How to Test For Oil Based Paint

April 12, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

Testing your interior trim for oil is important. Failure to do so and painting latex over oil without using a proper primer will haunt you for years to come. Fixing that mistake is a much bigger task than doing it right the first time.


Oil Trim in Charleston

How to Find Out if it is Oil 

The first and easiest step is to look at your leftover paint. If you see anything that has oil based labeled on the cans there is a good chance your trim is oil especially if it’s semi-gloss or satin. Common oil paints used in the Charleston Area are.

  • Sherwin Williams ProClassic Oil Semi-Gloss
  • Sherwin Williams ProMar 200 Oil
  • Benjamin Moore Impervo

There are several ways to test for oil. You can do a simple adhesion test which is basically a scratch test. Put a little latex paint on a piece of trim in an inconspicuous spot (like the back of a closet door jam), let it dry overnight, and try to scratch it off with your fingernail. You don’t have to dig into it if it’s oil the paint will scratch off easily.

The next test is the most effective and the one I recommend doing. It is called the Acetone test. If you have a can of acetone simply soak a rag or cotton ball and rub an area where you think oil paint might be present. If the paint softens or comes off on the rag it’s latex if it stays hard and nothing happens it’s oil based paint.

Now I know I’m probably the only one reading this with a can of acetone in my garage but there are alternatives you can use. Rubbing Alcohol which is kept in most household medicine cabinets will work and if you do not have that nail polish remover will do the trick. If you choose to use nail polish remover make sure to check the bottle first. If it says Acetone Free it will not work.

What to Do if it’s Oil Paint?

It’s not the end of the world if your testing confirms the paint is oil based. It just means you have a couple of extra steps to do. Check out my next post How To Paint Latex Over Oil Based Paint if you’ve determined there is oil paint on your trim.

Or You Can Ask A Professional Painter For Help

Give Paragon Painting in Charleston a call. We will have no problem determining whether or not your trim is latex or oil. We will then take a correct course of action and use the proper paint to keep your trim beautiful for many years to come.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

I've been brought up in the painting industry and have learned everything I know from my father Paul Briggs. He is the founder of Paragon Painting and I joined him full time in 2003 after graduating college. I am now happily married with two beautiful children ages two and five.

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