paint-rollerAlthough the terms are often used interchangeably, drying and curing paint are not the same. It only takes hours for both latex and oil-based paints to dry, but it can take days or even weeks for paint to completely cure.

As paint dries, water and solvents evaporate, leaving the pigment and other compounds to bind together and harden. Paint is considered dry when enough solvents have evaporated to allow it to be dry to the touch and no longer feel sticky or tacky. Paint is cured when all solvents that can evaporate have and it reaches its maximum hardness.

When paint has not yet cured, it’s fragile and needs to be handled gently. It shouldn’t be wiped or washed because the paint can react to water and chemicals. You should also avoid hanging objects or setting things down on a freshly painted surface until the paint has cured. It leaves indentations that can’t be rubbed out.

Latex Based Paint

Latex paint is known for its quick drying time. Unlike other paints, latex dries from the outside in. This causes it to have a longer curing time than others.

  • Although times vary based on conditions, most latex paints are dry within one to three hours.
  • A second or third coat can typically be applied within three to five hours.
  • Because latex paint dries on the outside first, it takes at least 14 days for it to cure. If the paint is in an area with bad curing conditions, it could take up to 30 days.

Oil Based Paint

Oil paint isn’t as popular as it once was, mostly because it takes so long to dry and can take days to get multiple coats on. However, oil paint cures quickly. This is because it dries on the inside first and moves outward.

  • Like latex paint, oil paint varies in dry time, although most oil based paints are dry to the touch in six to eight hours.
  • Second coats can be applied in eight to ten hours, but many people do it the following day. This ensures the paint is dry even when conditions are not perfect.
  • Oil paint is cured within three to seven days. This is much quicker than all other paints and makes it a favorite for floors and trim.

Tips and Hints

  • If you’re unsure if your paint is cured, find an out of the way place and press your fingernail into the paint. If it leaves an indentation or mark, the paint isn’t cured.
  • Make sure you give your paint the right conditions to dry and cure. It needs ventilation, mild humidity, and temperatures that aren’t too low.
  • If the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for paint to dry or cure properly. In the same regards, if the humidity level is above 90, there’s too much moisture in the air for the paint to dry or cure well.
  • Quicken dry time by running box fans on fresh paint. This increases ventilation and lowers humidity.