Latex Vs Enamel Paint: What Are The Differences?

Randy Charles
Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Hi, I’m Randy Charles, the creator and chief editor of this site Paintcentric. I’m a businessman now by profession, but I used to work as...Read more

P[aint projects are usually exciting and fun. Painting is one of the best DIY projects. However, without proper knowledge of paints, painting can be challenging. Latex and enamel remain the most common paints for most home improvement projects.

So, Latex Vs Enamel Paint: What are the differences? The main difference between latex and enamel paint is the paint base. Latex is water-based while enamel is oil-based. The different paint bases then determine other paint characteristics. Where and how you use the paint is affected by the base.

Latex is usually preferred for big projects around the home while enamel is used for finishing touches on appliances. Join me below as we get to understand these two paints better.

Is Enamel Paint Waterproof

Comparison Between Latex And Enamel Paint

Difference Enamel Latex
Durability Durable hard shell. Resist yellowing over time Flexible surface
Drying Time 6 to 8 hours 1 hour to 2 days
Cure Time 8 to 24 hours 14 days
Finish Glossy or satin Satin, matte, eggshell or flat
Additives Mandatory Optional
Odor Strong pungent odor Minimal odor
Brushes Synthetic or natural animal hair bristles Only synthetic brushes
Uses Best for exterior but sticks to multiple surfaces Best for interior projects
Clean-up Difficult cleaning. It requires solvents or thinners Easy to clean with soap and water
Price Expensive Affordable

What Is Latex Paint?

Before we get into details on the differences between the paints, let’s know what latex paint is. Latex paint is basically water-based paint. It’s commonly known as acrylic paint with water being the main base.

The name latex refers to a resin binder used in the paint. It does not contain any actual latex derived from rubber. Most paints are nowadays referred to as latex but don’t contain any rubber latex.

What Is Latex Paint

Most water paints feature the name latex on their labels. The term latex is used to refer to the level of versatility and malleability of the paint.

Latex paint is similar to acrylic paint but designed for use in large quantities. You can use and touch the paint without any worries as it doesn’t contain any actual latex.

In the modern world, latex paint is the most common and widely used paint for indoor and outdoor painting. Latex paint is a general-purpose paint for exterior and interior projects. It is a cost-effective paint when you need to paint large areas.

Let’s see some of the main advantages of latex paint.

Advantage Of Latex Paint

There are several advantages of latex paint.

Advantage Of Latex Paint

Easy Application

First, latex paint is extremely easy to apply and use. It is a great feature when painting a small area. The paint dries fast allowing for easy touch-ups.

Non-Toxic

The paint is also safe and non-toxic. It does not contain harmful chemicals and fumes. You can easily apply it to rooms without worrying much about ventilation.

This is a great feature when you compare it to enamel and other oil-based paints. While some various forms of latex have fumes, the amount is still very low compared to enamel.

Make sure you read label warnings and see if you need to keep the room ventilated.

Affordable

Latex paint is cheaper than enamel paint. This is why it’s recommended for large surfaces. The price of latex is usually half the price of enamel.

However, the low pricing does not mean low quality. The quality is great and you get more of the paint.

Easy to clean

Latex paint is extremely easy to clean and wash away. It is a water-based paint, hence easily cleans away with water. If you accidentally spill latex paint, you can easily wash it away with soap and water.

Furthermore, cleaning a site once the project is over becomes a lot easier. This is the complete opposite of enamel where you need a solvent to dissolve the paint.

Quick Drying

The paint is also quick drying saving you time and energy. You can finish a project and have the surface dry in a short period compared to enamel. Latex dries in an hour allowing you to add more coats.

Fits a variety of finishes and needs

You can create a variety of appearances when using latex paint. For example, latex paint can create matte, satin, eggshell, and flat finishes. For enamel paint, you’ll only create a glossy finish.

This is a great feature that gives you flexibility in your projects.

Better coverage

Latex paint offers exceptional coverage of surfaces making it a great choice for beginners. You can easily cover a wide area with just a few coats. If you’re looking to cover some mildew and mold, latex paint is a great choice.

Disadvantage Of Latex Paint

While latex paint seems good with numerous advantages, there are a few disadvantages you need to know. It’s important to know before starting any project.

Disadvantage Of Latex Paint

Limited Surface

First, you’re not going to apply latex paint on all surfaces. For metal surfaces, the paint requires a primer to ensure firm adherence. The paint is not going to work on metal surfaces.

While it does work on wood surfaces, the paint can crack when there are sudden weather changes. It is difficult to paint over oil-based surfaces. in most cases, you need need to prepare and prime the surfaces before painting.

Takes a long to cure

You’ve probably seen that latex paint dries fast, right? Well, the paint does dry fast but is not quickly cured. Drying and curing are totally different things. To be fully dry, the paint might take up to two weeks.

During this time, it can crack and peel depending on the weather conditions. For example, if you use the latex paint outdoors and it rains, you might require a second or third coat.

