How to Test Paint to See If It Is Latex or Oil

How to Test Paint to See If It Is Latex or Oil thumbnail
Test unknown paints before you begin using them.

Knowing the difference between latex paints and oil-based paints can save time and trouble when you're working on home decorating projects. If you use the wrong substance to thin or clean up your mystery paint, you can end up making a mess instead. Fortunately, you can quickly determine what type of paint you are using and avoid these problems completely.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper cup
  • 1 tablespoon water
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    • 1

      Pour 1 tablespoon of the paint into a paper cup or another disposable container.

    • 2

      Add 1 tablespoon of water to the paint in the cup.

    • 3

      Examine the paint and water mixture. If the mixture separates and looks oily or shows chunks, the paint is oil-based. If the mixture is still smooth and looks like thinned paint, the paint is latex or water-based.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean up latex paint with water. You can also use water to thin latex paint, if necessary. Use solvents such as paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean up or thin oil-based paints.

Related Searches


  • "Paint Saves the Day"; Lucianna Samu; 2009
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

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