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Waterborne or solventborne

From the Resene paint and decorating problems solver

Only a few decades ago most paint jobs were completed using solventborne paint, but as waterborne paint technology has improved, there has been a huge shift to waterborne paints.

Waterborne paints are generally:

  • Thinned and cleaned up with water. Paint tools can be easily washed up in water.
  • Lower in VOC than solventborne paints, lower odour.
  • Better thermoplastic properties, stays softer and more flexible so it can cope better with movements in the substrate.
  • Faster dry time.
  • Generally more durable - better mould resistance, more resistant to chalking.
  • Less block resistant than solventborne paints, however waterborne enamel technology has much better block resistance.

Solventborne paints are generally:

  • Thinned and cleaned up with other solvents, such as turps.
  • High in VOC, high in odour, flammable.
  • Harder finish than waterborne paint, making it easier to wipe, but will tend to become brittle as the paint ages.
  • Easier to achieve a higher gloss level than waterborne equivalents.
  • Excellent block resistance – i.e. it won’t stick to itself when two painted surfaces come into contact.
  • More tolerant of adverse weather conditions (e.g. humidity) during the drying period.

Resene recommends you use waterborne paints wherever you can as most people find them easier to use. Some decorators may prefer to use solventborne paints on surfaces such as trim and joinery and in bathrooms and kitchens, where surfaces may be more prone to grease, scuffing, high humidity, moisture or where surfaces are pressed together.

You can tell whether a paint is waterborne with a quick meths test. Clean the paint surface then using a rag with methylated spirits rub the paintwork. If the paint dissolves it is waterborne paint.


Resene Paint and Decorating Problems Solver
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