What Kind of Paint Do I Have?

How to Identify the Type of Paint on Your Walls and Trim

It’s time to update the look of your home. There’s only one problem. You know that a new coat of paint is the cheapest way to make your home more appealing. But how do you know what kind of paint to buy? What kind of paint do you have on your walls?

Actually, this question isn’t hard to answer. All you need is a clean white cloth, a painter’s rag (or an old white T-shirt) and a can of denatured alcohol (found at the hardware store).

Pour a small amount of the alcohol onto the cloth and gently rub an area of the paint you want to identify. If the paint softens and comes off on the cloth, you have just identified that the paint is acrylic or latex paint.

If the finish is oil-based (alkyd), the color will not transfer to the rag and the finish won’t be affected.

Why Knowing the Kind of Paint is Important

Acrylic/latex paints cannot be applied over alkyd/oil-based finishes without being primed first. You will need to prime the wall with a primer that contains a binder resin that adheres well to alkyd paint while creating a surface that acrylic/latex paint can adhere to.

Alkyd/oil based paints, however, can be applied over acrylic/latex finishes with no additional preparation. So if you intend to use an oil-based paint on the wall or trim, it doesn’t matter if the previous paint was oil or latex. You can paint as soon as you have cleaned the walls and made any minor repairs.

Now that you know how to test what kind of paint you have on your walls, you know how to tell whether you need to prime your walls before you paint or not.

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