Cracks and forms blisters

You’ve probably experienced blisters and cracks in latex-painted walls. Latex paint is a water-based paint hence affected by temperature changes. Even when it’s completely dry, the paint can crack and peel off.

Not for all surfaces

As you can see, the paint will not work in areas with temperature changes. For example, you cannot use latex near grills where temperature changes are frequent. The paint will peel off and crack as you roast your meat.

In simple terms, there are appliances that you cannot paint using latex. Items like stoves require paint that is not easily affected by temperature changes.

What Is Enamel Paint?

Enamel is a hard-surface paint with an oil or solvent base. Most people refer to it as hard-surface paint. In most cases, enamel paint is more described by its qualities rather than its content.

The paint is glossy and widely used for finishes. Around our homes, enamel paint is used for appliance finish touch-ups. The term enamel came from the glass casing where the paint mimics the looks of glass casings. It’s known to harden and create a glossy shell.

What Is Enamel Paint

Despite the term enamel, the paint does not contain any enamel. The term only refers to the hard glossy finish it creates.

This is why the paint is used on appliances to create a hard and glossy finish. However, not all enamel paints are oil-based. Some newer brands are water-based. Keep a lookout for water-based and oil-based enamel.

NOTE: Enamel paint does not contain any glass in it. The glossy and glass-like appearance gives it the name enamel.

The paint is quite popular on automotive and appliances creating a gloss finish. It creates a shell around the objects you paint. Unless you want walls with a glossy finish, the paint is not ideal for walls and ceilings.

The glossy finish can help increase the appliance’s durability. Let’s see some of the advantages of enamel paint.

Advantage Of Enamel Paint

You’ve already seen how enamel paint can be used and on what surfaces. So, what does the paint offer:

Advantage Of Enamel Paint

Durability

The glossy finish does enhance the durability of the appliance or automotive. Once completely dry, the paint creates a glossy shell finish that protects everything underneath.

What’s more, the shell does not break easily. This makes the paint ideal for objects like doors, floors, and furniture.

Heat-Resistant

Unlike latex which cannot withstand temperature changes, the enamel is heat-resistant. Enamel paint can withstand up to 6000 degrees F making it suitable for places with rapid temperature changes.

You can conveniently paint grills and stoves without any issues. However, you should not use paint inside furnaces. While it’s heat resistant, it can still catch fire.

Waterproof

Since the paint is oil-based, it’s waterproof and easily repels water. Maybe this further explains its durability. The paint can withstand outdoor weather changes. This makes it a suitable choice for outdoor metal surfaces that are affected by rain.

Easy To Clean Once Dry

You can conveniently clean dry surfaces painted with enamel without washing the paint. This is a great feature if you need to clean such surfaces often.

Quick Cure Time

The paint takes a very short time to cure as opposed to latex. While the drying time is longer, the paint cures fast. Once completely dry, the paint requires 24 hours to fully harden.

Firm Adhesion

Enamel paint offers excellent adhesion to most surfaces. You can actually paint enamel on porous and slick surfaces like glass without any problems. This is not the case with latex where you need a primer for firm adhesion. Below are some of the surfaces where enamel has good adhesion:

  • Glass
  • Aluminum
  • Plastic
  • Porcelain
  • Wood
  • Ceramic
  • Stainless steel
  • Caulking
  • Galvanized steel

Disadvantage Of Enamel Paint

Despite the numerous benefits, there are a few cons you need to be aware of when using enamel paint. The common and obvious disadvantage is the harmful chemicals the paint releases.

Disadvantage Of Enamel Paint

Let’s dive deep and see some of the cons.

Toxic chemicals

The fumes released from the oil and lacquer bases in the paint are a major health concern. This means you can only use the paint in an open place with good ventilation.

In addition, you need to wear masks to protect yourself from inhaling fumes.

Flammable

The chemicals inside enamel paint can be flammable when the paint is wet. This can be a danger when spraying the paint in some areas. However, once dry, the paint is inflammable.

Hard to clean

If you accidentally spill the paint, it can be difficult to clean it. Unlike latex which cleans with water and soap, you’ll need a solvent to dissolve the paint.

This also creates a challenge when cleaning after a project. The paint is waterproof and might need scraping if you accidentally paint the wrong surface.

Slow-drying time

Enamel paint takes 8-24 hours to completely dry. This is way too long compared to latex which dries within one hour. This can be time-wasting especially when you need to paint more than one coat. It means waiting for up to 24 hours before you can add the next coat.

Scratches easily

Despite creating a hard shell, the paint scratches easily against a sharp item. This simply means keeping sharp items away from the paint.

However, fixing scratches on enamel paint is easy. You only need to sand the area around the paint and repaint it.

Expensive

Lastly, enamel paint is expensive as opposed to latex paint. The price of enamel paint is twice what you pay for latex paint.

What Are The Differences Between Latex And Enamel Paint?

