish. Latex products typically will dry faster and are easier to clean up, requiring only water. Oil-base paints are used primarily where a harder finish is required. However, today’s improved latex products allow the substitution of latex in nearly all scenarios that had traditionally called for an oil-base paint. (Source:

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