Enamel Over Latex Paint (Can You Do it & How To?)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Enamel paint is oil-based, while latex paint is water-based. So, can you apply enamel over latex paint?

You can apply enamel paint over latex paint. However, the finish must be fully dry (cured), and you must sand it before applying enamel paint. Applying a primer between both paints will improve the finish quality too. 

However, you don’t need to sand or apply a primer if you use using water-based (acrylic) enamel paint. That’s because water-based paints are compatible with each other. 


Enamel paint sticks to a latex paint finish because latex is water-based and has no glossy finish that repels paints. Also, it has a dry textured finish that paints can penetrate into.

You must clean, sand, and prime (optionally) the finish first. Latex paint attracts dust, and dust will prevent enamel paint from sticking. So, cleaning will remove the dust, sanding will remove imperfections from the surface, and priming will improve the adhesion between both paints.

However, if the latex paint is sealed, you can’t apply enamel paint over it. That’s because the sealer will prevent paint from penetrating the coating, so it won’t stick. You must remove the sealer coating first and then apply the paint.

Also, you can’t paint over high-gloss latex paint because it has a glossy finish that repels liquid, including paint. To paint over it, you must remove the glossy layer first.

How To Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Applying enamel to latex paint isn’t hard, but you must prep the finish properly. If you don’t, the finish will turn sticky or tacky since both paints will have a weak adhesion. 

Here are the tools you need:

  • Safety Gears
  • Enamel Paint 
  • A Paintbrush Or A Spray Gun
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint Scraper Or Metallic Putty Knife
  • Rags

1. Clean The Latex Finish

The first thing you need to do before applying enamel is to clean the latex paint.

First, clean the latex paint finish. If it’s an old finish, it will be riddled with dust, dirt, and debris that can prevent proper paint adhesion. Cleaning will remove the dust from the finish, allowing the paint to stick to a clean surface. 

To clean it:

  1. Mix soap with warm water. 
  2. Damp a clean rag with the mixture.
  3. Wait 5 minutes.
  4. Use the dampened rag to wipe off the dust from the finish. 
  5. Remove the soap residue using clean water.
  6. Allow the finish to dry. 

Don’t use solvent-based products to clean latex paint as it can remove the entire coating. 

2. Remove The Sealant (Optional)

Scrape Off The Wax On If The Latex Paint Was Sealed

If the latex paint is sealed with a topcoat, you must remove the topcoat first. That’s because a sealant (top coat) has a glossy finish that is water-resistant (or proof). The sealant will prevent enamel paint from penetrating the surface, so it won’t stick. 

To remove the sealant:

  1. Apply mineral spirits over the coating. 
  2. Wait 10 minutes. 
  3. Scrape the sealant using a paint scraper.
  4. Re-apply mineral spirits to the leftover sealant.
  5. Remove the leftover sealant with a rag.
  6. Remove the residue of the mineral spirit from the surface. 

Unfortunately, you can’t remove the sealant without removing the latex paint. So, while removing the sealant, the paint will be also removed. 

Note: If finish isn’t sealed or waxed, skip this step. 

3. Sand The Finish

Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

You must lightly sand the finish before applying enamel. Sanding will improve the paint adhesion by removing imperfections and creating scratches that the paint can stick to. 

To sand latex paint, use fine-grit sandpaper (240-grit and above). Avoid using coarse sandpaper as it removes the entire finish.

4. Prime The Surface

Prime The Surface

Applying a primer between both paints is optional, but it helps with paint adhesion. The paint primer will dry over the latex paint, creating a smooth base coat for the new paint to stick to. However, you must use a compatible primer for enamel paint (preferably oil-based primer). 

To prime latex paint:

  1. Apply 2 coats of primer. 
  2. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one.
  3. Optionally, sand between the first and second coat (don’t sand the final one). 
  4. Wait until the primer dries before applying enamel paint. 

A paint primer will also seal (or fill) imperfections on the surface so the new paint can stick and dry even.

5. Apply Enamel Paint

Apply The Enamel Over The Latex

Once the surface is well-prepped, apply enamel paint over it. 

To do so:

  1. Use a paintbrush or sprayer. 
  2. Apply 3-4 thin coats of enamel paint. 
  3. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 
  4. If the paint coatings dry unevenly (or have imperfections), sand with ultrafine-grit sandpaper (400-grit). 
  5. Allow the final coat of enamel paint to dry fully (cure) before using it. 
  6. Seal the finish paint with a topcoat. 

It takes enamel paint 24 hours to dry fully (cure). You must wait until the finish cures before using the surface or sealing with a topcoat. 

Related Read: Latex Paint vs Enamel Paint?

Mixing Enamel And Latex Paint

You shouldn’t mix enamel paint with latex paint because they have a different paint solvent. Enamel paint uses natural or synthetic oil as its solvent, while latex paint uses water as its solvent. If you mix them, you will get a finish with an inconsistent flow, dry time, and color that won’t stick to surfaces. 

Because of the different paint solvents, they have different drying times. Latex paint dries faster because water evaporates faster than oil. So, if both paints are mixed, one part of the mixture will dry and become hard (latex), while the other part will still be wet (enamel). This leads to a cracked or tacky finish. 

Also, the finish would have a yellow tint because of the oil deposits that won’t evaporate. So, you shouldn’t mix them. However, you can mix acrylic enamel with latex paint. That’s because both paints have the same paint solvent (water) and are compatible. 

Latex Over Enamel Paint

You can’t apply latex paint over enamel paint. That’s because enamel paint has a glossy finish that repels liquid, including paint. So, if you do, the paint won’t stick and the finish will turn sticky or tacky.

Latex paint must penetrate the surface to stick, but since it can’t penetrate (soak into) the enamel paint coating, the paint won’t stick. Instead, the latex paint will turn tacky or sticky. 

To apply latex over enamel paint, you must remove the glossy finish first, and then apply it. You can also apply a primer between paints to help with adhesion, but the adhesion won’t be that good. 

Final Words

You can use enamel paint on a latex finish, but you must clean, sand, and prime the finish first. However, if the finish is sealed, you must remove the sealer before painting over it. Also, you can’t apply enamel over high-gloss latex paint because of its moisture-resistant glossy finish. 

On the other hand, you can’t apply latex paint over enamel paint. That’s because enamel paint has a glossy finish that repels moisture, including paint. 

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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