Latex has won the paint wars
Increasingly, house paint means latex paint. Water, rather than oils or alkyds, makes up the carrier, a liquid that disperses other ingredients into a uniform paint film. one reason for the shift toward latex paint is tougher government regulations on the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) allowed in paint. Another is that latex paints perform well, especially outside, and now rival the workability of oil-based paint.
Manufacturers haven’t abandoned oil paints, but that’s not where their money is going. “they are not investing research-and-development dollars into alkyd technology,” says Steven Revnew, marketing director at Sherwin-Williams. “It’s all going into waterborne technology.”
Professional painters have made the switch, too, although some prefer oil-based paints for high-wear surfaces like handrails or kitchen cabinets because they think the paint film is harder and more durable. Tim Leahy, a painter in Newport, R.I., loves the “beautiful, hard, glossy oil shine” and the way oil-based paint behaves in spray equipment. Leahy also likes exterior oil-based primer because it soaks deep into raw wood.
Leahy isn’t alone, but latex paint is getting undeniably better as oil-based paint becomes harder to find. “the reasons for using oil are shrinking as each year goes by,” Richmond, Va., painter Brian Doherty says, somewhat wistfully.