Painting Latex Over Oil-Based Paint

Sanding, cleaning, and priming the surface before using water-based paints are necessary before painting over oil-based paint. Waterborne alkyd paints will stick to traditional oil-based painted surfaces, requiring little preparation.

The process of painting over oil largely depends on the finish you are painting over and the paint you want to use. Light sanding, at minimum, is the best practice to promote paint adhesion. The surface must also be free of dirt and contaminants.

Here, we will cover the best ways to ensure your paint will stick regardless of the surface or paint.

Oil-Based Versus Water-Based Paint

There are several kinds of water and oil-based paints for painting your home exterior or interior. Oil-based paint typically dries more slowly and contains mineral spirits as a solvent. Since oil dries slower, it levels and eliminates brush strokes and can be used in several applications. Oil-based paints are commonly used on wood trim cabinets and other interior surfaces.

While oil-based paints dry harder, making them easier to clean, there are drawbacks to using oil-based paint indoors. Oil-based paint is more likely to crack and turn yellow where there is little light, especially on the backside of a closet door.


Another thing to consider is the fumes of oil paint. Oil-based paint is considered a household hazardous waste. It’s flammable and has to be disposed of properly, containing extremely high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like toluene and xylene. Oil-based paints are also notoriously difficult to remove from tools and brushes. If you spill oil-based paint on the floor, clean it with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol.

Water-based paint – also known as acrylic or latex paint – dries faster and is less likely to turn yellow over time. It also doesn’t give off those strong fumes. If you get paint on interior surfaces, you can easily clean it with water and soap. Water-based paint is more environmentally friendly. Just make sure you purchase acrylic enamel if you are searching for comparable oil durability.

Steps to Painting Over Oil-Based Paint

Step 1: Preparing the Surface:

It’s always important to prepare surfaces before painting.

  • Prepping to paint: Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove the gloss from the surface. You want to use sandpaper to remove the glossy shine. Removing the existing finish is not necessary.
  • Wipe surfaces after sanding, removing all dust. Leaving dust on the surface will cause the paint to lose its ability to stick.
  • If needed, use TSP to clean the surface to ensure there are no chemicals or contaminants. Use one-fourth cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) to a gallon of water. Use safety glasses and gloves when applying TSP because it’s a hazardous chemical.
  • Let the surface dry for 24 hours.

Step 2: Priming the Surface

After preparing the area, applying a bonding primer will maximize paint adhesion and enable the transition from oil to water-based paints. Bonding primers prevent paint from chipping or peeling, allowing maximum adhesion.


Traditional oil-based primers require 2-3 days of dry time before you can paint over it. Shellac primers dry to the touch within one hour.

Step 3: Applying the Paint

So, let’s jump directly into applying the paint. Your surface should be de-glossed, clean, and primed at this stage.

  • Apply a minimum of two coats of acrylic paint.
  • Allow the paint to dry before applying additional coats.

Tips to Follow Before Painting

Here are some extra tips to ensure your paint job looks great.

Tip 1: Use Professional Tools

Have the proper tools and paint materials available according to your painting surface. Ensure you have a quality paintbrush roller and enough paint. If you don’t have professional tools, invest in a quality brush and rollers. Cheap tools will make a lousy paint job, making bad applications noticeable.

Tip 2: Cover Your Stuff

You’ll be careful, you tell yourself. Next thing you know, you have paint splatters all over your floor and furniture. Before you start painting, cover your floors and furniture with protective plastic or cloth.

Tip 3: Don’t Use Cheap Paint

Don’t use cheap trim paint. Cheap trim paint holds more dust and loses natural sheen quickly. High-quality paint will also last longer and cover better, making it easier to work with. Sherwin-Williams has several great interior paints, including Emerald Urethane enamel and Pro-classic Waterborne Alkyd.

Tip 4: Choosing The Proper Paint Finish

In addition to choosing a paint color, there are multiple paint finishes. Your choice of finish will depend on which rooms you’re painting, the finish you are painting over, the protection needed, and the look you want.


Now that you know how to paint over oil-based paint, you can decide whether to do it yourself or hire a professional.

Are you ready to transform your home into something that looks brand new without all the effort? If you live in Raleigh, NC, contact us for a free quote.

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