Paint Facts: The Truth about Oil Based Paints

Published on: Author: Anne Langton


Paint is one of those products that sooner or later we all seem to purchase or specify for our home improvement projects.  But there is currently still a lot of confusion about purchasing oil based (alkyd) paints.

 As an interior designer, I can tell you that regardless of what major paint brands say about how far latex based paints have been developed over the years, nothing beats the appearance of smooth oil based painted trim in an interior space. This “leveling” look of oil is preferred by many design professionals




Since 2005, most states follow federal guidelines which say that…


1.   It is against the law to sell  oil based paint in quantities larger than 1 quart IF the end use is application to anything other than a metal substrate

2.   Gallons of oil based paint are available for use on metal substrates only

3.   Which explains when going into your local paint store, why you will see shelves upon shelves of GALLONS of OIL BASED PAINTS.

And here is where it does get kind of tricky.  The oil based paints sold in quarts for end uses such as wood trim is basically the same paint as sold in gallons for metal applications!  Moreover there is no such thing as the “paint police” who will make sure consumers and contractors are not purchasing gallons of oil based paint to paint interior wood trim.

Why should we care?  The answer is quite simply for the good of our health and environment for now and future generations.  Volatile Organic Content (or VOC) is emitted from oil based paints and quite frankly these are not healthy critters to have hanging around.  Then of course there are other issues such as disposal and its effect on our ground water.

While I absolutely love freshly painted wood trim in oil based paint crisply done up in Ben Moore’s White Dove color, it’s important to keep in mind the bigger picture…and that is about preserving a healthy planet and its people.  So buy that quart size for wood trim or consider switching to a higher sheen latex paint (after using a good primer of course) and know you are doing your part for a healthier environment!