Latex vs Enamel Paint | Everything You Need to Know

By Mandy Moss

Even though latex is the most used, Enamel paint serves a purpose in your home as well. There are a variety of paints available, ranging from oil to water-based, some of which are preferable for exterior use and others for interior use. It also comes in a variety of vibrant hues that can liven up your space.

The main difference between Latex and Enamel based is that latex is water-based and enamel is oil-based. Latex is used more for big projects around the house, while Enamel pain tends to be used for finishing touches on an appliance.

What is Enamel Paint ?

The original term came from the practice of glass casing. Enamel paint mimics that look and is best known for its ability to harden into a glossy shell. Which makes it quite popular for hobbyist since can help provide durability for smaller craftsmanship. It is usually oil-based, so once it dries, it repels water and stains quite effectively.

Though most enamel is oil-based, some water-based enamel has started to emerge in the market. As the definition has changed to make it broader, not all enamel paint is oil-based. However, most things here still apply its good to keep an eye out as there is some difference between water-based enamel paint and oil-based.

NOTE:  it isn't genuine enamel which is glass melted at extremely high heat onto metal or ceramics. There isn't any glass in enamel paint, but it gets the name from its glossy and glass-like appearance once dried.
What is Enamel Paint?

What is Enamel Paint Used For?

It is most popularly used on models and appliances to help increase durability and give some color, especially since it can create a shell around the object. So it isn’t reliable for things like walls or large objects unless you want your walls to have a glossy shell look.

It can help give a slight increase in durability for small items and a glossy look. Enamel paint is also used on cars that help give them a metallic appearance. It’s excellent for appliances and objects that will be used often.

Some examples that enamel paint can be used on are refrigerator, door, cabinets, handrails, dishwashers, etc. Household appliances are its most common application.

What are the Advantages of Enamel Paint?

With a basic idea of what Enamel paint can provide to your home, here are the benefits the paint can provide:

  • Durability
  • Water-Proof
  • Heat-resistant
  • Easy washability
  • Quick Cure Time
  • Excellent Adhesion to most surfaces


The glossy shell that Enamal creates once fully dries can help to protect for whatever it is covering. So it doesn’t crack or break easily, which can be helpful for items often used like doors or furniture. Which is helpful for furniture, flooring, and porches to last for a long time.

Is Enamel Paint Waterproof

Yes, enamel paint is waterproof if it is oil- or lacquer-based. When using oil-based or lacquer-based enamel paint, not only does the shell provide durability, it also repels water completely. This paint is perfect on metal appliances or on metal objects that are outside to prevent rusting.

NOTE: Even water-based enamel has been shown to be quite resistant to weather changes.


Unlike most paint, enamel paint is heat resistant, meaning it can withstand high temperatures. Enamel paint can withstand up to 600F degrees, some even reaching 750 degrees. This paint allows you to use it on stoves and grills without worrying about it burning off.

NOTE: It's resistant, not flameproof, so it should never be used in the interior or a furnace or stove.

Easy Washability

Since enamel is entirely water-proof once dried, it makes it easy to clean the appliances with water and soap. This ease could be beneficial if you spilled food or dirt on the item. This allows you to clean it off with relative ease without worrying about wiping the paint off.

Quick Cure Time

While it can take longer to dry than latex, it can cure in only twenty-four hours. Compared to latex, once its surface is dried, it likely means it is dry all the way through, only needing a day to fully harden.

Excellent Adhesion to most surface

Compared to latex paint, there are various surfaces that enamel paint can be used on. It can be used on a slick surface like glass to porous surfaces like wood. Here is the list:

  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Aluminum
  • Galvanized steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Caulking
  • Plastic
  • Porcelain
  • Ceramic

What Are the Disadvantages of Enamel Paint?

For all of its benefits, there are some downsides to this paint to keep in mind. For example, the chemicals that are used in it or its very properties.

  • Toxic
  • Flammable
  • Slow Drying time
  • Easily scratched
  • Difficult Cleanup
  • Expensive


The oil-based and lacquer-based enamel fumes that come off the paint can be irritating and harmful, especially with constant exposure since it slowly dries. This means you shouldn’t keep it in a closed room and keep the room ventilated as it dries.

NOTE: This problem doesn't apply to water-based enamel as it has fewer chemicals.


The chemicals that make it toxic also make enamel highly flammable while it is wet. This flammability is something to watch out for as there are spray can versions of enamel paint. So make sure not to have any fire or sparks around when working.

