I Applied Latex Over Oil Based Paint | How To Fix

February 11, 2021

Have you ever painted latex over oil based paint without properly prepping the walls? The unlucky readers who answered ‘yes’ know how painful this mistake is! After two years of painting our new home, the mudroom makeover is my first run-in with oil based paint.

Although our mudroom is one of the smaller rooms in the house, it has 8 (!!!) doors! I say this because it is very time-consuming to paint doors, especially when 4 are large doors with slats. Fixing this mistake took countless hours and 5 coats of paint, but now it looks great!

How to remove peeling latex paint from oil-based paint | Building Bluebird #diy #tutorial

So how did I figure out that I made an error? There were a few factors that made me realize that something wasn’t right. First, the paint felt chalky even though it was a satin finish. Second, the paint was chipping off at the slightest scratch. I could take my nail and easily scrape off a long strip of paint. A quick google search confirmed that applying latex over oil based paint was the cause of these issues.

Ideally, I would love for you to learn from my mistake and avoid this headache altogether! But if you find yourself in the same pickle as me, I will take you through the various ways to resolve this problem and move on!


Latex Paint vs. Oil Based Paint

Latex paint is water-based paint. Latex paint dries quickly and is what most people use on the interior walls of their home.

Oil based paint is made with either alkyd (synthetic) or linseed (natural) oils. It is more durable than latex paint so it is more frequently used on trim and doors. It takes longer to dry and requires chemicals to clean up any paint messes.

How to Test if it is Latex or Oil Paint

If you suspect that paint in your house is oil-based paint, there is an easy way to check. You will need denatured alcohol or acetone (nail polish remover) and a cotton ball. Add the alcohol to the cotton ball and rub a small area of the painted surface. If paint comes off onto the cotton ball, it is latex paint and you are good to go. If no paint rubs off, you have oil based paint. Skip to the second step if you do not have to remove latex paint.

If your home was built before 1978, you probably want to test the paint for lead. Dust from lead paint is incredibly dangerous when inhaled or ingested and there are safety protocols to follow if your home has lead paint.


How to Fix the Mistake of Painting Latex over Oil

How to remove peeling latex paint from oil-based paint | Building Bluebird #diy #tutorial

1 | Remove Latex Over Oil Based Paint

There are a few ways to remove the latex paint and one option may work better than another depending on your situation. With all of these solutions, it is important to wear a mask to protect your lungs!

Latex paint removal over oil based paint & how to fix | Building Bluebird

Warm Water & Scouring Pad

Warm water and a scouring pad work great to remove the latex paint quickly. The downside of this option is that it is incredibly messy. Dirty water and wet paint splattered everywhere and make a big mess. If you are working in an unfinished space, this is a good option, but it is not ideal if you need to protect the floors.

Paint Scraper & Scouring Pad

I ended up primarily using a paint scraper, followed by a scouring pad. Then, I used a sanding block and wiped the trim and doors down thoroughly with Krud Kutter.

In the beginning, I forgot to wear a mask and was quickly reminded how terrible the dust particles are for your lungs! Do as I say and not as I do. 🙂

How to remove latex paint from oil-based paint | Building Bluebird #painttutorial
How to remove latex paint from oil-based paint | Building Bluebird #painttutorial

I removed most of the peeling paint and then sanded it as smoothly as possible. A few times I gouged the trim, but it is 50 years old and I wasn’t too concerned with imperfections here and there.

How to remove latex paint from oil-based paint | Building Bluebird #painttutorial

I have another confession – I skipped scraping the doors and just crossed my fingers that the bonding primer and trim-specific paint would suffice. I don’t know that I would ever have finished this mudroom if I had to scrap all 8 doors! We will see how they hold up, but they are already looking better with the primer and trim paint applied.

*A year later and the doors are in pretty good shape. They have a few paint chips on them because it is a high traffic area, but nothing too noticeable.

Additional Latex Paint Removal Options

I found some other solutions to this problem online but did not test them out. Depending on how much time you want to spend removing all of the paint, a combination of these options could speed up the process.

