How to identify type of paint on walls

hostaheaven-618January 11, 2009


After reading the post on using acrylic paint over oil paint, I'm now wondering what type of paint is on the walls of the house we just bought. The paint is shiny, does that mean it's an oil based paint? Is there any test to determine if it is oil vs acrylic? Also, the walls have a texture on them - I would estimate that 50% of the wall space is raised by maybe 1/16 of an inch, but smooth. If I have to prep these walls, how do I do it? Thanks so much for your help.


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It's unlikely that the walls are painted with oil based paint. Most times when oil was used, it was used on trim and cabinets. You can get some denatured alcohol on a rag and try to wipe the paint off. If it comes off, that means it is latex paint. Denatured alcohol will do nothing to oil based paint. Shiny paints can be latex or oil. For the prep you can wash or sand, whichever is more feasible to do when the walls are textured.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 8:55AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

It doesn't matter.

Clean and dull and repaint.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 11:29AM
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Paintguy and Michael, thank you so much for your responses. I found an old paint can that I think was used on the inside walls and it's latex, so you were right. I'll prep and start painting as soon as I pick a color I like.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 3:13PM
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oh, but it DOES matter. I am in the process of stripping two layers of latex off my master bathroom vanity. It tested as latex...but I think it must have been oil. Washed with tsp...roughed up surface with fine sandpaper...leaned off dust...painted with Aura semigloss. In places it will peel off with a fingernail.

I KNEW I should have primed in between...I always prime if I don't know for certain-sure what the base paint is...but I was in a hurry and Aura is supposed to be self-priming.

And now I have a major adhesion mess.

Never hurry.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 5:53PM
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Well maybe washing with tsp was a bad choice since that stuff has to be rinsed so well there is really no reason to use it since there are other comparable products that do the same job. Also, latex paint takes a while to cure...up to 6 weeks depending on drying conditions. It will be most durable after full cure.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 6:33PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

You may have hurried the Aura. I've painted furnitute with the satin and the semi. It was well over a month before it didn't yeild to a fingernail push and *felt squishy*. On the satin piece, I was beginning to worry if it would ever cure, set up. Eventually it did.

I don't know what it is about TSP, you're not alone in using it. A lot of people choose to. But like PaintGuy states, there are other choices if you really need to take that kind of step in your process.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 3:54AM
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About people and TSP--my dad is in his 70s and keeps telling me to use TSP to wash my walls after I remove the wallpaper. I've told him about Dirtex, but he keeps talking about TSP. So I just nod, and keep on using the Dirtex. :-)

Maybe it's a generational thing...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 8:44AM
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I used liquid TSP...very water. And I rinsed twice, as I always do. Then let dry for 24 hours. I'm 49--but my mom taught me to paint--so maybe it is a generational thing. Next time I'll use Dirtex!

I'm headed to the paint store shortly. If it's just a curing thing...I'm going to kick myself. I spent four hours scraping yesterday.

OTOH...where it is holding tight...can I just sand it to an even surface and repaint? Should I prime? Or does it all need to come off? (please say it doesn't. Please!) And should I declare the master BR "Off limits" for a month while the paint cures? That would be a royal pain. I'd consider swithching back to BM's standard paint...but I really like the Mascarpone as a white. Warm, not too yellow...

ugh. I'll let y'all know what my "paint guy" says....and I am anxious to see any replies y'all make. I should have posted on here before I started picking at the paint...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 8:58AM
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Yes, you can just sand the areas where the paint peeled off and leave the areas that are adhered alone. If it's stuck, it is stuck. I would prime though after everything is sanded smooth.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 7:42PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

I'd consider swithching back to BM's standard paint...

Any latex paint takes 30 days to cure,you do not need to vacate the room, just do not scratch at it with your fingernails.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 4:49AM
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Hi mjsee, I also like the BM Marscapone white! Thanks for mentioning it. Last month, I painted a sample dry wall square in Marscapone as I was considering it for my dining room. While I decided it was a little too 'bright' for my dining room, I think it is a nice off-white color. (For my dining room, I'm now almost decided on BM's Linen White.)

Can you visit your local BM store and see if they can do the Marscapone color in a BM standard paint? My local BM store folks are very knowledgeable.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:51AM
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Christophern--I wasn't actually scratching at it with my fingernails...the initial "dinging" happened when my husband was drilling holes for the new hardware. I know, I know. I should have had him drill them before I painted, not after. The man travels for work, and I got impatient.

la koala--As I understand it, the Aura colors are only formulated for Aura paint.

paintguy--I'm back to "ground zero" with the paint...everything is scraped back and I've primed it all. I think I figured out what happened. I think the layer I tested WAS latex. But underneath there was an oil...and when I put the Aura paint on it somehow softened the existing latex, hence the peeling.

When I tried covering the stuff I thought was tight with Fresh Start Primer the remaining paint just sheeted off, leaving behind a putty colored, obviously alkyd enamel paint.Completely different color than the "latex" I was covering. The whole experience reminded me of using fingernail polish as a remover when one doesn't have any remover available. (The ladies will know what I'm talking about!) So now all is well...and primed (2 coats to be sure!)...and I'll start re-painting with Aura tomorrow. Only cost me a week...and a quart of Aura...and a little sanity.

Live and learn. Of course, with the incompatibility that showed up when I primed with the fresh-start...I'm not certain it would have mattered if I'd primed in the first place. It was weird...never seen anything like it before. Hope I never see anything like it again!

Thanks to all for the advice an support. I'll post pictures when I'm completely finished. (No befores...I'm terrible about that...but I'll take lots of afters.)

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 3:17PM
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mjsee, any pics to post and any updates? Did you ended up staying with the Aura?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:57PM
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Denatured alcohol softens latex/acrylic paint, but not oil. So that's the test I'd use.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 1:22PM
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