Oil-Based Paints – Questions and Answers

By Mike Gregory


I’ve been a professional decorator, and decorating geek for the best part of two decades. In that time, I’ve used an array of different products. I thought I’d take a little bit of time to sit down and talk you though the most commonly asked questions surrounding oil-based paints such as gloss, satinwood and eggshell. I hope you find it useful.


Why does oil-based paint go yellow?


The discolouration of oil-based paints over time is known as “yellowing”. This occurs because the oil, (usually linseed oil), bleeds through the paint finish, almost like a stain. Yellowing never used to be much of an issue, however tighter and tighter EU rules have restricted the amount of chemicals known as VOCs each paint manufacturer can use. It is these VOCs that once prevented oil-based paint from going yellow. Luckily, as oil-based paint has diminished in quality, water-based technology has come a long way.


Does oil-based undercoat go yellow?


Not really, oil-based undercoat doesn’t contain very much oil compared to the finish products. That said, undercoat should not be left as a finish. After all, it’s designed to act as a base for other products to stick to. If left, you will find it difficult to keep clean.


How do you keep white oil-based paint from turning yellow?


The first thing to do is opt for a trade quality paint and spend a bit of time looking at the various different products available. If you want a gloss finish, have a look through this comparison guide and choose something you think will last. Make sure you use an interior product too.

Paint will not yellow as quickly if it is exposed to UV light. You’ll often notice paint in rooms such as hallways will yellow rather quickly and the back of cupboard doors can yellow within weeks!!


Does oil-based satinwood go Yellow?


Yes, oil-based satinwood will yellow over time, however not as much or as quickly as oil-based gloss. This is down to the amount of oil in the paint. Gloss contains a lot of oil which is what gives the paint it’s high sheen level. A good trade quality satinwood should last many years before it starts to discolour.


Does Exterior Gloss go Yellow?


Exterior paint is generally exposed to higher levels of UV light which prevents it from yellowing. Tinted colours can be damaged by this same light and start to fade, but, exterior paints hold their colour for much longer.


Is Water-Based Any Good?


You can achieve a lovely finish with some of the water-based satinwood products out there. WRX and Johnstone’s Aqua Guard in particular are very good. The benefit of these products is they will never discolour.

There are a lot of water-based products out there that will give you a nice finish, but they’re not very durable. A good finish is pointless if you can’t give your painted surfaces a wipe down, or they get chipped and scuffed every time they get a knock.

Water-based gloss technology is improving, but to my mind, it has a long way to go. Brush marks, low sheen level and poor opacity are all problems you should expect to experience.


What is a Hybrid?


A hybrid is primarily water-based with an oil carrier. It acts as a compromise between oil and water-based paints. For example, a hybrid will yellow, but nowhere near as quickly as a true oil-based paint would. A hybrid might be more durable than water-based, but not as durable as oil-based. A hybrid might be easier to use than water, but not as easy as an oil…. You get the idea.


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