Painting over oil-based paint? Is it as easy as pie?


For many people who have never known about this story, oil-based paint once ruled the entire world of interior paint for a couple of certain areas such as trim work, doors, and cabinets as well. However, due to some plausible reasons (you can check below), it has no longer been the priority when it comes to paint anymore. 

Among loads of questions related to oil-based paint, the most striking of which is always the one: “Can we be able to paint over oil-based paint”. Are you curious about that too? If saying yes, this article is for you, let’s have a glance at it!

Why don’t we generally use oil-based paint?

Back in the golden days, oil-based paint gained popularity most in the 70s and 80s, especially on trim cabinets as well as doors. That being said, whether or not you have ever heard about it, the most common paint was a product known as Satin Impervo.

There are several reasons why humans don’t use oil-based paint anymore regardless of its long history:

Painting over oil-based paint?

Can you paint over oil-based paint?

In general, latex paint (and sometimes even loads of other oil-based paints) can be easily applied over older oil-based paint as far as the surface is fully cured. Moreover, you need to make sure that there seems nothing inherent in the coating preventing another layer of paint to be added. 

Thus, preparation is indispensable. You should note that glossy surfaces will not take a second layer of paint with ease, hence, they need proper cleaning as well as priming achievable by following a couple of steps.

If are you also finding How to Paint A Staircase Railing, click here to read more detail.

How can you tell oil from others?

To recognize whether a surface has oil-based paint, we often use a test named, “The Oil Paint Test” for painters only. 

Do you wonder how to do this test? Alright, simply use denatured alcohol from some common brands, Klean Strip for instance, and then gently rub it on the surface with a rag or cotton ball. In the case that the paint doesn’t come off, the surface is transparently oil-based paint. However, if it doesn’t, then it’s either water or latex-based paint for sure.

How to paint over oil-based paint?

Step 1: De-glossing the surface

With just sandpaper, you can be able to scuff down the surface of the oil-based paint layer manually for the improvement of stickability. Aim for removing surface sheen or gloss; the goal isn’t to eliminate all the paint, just scuff up the surface so that the new primer and paint can easily adhere.

If fine-grit sandpaper isn’t working up to your expectation, switching to gentle scuffing with medium-grit sandpaper is highly recommended.

Step 2: Eliminate chips

Here you need to pry off any loose paint from the walls using either a five-in-one tool or putty knife. 

Step 3: Fill in

You should fill small gaps and holes using wood putty or wood filler and wait for the filler to dry completely. After holes have been dry, you can lightly sand gaps with fine-grit sandpaper.

Step 4: Dry clean using a tack cloth

After the surface has been completely dry, you gently use a tack cloth to wipe down the surface to catch any more dust, dirt, or sandpaper granules remaining.

Step 5: Deep clean the surface

In the case that you find the surface still exceptionally dirty and greasy even after applying a tack cloth, your best bet is to resort to TSP to do a deep cleaning before priming.

  • You are advised to mix 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (for exceptional dirty surfaces) TSP generally with a gallon of hot water.
  • Then, don’t forget to use a sponge that is damp with the TSP solution to fully wash the surfaces.
  • Attempt to wash surfaces from the bottom up to reduce streaking.
  • After you have cleaned the surface with TSP, sponge it with fresh water to rinse.
  • Finally, let the surface air dry thoroughly.

What you should know about TSP:

TSP, also known as trisodium phosphate, is a harsh effective cleaning chemical usually applied to prepare walls as well as other surfaces for paint. It acts as a deglosser also. As using it, you need to be sure of having adequate ventilation, skin, and eye protection as well.

Step 6: Prime

With the surface having been totally dry and clean of dirt, you can be able to prime the surface to keep the peeling from latex paint over oil paint.

Step 7: Paint

After the primer is dry, now you’re ready to paint without any concern related but remember to let the paint dry for at least 2 hours and then paint the surface a second time for sure.


How do you know if the paint on your walls is latex or alkyd (oil)-based?

For this easy question, you should put some denatured alcohol or even fingernail polish remover on a cloth then lightly rub it on a test area for sure whether it is latex or alkyd-based. Provided that the paint softens and is removed with ease, then it is latex paint. However, if the paint seems not to be affected by the test, it is commonly an alkyd coating.

Do you need to prime every time to freshen your walls with another layer of latex paint?

The answer is no in the sense that primers are not always necessary when repainting.

If you are trying to repaint a similar color, you just need to scuff sand to eliminate the gloss, and then clean the surface only. 

Once completed, you can simply repaint the existing latex coating without any other worry. However, generally, more than one coat may be needed for uniformity. Please keep in mind that switching sheens, or drastic color changes, may need a primer to minimize the number of topcoats to cover the original color.

Read more: How to Paint Unfinished Garage Walls?

How to apply tack cloth properly?

Tack cloth is considered to be an affordable, simple product made of cheesecloth impregnated with beeswax. Its surface will take up stray dust particles. You just need to use it gently; applying hard pressure eventually leads to a waxy surface which can be challenging to remove.

Painting over oil-based paint?