Slow Drying Time

Enamel takes a long time to dry as the average wait time can be from eight hours to twenty-four hours to cure. However, there is some water-based enamel that can dry to the touch in an hour. If you are willing to, you can trade out its ability to be durable with a shorter drying time and less toxic fumes.

Easily Scratched

While it provides a hard shell once it hardens, it isn’t scratch resistant, and if something sharp scratches, it shows. So you will need to be careful of sharp objects hitting against it, ruining the paint.

NOTE: There are, of course, ways to fix this issue, usually by sanding the whole area and repainting it, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Difficult to Cleanup

Because of its oil-based properties, if it dries on a surface you didn’t intend to paint, it can be challenging to clean. As it will dry and become difficult to remove since it is water-proof and durable. Meaning it will need to be pried off with a scraper, sandpaper, or use harsh chemicals.


This leads to the final disadvantage of enamel paint. Compared to latex, it is very costly if getting oil-based or lacquer-based. For example, a car body shop can reach to hundred dollars on your car for a deep scratch to be repaired. Though painting it yourself can be cheaper, it can still be quite pricey.

What is Latex paint?

What is Latex paint?

Just like enamel doesn’t have any glass, latex doesn’t have any actual latex in it. The name refers to its aqueous dispersion and how it looks like latex in the can. Which can put peace of mind to those that might have a latex allergy that they can use the paint and touch it with no fears.

It is also the most commonly used paint in the modern-day, giving it a wide variety of use and purpose. Some are specifically made to resist mold and mildew, and some are better suited outdoors. Even latex paint imitates enamel, though it is water-based, so it isn’t precisely like it. This is something to keep in mind.

What is Latex paint used for?

Latex Paint is a general-purpose paint used for both interior and exterior projects because of its cheap cost in large quantities. It is generally water-based tho there are some oil-based versions. However, just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s low quality.

There is a wide variety of water-based latex that resist mold and adhere to most surfaces. Its non-toxic nature makes it welcomed in many people’s homes. This is why it is most commonly used to paint walls both inside and out.

Is Latex paint water proof?

No! Latex paint is not waterproof, but it is water-resistant. This means that it can withstand some moisture, but it will not hold up to constant exposure to water. If you are painting a surface that will be exposed to a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen, you should use a paint that is specifically designed for waterproof applications.

What Are the Disadvantages of Latex Paint?

After talking about enamel, it’s time to show what latex has to offer in this comparison.

  • Non-toxic
  • Cheaper
  • Easy cleanup
  • Variety of finish and needs
  • Quick Drying


While Enamel is known for its toxic properties, latex has a low, almost non-existent odor. Which can make painting a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about breathing in toxins. Especially when compared to enamel paint which contains a lot of chemicals to provide its shell-like appearance.

Note: Some variations of latex can have some toxins if you get acrylic latex or enamel latex. Check for warnings labels if this is the case and always make sure to keep the room ventilated.


Compared to enamel paint, latex is usually half the price of enamel paint, so you can get more of it for cheap. Which is what makes it great for big projects compared to enamel.

Easy cleanup

Since latex is water-based, if there’s a spill or accident with the paint, it can easily be removed with soap and water. This makes cleaning up after a project easier than enamel, which needs a solid solvent to remove it.

Variety of Finish and needs

While enamel only has a glossy shell-like appearance, latex can come in various appearances once finished. Like Matte, satin, flat and eggshell finish can even have a glossy appearance like enamel. Giving it a bit more flexibility in terms of appearance compared to enamel.

Also, there are tons of variety for your needs, like if you want to prevent mold and mildew. It also tends to have better coverage making it easy for even beginner painters to use.

Quick Drying

Another great benefit of latex is that it is quicker to dry to the touch compared to Enamel. Some Latex can dry in an hour after painting to the touch. Which is great on walls since it means you can do multiple coats in a brief period.

What’s the Difference Between Latex and Enamel Paint

While compared to enamel, it certainly seems like a cheaper and easier to use paint. However, there are still some disadvantages to keep in mind when choosing this:

  • Limited surface
  • Long Cure Time
  • Known to Blister and Crack
  • Not applicable to appliances

Limited Surface

Because latex is usually a water-based paint, it doesn’t work on most surfaces. If you are using this paint on metal objects, it would need a primer, and even wood surfaces can crack during sudden weather changes. If trying to paint over oil-based paint, make sure to prime it.

Long Cure Time

While it can dry fast to the touch, it actually has a high cure time, meaning that it doesn’t fully dry completely. Usually takes two weeks, and during that time, it can crack and fracture the paint.

