Paints in Tins with paint brushes

You’ve found yourself wanting to paint your nursery, home office, or newly renovated kitchen. You’ve selected your colour scheme and you’re ready to go paint shopping! You walk into the store, confidently walk up to the paint bar and show the gentleman in front of you the colours you’re looking for. He nods and with a smile asks, “Will you be needing a water or solvent-based paint?”. You feel your hands clam up, your throat dries, and suddenly the confidence you once had is gone! Who knew there were two types and what do these mean?! We’d like to put the bounce back into your step and help you make an informed decision the next time you’re paint shopping or wanting to simply know what kind of paint has been used on the new home you’ve just bought!

Like all good stories, we should start at the beginning! A solvent is a substance that dissolves a solute, an example of this would be the way that water dissolves a grain of sugar, although the presence of the sugar lingers in the solution and can be tasted. Water is the most universal solvent due to its ability to dissolve more substances than any other liquid.

How are solvent-based paints different from water-based paints?

  • Nowadays solvent-based paints are used a lot less than in previous years. The uses of solvent-based paints are more focused on covering doors, window frames, metal structures, and items of this kind. The new kid on the block is of course water-based paints that are used more widely on the interior and exterior of your walls.
  • Countries like the UK and USA have somewhat removed the use of solvent-based paints due to their negative effects on the environment. South Africa has made a conscious effort to adopt this movement to lessen pollution and preserve the environment.
  • Interesting fact – clear sealants used on concrete can alter the appearance of the concrete finish depending on whether the sealant is water or solvent-based. While water-based sealants preserve the natural look of the concrete, solvent-based sealants bring out the colour of the concrete and showcase its vibrancy.  

The liquid element of the paint solution that evaporates as the paint dries is known as the solvent. Solvent-based paints are made up of natural or synthetic oil (solvent) making this type of paint stronger to withstand adverse weather conditions. Due to its properties, there are higher volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted as gases when painting and therefore causing a strong ‘new paint smell’. Due to its durability, solvent-based paint is ideal for wear and tear and has a higher sheen although this tends to fade and yellow over time.

On the other hand, water-based paints have lesser VOCs which means that it has less of a paint smell than that of a solvent-based paint, making the use of this paint more pleasant. Water-based paints can come in two variants, latex and acrylic, and it is best to seek professional advice on what you would like to paint before selecting one of these. Because of the nature of water-based paints they can expand and contract in weather conditions such as temperature change, making water-based paints less likely to crack. Although these paints hold their sheen longer over time, they do have less of a sheen than solvent-based paints.

Drying times: Generally speaking, water-based paints take less time to dry than solvent-based paints. Although, this is just a generalisation, and some water-based paints may take longer to dry than solvent-based paints owing to the brand of a product and its composition.

What to do to ensure that the paint odour does not linger:

The best way to prevent a paint smell from lingering in your home or office space after painting your walls is to ensure that the room is well ventilated! Open as many windows and doors as possible and remove all furnishings of a softer textile as these may hold onto the odour in their material.

How can I tell if I have water or solvent-based paint on my walls?

In one easy step, you can identify what type of paint has been used on your walls. Apply some lacquer thinners onto a cloth and wipe down a small section of your wall in a discreet area. If after you have done this there is residual paint left behind on your cloth, then you have solvent-based paint on your wall. Should there be no colour residue left behind this will indicate that there is water-based paint applied to your walls.

Our recommendation to remove paint:

Solvent-based paint: A solvent-based paint stripper will need to be used here, we suggest trying our K58C Paint Remover product. Click here to view this product:

Water-based paint: Generally speaking, a water-based paint is very difficult to remove although we would recommend the Powafix Aquastrip Paint Remover product. Click here to view this product:

Can I tell if a paint is water or solvent-based looking at its packaging?

The answer here is yes! Due to the nature of water-based paints, if contained in a steel tin, rusting will occur. Thus, all water-based paints come in a plastic container while solvent-based paints are packaged in a steel tin.

To find out more visit our specialist paint-bar team in-store to find the right type of paint for your walls! Find us at 176 Victoria Road, Pietermaritzburg.

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