Enamel Vs Latex Paint [What Are The Differences]

  • By: Artistic Bees
  • Time to read: 9 min.
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Often, the two terms—enamel paint and latex paint—are used interchangeably in multiple perspectives. They are used alternately in many packages as well, sometimes to mean the same thing.

However, the two are not the same, and there are a lot of differences between the two. In fact, these are two unique kinds of paint used for different purposes.

Enamel is a kind of paint that has a smooth, durable, and intricate finish. On the other hand, latex paints are more like acrylic resin paints. They are very lightweight and versatile in nature.

If you are thinking of buying new paint for your house, you need to understand the basics of each kind of paint first.

For this purpose, you need a clear concept of enamel vs. latex paint, where to use them, and how you can prepare your walls before painting with either. So, to know about all these facts in detail, please read the entire article.

Enamel vs latex paints

The Differences Between Enamel And Latex Paint?

The two most hyped paints on the market right now are enamel and latex paints. Both are definitely not the same. They are poles apart, and each has a different kind of finishing touch and composition.

In fact, enamel and latex paints differ in quality, odor, drying time, safety levels, use, pigmentation, ease of removal, and many other aspects! In this regard, you need to learn in detail first about enamel paint and latex paint. So, it would be helpful if you read the next part to learn in detail about the two!

Enamel Paint

The use of enamel paint started in the 19th century. Basically, the term “enamel” is a misnomer here. People coined this term for marketing purposes. The name itself speaks a lot about the product. Commercials name it “Enamel” because of the hard, durable, and glossy finish it offers.

In fact, there is no actual enamel in these paints! It was just named so to attract the attention of buyers worldwide. For instance, if you see that a painting product can give you a hard and tough finish like enamel, why wouldn’t you make it your first choice!

Moreover, enamel paints are oil-based paints. They dry up easily and harden quickly. Besides, they are more suitable for outdoor painting purposes. They may have some amount of resin added to them, or they may have added varnish in some cases.

You can use them on surfaces where you need glossy finishes. For example, you may use enamel paint on grills, rods, cooking utensils, industrial areas, or even sanitary equipment like basins, bathtubs, etc.

Latex Paint

Again, this is just another misnomer. There is no actual latex in this paint here. To be fair, it does not contain any rubber or any other latex-like material. Commercials introduced this name to describe the finishing touch it gives off!

Latex paints are just like regular acrylic paints. Basically, the name indicates the smooth and versatile effect of the paint. They are incredibly malleable. To some extent, the name derives from the presence of resin in the paint, which acts as the binder here.

Besides, latex paints are mostly water-based products. The chief carrier of this paint is water mixed with different organic compounds.

Most importantly, glycol ethers are the standard compounds here. These kinds of paints are suitable for painting over dry surfaces, indoor paintings, any brick wall, etc.

Actually, enamel or latex, are just names. In fact, these names have been introduced for commercial purposes only. The terms only describe the quality and finish of the paint.

However, surprisingly enough, you may find the word enamel in the packaging of many latex paints as well. These are just some clever business ideas to trick you into thinking about how durable the paint could be. In reality, the two kinds of paint are very different, and each has unique characteristics.

How Can You Differentiate Between The Two?

Until now, you have only learned about the finishing touches and the composition of enamel and latex paints. However, there are other criteria based on which you can separate the two.

A bucket of latex paint and a bucket of enamel paint can differ in terms of their durability, fuming capacity, toxicity, odors, use, finishing touches, brushes required, preservatives, etc. Now, I would like to discuss some of these elements. Take a brief look at the next part to find out in detail!

Which Is More Durable?

Both enamel and latex paints are very high-end products with excellent durability. However, enamel paints are more rigid and are more suitable for outdoor projects.

As for latex paints, they are good as well, as per their durability and stuff! But they can collapse under adverse weather conditions.

On the other hand, enamel paints have a glass-like finish and a glossy topcoat. It is hard to stain over enamel or even to remove it. They can endure bad weather and extreme temperatures.

Toxic Effects And Fuming

All kinds of paints contain some toxic compounds which can cause serious health hazards. There are benzene, ammonia, chromium, acids, alkyl derivatives, etc., chemicals. None of these are good for your health when inhaled in generous amounts.

Latex and enamel both produce toxic fumes and foul odors. But comparatively, latex produces a bit less toxicity than enamel. Whenever you work with enamel, always make sure the room has good aeration and is well ventilated. So, enamel should be preferred for outdoor projects.

On the other hand, latex paints are safer in this respect, although not completely. Hence, they are best for indoor purposes.

The toxic fumes can cause damaging effects to your eyes and respiratory system. They can cause inhalation burns, irritation to the eyes, headaches, blurring of vision, respiratory distress, and worst of all, cancer.


The use of preservatives is not only to keep the paint fresh and lively year after year. These are also used for thinning the paint so that it sets and dries well. Also, it ensures that you can apply the paint uniformly on the surfaces. For this purpose, there are paint conditioners, additives, extenders, etc.