NOTE: If you used latex for an outdoor project and it rains or is humid, you might need to do a second coat of paint.

Blister and Cracks

Because it isn’t water-proof and is vulnerable to temperature, it can easily crack even after it’s been dried. Easily peeling and fracturing during sudden weather changes.

Not for appliances

Latex doesn’t have either of those qualities compared to the enamel, which is water and heat-resistant. Meaning it can get burned and peeled at a hot enough temperature, even if on the outside. If you were looking to paint on things like stoves or barbecue, this isn’t the paint for that.

Similarities between Latex and Enamel

While Latex and Enamel are diametrically opposed, they do have some characteristics. Latex paint that works like enamel has also been developed. This is where water-based enamel comes in, and you can say it has all of the same properties as latex enamel.

Both are also quite popular for trims and doors since both can give a lovely gloss finish. They are known for their use on various objects, and both usually will need a primer for the job required for best results.

Can you paint over Enamel with Latex and vice versa?

You can paint over it directly only if you prep it. Enamel has a very glossy finish, making it hard for latex to adhere to. It will need to be sanded and primed before painting over it. It attaches to it easier if it has water-based enamel since it won’t peel as easily.

This is because enamel paint tends to be oil-based, so if you try to paint over it with latex, then you will have more issues. Because of its water-resistant nature, the enamel paint will make it hard for the latex to stick and cause it to peel and crack when dried.

When it comes to using enamel paint over latex paint, it can stick a lot easier. Simply needing a primer to help it adhere to the surface of the latex to create a shell.

Enamel vs Latex for Painting Wood and Cabinets

When selecting paint for wood surfaces like cabinets or furniture, you have two main options – enamel or latex paint. Here is how I compare the two based on my experience:

Key Differences

  • Enamel paints contain solvents while latex paints are water-based. Enamel fumes can be strong.
  • Enamel dries to a harder finish than latex. It is more durable and scratch-resistant.
  • Latex paint is easier to apply and clean up since it is water-based. Enamel requires paint thinner for cleanup.
  • Enamel adheres better on slick surfaces like cabinet doors, but latex works fine on sanded wood.
  • Latex is more forgiving since it dries slower than enamel. Quick-drying enamel is harder to blend.


  • For high-traffic cabinets, I recommend oil-based enamel for its toughness and smooth finish.
  • For furniture and trims, either enamel or latex work well depending on your project needs and preferences.
  • For DIY beginners, water-based latex may be easier to work with than smelly enamel that requires solvents.
  • Proper prep is crucial – sand, clean, prime, and apply topcoats of any paint properly on bare wood.

Related Questions

What is latex enamel paint

Latex enamel paint is a water-based enamel paint that combines features from both latex and traditional enamel paints.

The main benefits of latex enamel paint include:

  • More durable finish than standard latex paint
  • Provides moderate protection against scratches, scuffs, etc.
  • Dries fairly quickly like latex paint, usually within an hour
  • Lower odor than solvent-based enamels
  • Water-clean up instead of harsh paint thinners
  • Available in a wide range of sheens from matte to glossy

Latex enamel is commonly used for situations where you want added durability without the hassle of traditional enamel:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens
  • Doors, cabinets, and trim
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Kids’ rooms
  • High-traffic areas

Can you mix latex and enamel paint?

No, while they may both be water-based, they are too dissimilar to be mixed together. It will ruin the glossy appearance that enamel provides and make latex less flexible on the painted surface. So while you can combine them, it will not offer a satisfying result and create a paint that lacks both of their best qualities.

Is enamel paint better than latex?

In my experience, enamel paint provides a harder, more durable finish than latex paint. However, latex paint is easier to apply and clean up. So enamel is better than latex for surfaces that need extra toughness like cabinets or outdoor furniture. But latex is often better for indoor walls and ceilings where easy soap and water cleanup is preferable.

Is enamel the same as latex?

No, enamel and latex paints have different compositions. Enamel paints use oil-based solvents while latex paints are water-based. Enamel also dries to a harder, glossier finish compared to latex. So while both provide color and protection to surfaces, their makeup and characteristics are quite different.

Is latex enamel paint water-based

Yes, latex enamel paint is water-based like regular latex paint. It combines the smoothing, easy cleanup properties of latex paint with some of the toughness of solvent-based enamel. Latex enamel dries harder than regular latex and provides greater durability, especially for trim and doors. But it does not yellow or become as brittle as traditional enamel over time.

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