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How Long Does It Take Paint to Dry?

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Are you painting your walls, and you find yourself checking to see if they are dry? Or are you anxiously thinking- it’s been hours it’s got to be dry, but not sure when you can hang up your favorite painting?

This article will explore the dry times of different paints, mainly the commonly used –latex and oil-based paints.

Planning and patience will help prevent you from ruining your walls by painting them before they are fully dry. A straightforward approach to planning by selecting paint types and understanding recoat times can lessen mistakes or redo sections.

Patience is a virtue, and understanding dry/cure times will leave you with surfaces looking fantastic!

Different types of paint and other drying techniques affect the drying time. Understanding the differences could be the vital step between having an uneven texture or visible smudges.

Perfecting your knowledge of oil and water-based products and having a handle on dry times will make painting a whole lot easier! Trusted House Painter was founded by Paul, who has years of experience painting and managing paint projects. He is eager to pass on his knowledge to you.

Also, if you are wondering how often you should paint your house check out our resources on that!

Difference Between Paint Drying and Paint Curing

Do you know the difference between paint drying and paint curing? If not, it’s essential to understand the difference! Many people understand drying and curing as if they are the same thing, but they are not.

Dry:

In simple terms, dry paint is literally when the paint is dry to the touch. When the solvents inside the paint evaporate, the resin and pigment form a coat of paint and dry quickly, getting rid of the tacky consistency.

Typically paint takes around one hour to eight hours to dry. However, if you are planning to put on a second or third coat, it’s recommended you wait for a short while after the first coat is completely dry.

The manufacturer’s directions will guide you on the dry times; if unsure, check them to make sure you are waiting long enough.

Cure:

Unlike drying, curing can take days and sometimes weeks to be fully set and ready for the photos. The paint needs to hit its maximum hardness, and all solvents need to evaporate for curing to occur.

If you do not allow your paint to cure correctly, the fragility of the paint may muck up your paint job. Bumping into the painted object or hanging anything up can cause deep indents that are irremovable. Locate a spot that’s hidden and gently push your fingernail into the surface to figure out if your paint is 100% cured.

Key Insight: Make sure you check out the directions from the manufacturers on your tin of paint. They usually refer to dry times, not cure times. Particularly with furniture, you want to wait till the paint is cured to avoid marks or indentations that cannot be removed.

Different Paint Types That Affect How Long It Takes Paint to Dry

People tend to use two main types of paint when painting their homes, Oil-based paints or Latex-based paints. Understanding the variations between these two paint types will help you understand the differences in dry time between them.

Oil-Based Paints

Oil-based paints contain natural linseed or synthetic alkyd oil, which are both tough and durable, making them good choices for interior doors, bathroom cabinets, and exterior house painting jobs.

Also, because moisture build up in your bathroom tends to be high, the durability and toughness of oil-based paints will be suitable for painting behind your toilet.

This paint type is excellent for painting metals. It clings well to the surface, helping to protect the metal from outside elements that can cause rust over time. Oil paints cure a lot quicker than any other paint variety- taking around three to seven days to be completely set.

However, oil-based paints used to be a popular option in homes but are becoming increasingly unpopular for a few reasons. Oil-based paints are challenging to clean and smell unpleasant. Despite having quick cure times, oil-based paint has slow dry times. Each coat you apply can take between six and eight hours to dry, and approx. 24 hours before the next coat should be applied. Generally meaning the second coat can’t be used until the following day.

Latex Based Paints

Latex-based paints use water as their solvent and are deemed a lot safer to use than oil-based paints. Oil-based paints release a lot of fumes.

Latex-based paints are suitable for either interior or exterior jobs; this paint can be used on ceilings and walls. Unlike oil-based products, latex paints are not recommended for use on metal as it does not protect the metal from rust.

One of the significant differences between latex-based paints and their oily counterparts is the amount of time it takes to dry. Typically, after applying the first coat, it takes around one hour to dry to touch and four hours until you can consider applying another coat.

Along with quick drying times, another huge benefit is how easily the painted product can be cleaned. With speedily dry times and short cleaning times comes a long cure time. Latex paint can usually cure within about two weeks in good conditions. However, in less ideal conditions, some paints can take up to 30 days to cure (or longer)!

