Enamel vs Latex Paint: Important Differences

Enamel vs Latex Paint

While it can be hard to distinguish between latex and enamel paint once they have dried, there are some very important differences between the two. However, when you use these types of paints to protect your interior and exterior walls, you can choose from a multitude of finishes. Before you undertake the repainting of an area in your home, it is vital to understand the major differences between the different types of paint available to you. 

The most popular types of paint are oil-based enamel, water-based latex and acrylic paints. Keep reading for a full break-down of the properties of enamel and latex paints. You can decide which kind of paint is most suitable for your project.

What Makes a True Latex Paint?

A lot of the time, people purchase a paint that is advertised as latex but the paint that they are buying actually contains no latex. Instead, the paint that they are buying has been marketed as "latex-like".

That is to say, it contains the properties of a latex paint. A lot of the paints that are advertised as "latex-like" maintain the malleability and durability of a true latex paint. However, if you want the real stuff, avoid the "latex-like" and opt for containers that say they contain a certain percentage of latex. 

Note: We have another article in details about latex paint, check it out to know more.  

What is Enamel Paint?

Enamel paint is similar to latex in that it does not actually contain any enamel. Instead, the word refers to the finish of each dried coat. Enamel paint usually delivers a hard, smooth surface that will last for years. Enamel is used as a descriptor to denote a paint that is lustrous, glossy and can survive a lot of wear and tear.

What Are the Safety Differences?

Many enamel paints are oil-based. This means that they are known for having a very strong and pungent odor. By contrast, many paints that are marketed as a latex paint are water-based. This is known to be a far less toxic choice.

If you do choose to use an oil-based enamel paint, it is essential to be vigilant and cautious when you are using it. It can cause respiratory issues or feelings of dizziness if not carefully applied. Water-based paints do not have these detriments. They bear a much less offensive smell.

However, both sorts of paints are high in volatile organic compounds (VOC). When you are making your decision, go for a paint that is labeled as "low-VOC" or "zero-VOC". Additionally, you want to take the standard precautions when you are getting set up for a project.

Make sure that the room is well-ventilated. As fumes can effect children poorly, be sure to keep young ones away from wet or tacky paint. Ultimately, latex paint is considered a safer option than enamel if you would like to avoid irritation to your eyes, skin and respiratory system.

How Long Do They Take to Dry?

Even though oil-based paints usually take longer to cure, many consumers say that they have an incredible finish once they are fully dry. Just as overall drying time is longer, your clean-up will be more involved.

These paints cannot be cleaned with water, so it is crucial to get a paint thinner specially formulated to remove it from surfaces. For those who value convenience, latex paints both dry more quickly and you can clean up any spills with water and soap.

Which Paint for Different Surfaces?

For ease of use and the least amount of hassle, a latex paint is going to be your best bet. However, some projects require the high-quality and luxurious luster of enamel paint. The best way to get the best of both worlds is to paint the walls of a room with latex paint while reserving enamel paint for trims, doors and window frames. These parts tend to be used more often, so it is better to give them the hardy, strong finish of enamel paint.

However, if you are painting a metal surface, you want to use an enamel paint or similar oil-based paint. Water-based paints can lead to rust and disrepair.

Final Verdict

It can be arduous to comprehend the difference between enamel and latex paint. Latex paint has less of an odor and is more easy to clean up but it does not have the strength, shine and long-lasting nature of enamel paint. It is vital to your project to know that when you are deciding on a paint to use that you need to make compromises.

For painting a house, enamel paint is desirable. It offers a sleek and durable surface that is perfect for areas that see a lot of wear and tear. Enamel paints used to be used exclusively but advancements in the quality of latex paints has made them almost as good. Use this guide to aid you in making the most suitable decision for your project.

About the Author Todd Davis

Todd Davis is a DIY enthusiast, traveler and writer for a long time. He has a deep understanding of all types of painting tools and hardware.

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