2 | Apply 1 Coat of Extreme Bonding Primer

I’m giving you a big round of applause if you discovered the oil-based paint before applying latex paint over it! This will save you a ton of time and is a pretty quick fix. First, you will take a sanding block and scuff up the surface with the oil-based paint. Wipe down the surface to remove any dust and dirt. Next, you will apply one coat of bonding primer to seal in the oil based paint.

Extreme bonding primer & acrylic trim paint to cover oil based paint | Building Bluebird

3 | Apply 2 Coats of Trim & Door Paint

To be honest, I never used to purchase paint made specifically for trim and doors. I realize now the error of my ways! Paint made specifically for trim and doors is much more durable for these high traffic areas and I highly recommend using it for your projects.

Once the bond primer was applied to our mudroom walls, I applied 2 coats of Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel and I can really tell the difference! For the application, I used a combination of an angled paintbrush and a small roller to paint the surfaces.

Latex paint removal over oil based paint & how to fix | Building Bluebird

Tip | Paint Sheen is Important

I’d like to share another personal story that completely tripped me up with applying latex over oil-based paint. Last year, we removed the wallpaper from our foyer and the paper came off in strips and I thought we hit the lottery because it was so easy!

What I didn’t consider is that while the paper came off, the glue remained on the walls. Because latex paint is water-based, we couldn’t just paint the walls because the water would reactivate the glue. If you have ever made this mistake, it turns your wall into a gummy mess. Instead of using a steamer to scrape off all of the glue, we were instructed to use an oil-based primer to seal in the wallpaper glue and then apply the latex paint.

When I asked my Sherwin Williams rep why I could use latex paint over oil-based primer in our foyer, but not in the mudroom, he explained that the type of paint sheen plays a big part. In our foyer, the sheen was flat for the oil-based primer which allowed the latex paint to grab onto something and adhere. Because our mudroom trim and doors had a glossier sheen, it wouldn’t allow the latex paint to grab onto anything. This is why it scraped right off.

Moral of the story: when in doubt, reach out to your local paint store experts for advice!


Project Source List

Fixing this mistake was a huge pain in the butt, but it was definitely worth it. My family is pretty rough on our mudroom and we need durable paint on the trim and doors to hold up. I hope my experience will make your paint removal process go a little bit quicker!

Help! I painted latex over oil-based paint - how to fix this common painting mistake | Building Bluebird
Mudroom progress shot

Mudroom Reveal

I fixed the paint mistake and then installed wallpaper to finish the mudroom makeover. I absolutely love how it turned out and am glad I took the extra time to fix my painting mistake.

The common mistake of painting latex over oil paint and how to fix! | Building Bluebird

Check Out All of the Mudroom DIY Projects

The common mistake of painting latex over oil paint and how to fix! | Building Bluebird
The common mistake of painting latex over oil paint and how to fix! | Building Bluebird
The common mistake of painting latex over oil paint and how to fix! | Building Bluebird
The common mistake of painting latex over oil paint and how to fix! | Building Bluebird

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For more tips on choosing interior paint colors, head on over to my friend Katelin’s site at The Inspiring Investment where she shares tips on picking the perfect colors!


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Help! I painted latex over oil-based paint - how to fix this common painting mistake | Building Bluebird

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3 Comments

  • Reply Interior Painting Tips: How to Pick Paint Colors for Your House | The Inspiring Investment | A Home Renovation and Real Estate Investing Blog February 24, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    […] tips to remember: You can’t apply latex paint over oil-based. Ask my friend, Lindsey, over at Building Blue Bird about the big lesson she learned about […]

  • Reply Kathy August 18, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    This was a great help, thank you! I am about to begin repainting my entire house. The previous owner painted water-based low sheen paint over semigloss oil-based paint in order to sell the property. Of course it looked great for a while after I moved in, until I discovered what he had done…
    One question though – were you concerned when roughing up the oil-based paint about the possibility of lead in the oil-based paint? I’m pretty sure that my paint has lead in it.

    • Reply lindseymahoney August 19, 2021 at 8:46 am

      I am so glad you found it helpful! If your home was built before 1978, there is a possibility that the paint has lead in it. I would recommend sampling the paint with the instant lead testing kit (https://rstyle.me/+Ua3gvE1vpGXI_45fKdifTw) to check if there is in fact lead in it. If it shows to have lead, I would call a painter who specializes in lead to determine the best way to proceed
      .

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