Latex or water-based paints use Floetrol mostly. It is the most suitable additive for latex. On the contrary, oil-based enamels use Penetrols. It is the best organic additive out there for any kind of enamel to set properly!

Which One Dries Faster?

Any kind of paint will take a considerable amount of time to dry out. Between enamel and latex, enamel paints take longer to dry than latex paints. This is due to the fact that enamel paints are oil-based, and oils do not dry up easily.

Put a drop of oil and a drop of water on a piece of paper. You will see that the oil drop takes much longer to dry than the water drop. Naturally, enamels will take longer, but only to ensure thicker and more uniform coats of paint after they dry.

In fact, this longer drying time can give you the time to modify your coats as per your wishes. You can work, taking your time to make a smooth, perfect, and even coat. So, in a way, it is actually an upside. However, latex paints dry off quickly and don’t allow you to take this time. So, you have to apply your paint and let it level quickly before it dries!


Paint can stain easily. No paint in the world is resistant to stains. Basically, the removal of stains or cleaning on the surface of paint depends on the quality of the paint used and the quality of the underlying surface.

It is pretty easy to clean up latex-painted surfaces. You can just use a bucket of water and a cleaning mop. You may use some mild cleaning soap or detergent as per your requirements.

However, for enamel paints, you need to use paint thinners. These are some materials used to dilute the paint layer so that you can clean up the stains well. Normal soap water and detergents hardly work on enamels. It is a lot more hectic than cleaning latex paint!

Which Brush Should You Use For Each Kind?

Basically, there are natural hair brushes and synthetic brushes available for use. You need to understand the composition of your paint first in order to decide what kind of brush you should use.

Animal hair brushes can absorb water-based paint. It causes them to soften quickly, and the end result is an awful coat that is uneven in places! So, it is best to use natural bristles with enamel paint only. They do not soak up the oil base and can produce a smooth and even finish.

Besides, synthetic brushes are the best choice for water-based latex paints. They do not get wet easily and do not soak up moisture. In addition, synthetic brushes can be used with enamel paints too. Since they have a tremendous repelling capacity, they work well with both kinds of paint.

However, in the case of enamel paints, you can always expect the best results with natural bristles for sure! So, use as per your needs!

Can You Use Latex Over Enamel?

There is often a misconception that you cannot use latex paint over enamel-painted surfaces. However, this is a wrong belief. You can definitely paint latex over enamel as long as you have prepared your walls properly.

Actually, there is a scientific basis for this misconception. Enamels are oil-based products. And latex paint contains water as the chief solvent. Naturally, both products are not supposed to be miscible together.

So, there is often a concern that latex paints will not dry up on enamel painted surfaces. However, this is absolutely not true. When enamel surfaces dry up, the end result is a glossy, hard, and durable layer of coating. The paint doesn’t retain any kind of oiliness or any amount of oil molecules.

Therefore, there is no chance of any repulsion between the oil base and the water molecules of your latex paint. So, you don’t have to worry about the latex paint not drying. However, you must prepare the walls and the surfaces first before applying a layer of latex.

For this purpose, make sure you have cleaned the surfaces very well. Remove any kind of stain or dirt build-up. If possible, use a good-quality primer to prep the surface. It will allow the paint to adhere better. Also, choose a good satin latex paint. You can also use semi-glossy or heavy-glossy paints as per your choice.

Do You Need To Prime Before Applying Latex Or Enamel?

Primers are essential when it comes to painting over porous surfaces. Besides, any oil-based paint requires the surface to be primed first before applying a layer of water-based paint over it.

Actually, primers are nothing but a layer of preparation you apply, which allows your paint to set uniformly. For this purpose, it is crucial that you choose a good primer that can fill in really well. Priming walls basically means creating this layer of foundation for the future paint to set evenly.

A lot of the time, especially in the case of new walls or dry surfaces, the surface is highly porous. You can’t expect a wall or any surface to be 100 percent smooth. Brick walls and stone walls can be very rough. So, using a primer is mandatory here. You need to fill in the pores appropriately.

Because if you apply your paint on this porous surface, you will end up with an uneven coat. Also, you will require more paint than necessary to fill in the pores. It is a total waste!

Moreover, the paint will look really ugly because the pores will become more visible with a layer of latex over them. So, always prime before you paint!

Again, oil-based enamels sometimes reject a layer of latex over them if not primed correctly. However, it depends on the type of paint and how old your walls are. So, when painting over enamel, always prime the surface first.


Enamel Vs Latex Paint – which is the Best Choice? The debate can go on and on! But once you understand the basic differences between the two kinds of paint, you can decide the pros and cons of each, yourself!

In this article, I tried to explain all the relevant facts about enamel vs. latex paint. I hope this article helped you gain some perspective on each kind of paint.

Now, you can choose for yourself which paint will suit your house the best! Thank you for reading the entire article with patience. Have a good day!