Recap: When choosing your paint type, check what surfaces each one is suited for. Oil-based paints are recommended for interior doors, cabinets, and metals due to their durability. Latex-based paints are more suited for ceilings (popcorn ceilings as well) and walls as they are washable with soap and water after drying. Oil-based paints take a longer time to dry, roughly between 6-8 hours to be touch dry and 24 hours until you apply another coat, whereas latex-based paints dry within 1 hour, and you can apply another coat after 4 hours.

What Factors Impact How Long It Takes for Paint to Dry?

There are several factors that affect drying times. Where, how, and when you paint can make changes to dry times, and these factors must be considered before you begin your project.

Woman at home deep in thoughts thinking and planning

Humidity:

High humidity has a significant impact on how long it takes for paint to dry. This is because the more humid a room is, the more moisture is present in the air. When the moisture levels are high, the water within the paint cannot evaporate as efficiently, potentially creating visible damage on the final coat of paint.

For example- if it’s been a little rainy outside, this increases the humidity level in the air, so it would be a bad time to paint. Painting with the humidity at around 50%or lower will produce the fastest drying times.

Tip: Using a dehumidifier in the room you plan to paint can help you to control the level of humidity.

Temperature:

The temperature of the area you are painting also affects how well or quickly the paint cures or dries. Setting the proper temperatures is vital as it can affect the look of your final product, and after all that hard work, you do not want to ruin it!

 Depending on the type of paint you are using, your room temperature must be ideal. If using latex paint, set the area to between 50- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. If choosing to work with oil-based paints, the perfect temperature is around 40- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Painting in an air-conditioned space, where you can set the thermostat at the appropriate temperatures, will help to speed up the drying times!

Tip: Selecting the proper temperatures depends on the paint you use and is essential to the overall result of your painted area! If the temperature is too hot, the paint may dry too quickly on the top layer, meaning the layer underneath isn’t completely dry, leaving bumps and blisters (no, thank you). Temperatures below ideal ranges simply mean the paint won’t be able to dry.

Ventilation:

Ventilation is a substantial contributing factor to how quickly your paint will dry. If the space is well ventilated, then the paint will dry quicker. If the area doesn’t have the best ventilation, other contributing factors like temperature and humidity will prevent the paint from drying quickly. Simply opening a window can help to allow the water molecules to evaporate. 

The starting surface plays a role:

Naturally, the surface that you paint plays a role in the length of drying time- so there’s not much you can do about this one. For example, if you paint over a surface that’s already been covered, it will take longer to dry than an unpainted wall or raw wood.

Keep in Mind: Brushes tend to apply thicker coats. Use them where needed but don’t overuse your brush (brushes are suitable for cutting your lines between the ceiling and walls or around protrusions like door frames).

Infographic displaying how long paint takes to dry and the related factors
Paul With Trusted House Painter Breaks Down ” How Long Does It Takes Paint To Dry”

FAQ:

How do I check if my paint is completely dry?

There’s not a way to check other than by touching the painted area. However, touch a hidden place so if it is wet, it’s not too visible. You want the paint to feel dry to touch; if it’s still a little tacky, it may need a few more hours.

After my paint is cured- how long should I wait to hang photos or other objects?

Depending on the type of paint used, curing times are different. Oil-based paints take around 7 days whereas latex paints take up to 30 days (and sometimes longer). Ensuring surfaces are fully cured is detrimental and the fine line between indentations/marks or a beautifully painted area.

Is it best to wait until the paint is dry or fully cured?

This is down to personal choice, but bear in mind the differences between the two when deciding. Paint drying is when the solvents evaporate from the paint, leaving it feeling dry to touch, although it is not 100% ‘dry.’ Cured paint is when your paintwork has reached maximum hardness and is therefore wholly 100% dry.

When can I sleep in a room that’s freshly painted?

Water-based paints are much more popular as they release less harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than oil-based paints, so they are preferred for interior jobs. Although fewer gases and odors are released with water-based paints, it is still crucial that you wait a minimum of 4 hours before sleeping in the painted area. Oil-based paints release more VOCs, so ensure 24 hours pass before preparing to take a nap in your new room.

What are the implications of applying a second coat too soon?

If you do not follow the suggested recoat times, it’s possible to weaken the bond between the paint and the surface- meaning the paint can crack, peel or even blister. Therefore the 4-hour time frame is vital for latex paints and 24 hours between coats for oil-based paints. If the paint is still tacky (slightly wet), you will end up with partially dried paint clumps in your second coat.

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