By now, you fully understand the major differences between these two paints. The different bases mean the paints carry pigments and other ingredients differently. For latex paint, the pigments are suspended while enamel carries the pigments as a solvent.

Latex Vs Enamel Paint

The differences can be seen in the application of the paint. Let’s discuss the differences under different categories.

The Finish

Both paints feature a satin finish. However, latex tends to offer more finishes like eggshells and matte. However, enamel paints with a satin finish are highly preferred for high-impact areas due to their durability. Overall, the enamel finish is more durable, smooth, and long-lasting.

The latex finish is highly preferred for indoor use. It is the more modern and sophisticated of the two. The glossy enamel finish makes it easier to clean with soap and water.

Durability

While both paints are durable, enamel paint tends to hold up better when exposed to varying weather changes. This is a key difference when deciding the paint to use on a certain project. Latex is preferred for most indoor projects while enamel works best for outdoor projects.

Overall, enamel paint is designed to dry harder than latex paint. While enamel can scratch easily, it still offers better durability than latex paint.

Drying And Curing Time

Latex paints dry quicker than enamel paint. However, enamel paints are cured faster than latex paints. This simply means you have to paint fast when using latex paint. The paint needs leveling before it dries out.

For the enamel paint, you have enough time to paint as it takes a long time to dry. However, this can be a disadvantage when looking to add more coats. However, this gives you enough time to manipulate the coat and create an even layer.

Overall, enamel paints take 6-8 hours to dry while latex paints take an hour. This is completely the opposite when it comes to curing time.

While latex paint allows one to use the object in a few hours, it actually takes longer for the paint to fully cure. The paint is usually not fully dry until it dries which takes up to 14 days. This means the surface area is still susceptible to chemicals and waters. You cannot wash the walls until it fully cures.

On the other hand, enamel paint is fully cured in 8 to 24 hours. Once dry, you just need to wait a day for the paint to be fully cured.

Fumes And Odors

Both latex and enamel paints can produce harmful odors and fumes which can be dangerous. However, as you’ve already seen, enamel paint is by far the most dangerous with more chemical fumes.

Enamel produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation. You need to wear eye, mouth, and ear protection when using the paint.

This is why enamel paints are designed for small projects. If you have to use enamel paints, wear protective gear and paint in a well-ventilated space.

Overall, the fumes and odor in latex paints are milder than what you find in enamel paints.

Type Of Brushes

Synthetic brushes can work best for both latex and enamel paints. However, enamel paints work best with natural bristles brushes. The natural animal hair in the brushes can soak up water from the latex paints.

Understanding the ideal brushes for each painting is crucial for achieving excellent results.

Clean Up

Cleaning latex paints is a lot easier than enamel paints. You only need a rug, water, and some soap to clean latex paints. However, enamel paints require a thinner to dissolve the paint first.

Prices

Another major difference between the paints is the pricing. Enamel paints are expensive and cost twice the price of latex paints. Latex paints are affordable and sold in large quantities. They are cost-effective and ideal for large projects.

Furthermore, you’re more likely to save money using latex paint. This is because you don’t java to buy things like thinners and solvents to clean the paint after the project.

Overall, the differences between these two paints arise from the water and oil bases used.

So, which is the better and more durable to use? The decision on the best comes down to the type of surface you want to paint and desired results. Keep reading below.

Is Enamel Paint More Durable Than Latex?

Without a doubt! Enamel is the more durable paint of the two. While both paints are durable in good weather conditions, enamel stands out as the most durable when conditions change.

Enamel paint is designed to dry harder creating a firm shell that can withstand harsh weather conditions. It is the most durable. Moreover, the enamel is heat-resistant and can withstand high temperatures.

So, if durability is of great concern, then enamel paint is the best. It is a great choice for the high-traffic areas in your home. You can use it in the kitchen cabinets and other areas with high traffic.

Can I Mix Latex And Enamel Paint?

NO! You cannot mix enamel and latex paint together. These two paints should be used separately on appropriate surfaces. Enamel is oil-based while latex is water-based. It doesn’t make sense to mix the two together.

Even on surfaces already printed with enamel, you cannot paint latex. The two paints will not adhere to each other. You must first scrape the paint and sand the surface before painting latex.

Final Thoughts

Well, that’s it from me! I hope you now know the key differences between enamel and latex paints. Enamel paint is oil-based while latex is water-based. The base differences affect how and where you can use these paints. These two paints can be confusing as they don’t contain the latex and enamel that they are named after.

Enamel stands for durability while latex stands for malleability. Understanding the differences between the paints and how they are used will enable you to choose the right paint for your project.

Randy Charles
Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Hi, I’m Randy Charles, the creator and chief editor of this site Paintcentric. I’m a businessman now by profession, but I used to work as a painter earlier in my professional career. There is simply nothing about painting that I didn’t do as a painter. From painting a fridge to a multi-storied building, I left nothing. I retired from my painting job in the mid of 2018 due to back arthritis problems.

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