Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Blog, How To Tips, Painting Furniture | 13 comments

Yes, old man winter is creeping in on us.  I just came in from the frig’n cold (not a fan), and this past weekend the clocks were turned back an hour …a sure sign. I took full advantage of the extra hour of sleep, yet I’m still in “snail” mode today. My body clock isn’t keeping in sync with the tickers on the wall… so I’ll keep this tutorial short and sweet.

Here’s a quick tip on How-To Tell If Paint is Latex or Oil-Based.


The first step I take when painting an older piece of furniture is determining what type of pre-existing paint is already on the piece. Is it oil-based or is it latex? … and why would I care?

Determining if it’s a latex or oil product is important because …

Oil can be painted over Latex BUT latex can’t be painted over oil. If you try to apply latex over oil, the paint will not adhere properly!

Once I determine what I’m working with, it helps me decide on the proper paint and primer that I will need to purchase/use for the project. (This is especially important if you’re working on a clients piece of furniture!)

Here’s a quick and fast way to find out if your piece of furniture is painted in latex or oil.  This technique will also work on walls, doors, cabinets, baseboards or any other painted surface!

RubbingAlcohol1. Add some rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab or a clean rag.

2. In a discreet area, wipe the surface back and forth with the rubbing alcohol.

3. If the paint starts to rub off and you see white or faded streaks, you know this has been painted with a latex product.

4. If no paint comes off, then you know it has been painted with oil based products.

The picture below is a great example. In the case of my clients head board, latex products where clearly used … it rubbed off fairly easily.


How To Test for Oil or Latex Paint


The test is really easy to do and if you’ve run out of rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover will also work … hmmm … I wonder if Vodka or other Spirits would work also? If you have any other ways of testing for oil or latex paints, feel free to comment below!

To see the completed “Re-Freshed” painted Head Board you can take a peek here.

Have a great day and stay warm my friends.

Denise x