While skulking about in the parts of the internet where only Paint Geeks dwell, I came upon a post titled “My Opinion of Oil-based Paint“. As this defies all known logic in the residential paint world I, of course, read it.
It’s opinion, yes – and I disagree. Painters, like lawyers and other circus entertainers, often disagree – ask ten painters and you’ll get 12 opinions. What got my interest was a response to the original post from a PPG technical service rep.
The techno-quote is edited below, but here’s the gist:
- Oil paint is smelly
- Oil paint is bad for the environment
- Oil paint cracks easily
- Oil paint yellows
- Oil paint requires solvent to clean painting tools
Now, there are some redeeming qualities:
It was great to use an oil and/or varnish that flowed and left a glass-like finish, but we were all writing a check we will probably have to cash later concerning our health.
- Oil paint scrubs very well (but so does modern latex)
- Oil paint flows very well for a smooth, glassy appearance (but so does modern latex)
Remember the geek in your Chemistry class? He’s now working for a billion dollar paint corporation and has devised a was to encapsulate oil molecules in water! This means that as the water in the paint dries what is left behind on your wall is oil paint. Same durability, more flexibility, better color retention, no fading, no chalking, no cracking. And soap & water clean-up. Yes, folks – this is truly Better Living Through Chemistry.
Here’s the edited comments from the technical rep:
Oil base paints have a tendency to oxidize become brittle and yellow over time due to the long chain chemistry in linseed oil and mineral spirits in most resins being used. Over time, the coating loses it ability to absorb UV and other attribute like elasticity resulting in hair line cracking. I am sure we all experience the lesson of painting the inside of kitchen cabinets with an oil base coating and closing down the lights when done, only to awaken to a coating that has yellowed. Alkyds/oil base coatings need to be exposed to UV light until thoroughly cured to avoid it turning yellow along with not being exposed to ammonia-containing products. High UV exposure – they also have a tendency to fade when used with dark color containing a lower LRV (Light Reflectance Values). That is not to say that back in the day I too also love it, however never realized the amount of solvent it took to create the product creating such high levels of VOC’s and once you take away the solvents the leveling and flow cease. It was great to use an oil and/or varnish that flowed and left a glass like finish, but we were all writing a check we will probably have to cash later concerning our health. With that being said, however I agree we do need some oil base coating in order to properly prepare lots of exterior/interior type substrates with chemistry that does not agree with water-containing coatings.