Oil or Latex Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Answered by Brett ~ May 13, 2010 ~ Comments

I like the ease of using latex paint because it cleans up without a lot of to-do. But I recently read that latex can take as much as three weeks to cure properly. In our house, there's too much traffic to wait around. Can I use oil paint for my kitchen cabinets, or is that only for experts? Is there a wide difference in cost?

Lester R. ~ Minneapolis, Minnesota

Brett Kulina

Lester this is a common question which many homeowners ask, and there never seems to be a cut-and-dry answer on whether a latex paint or an oil based paint is better suited for a specific project. Oftentimes a project's circumstances may require that one type of paint is used instead of another, yet othertimes the project offers no clear indication of which type of paint will perform best. Here are some general guidelines to consider when determining which paint is going to be best for your repainting project.

Latex paint is definitely easier to work with because it only requires warm water and soap to clean up the brushes, mop up the spills, and remove the paint from your hands. Cleaning up an oil based paint requires using paint thinning solvents, such as mineral spirits, which may be irritable to your skin, flammable, or create fumes that can be difficult to work around. The advantage of an oil based paint is that it is can be more durable than a latex paint, which is an important factor when repainting kitchen cabinets, as cabinets take a lot of daily wear and tear. When first applied, an oil based paint will off-gas more fumes into your home, and will take longer to dry than a latex paint.

A important factor to consider when deciding which type of paint to use for your project is to determine what type of paint is currently on the cabinets, as you should not apply an oil based paint over an existing latex paint. To determine what is currently on the cabinets, moisten a rag with an alcohol based solvent and rub a small indiscreet portion of one of the cabinets. If a significant amount of the color comes off of the cabinet, then it is probably covered in a latex paint, as almost no color will rub off if the cabinets are covered in an oil based paint. If you determine that the cabinets are covered with a latex paint, then stick with latex paint when repainting them. Latex paints also cost less than oil based paints and you don't have to purchase cleaning solvents.

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