What is the Best Cabinet Paint: Oil or Water Based?

If you don’t love the look of your cabinets anymore, don’t rush to pick out a whole new set just yet. You can easily freshen up your cabinets and give your space the look you desire by simply painting your cabinets. This is a more cost-effective way to get the look you want, without having to tear out your cabinets and pay for professionals to install brand-new ones.

It typically costs about half as much to paint your cabinets right as opposed to getting new cabinets. While you can’t solve a re-design issue with painting cabinets, if they are in good shape and you like the layout, painting them is a great option. 

Of course, there are always people that can install new cabinets “cheaper,” but if not done correctly, that can lead to way more expense down the road. 

If you choose to paint your cabinets, it is extremely important that you choose the right paint product in order to achieve a high-quality, long-lasting finish. If you find yourself wondering, is cabinet paint oil-based or water-based and which one should I use, read on as we break it down in this blog post. 


Should You Use Oil or Water-Based Paint For Cabinets?

Traditionally, different types of oil-based enamel paints or lacquers have been the best paint option for cabinets because of their hard and durable finishes. However, these oil-based paints also have their drawbacks and are not the top choice of many professional painters anymore. 


Oil-Based Cabinet Paint

Oil-based paints, once cured, are not very flexible. They are extremely rigid and when enough force is applied, they tend to crack and chip instead of flexing. Cabinets are one of the most used pieces of furniture in your home, therefore, they will be exposed to a lot of use and wear and tear, which needs a durable paint product to withstand. 

On top of that, they also have extremely high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) levels and are exposed to harmful solvents and solvent clean up during manufacturing. This leads to the solvents outgassing into your home while the paint cures. This can be harmful and is not ideal for you and your family to breathe in during the curing stage. 


Water-Based Cabinet Paint

Over the past decade, water based paint technology and engineering has come a long way and improved significantly. There has been a rise in the creation and use of water based enamels, water based lacquers, and water based urethanes. 

These types of paint products are used on a variety of different applications, from garage and industrial concrete floors, to cabinets and furniture, and commercial steel structures. All of these applications have almost always used oil based paints because, at the time, they were the best option… until now. 

Water based paints are easier to work with, easier to clean up, less smelly, have far less VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), are more flexible, and have better UV retention (because yes, the sun will come in through the windows and fade out colors over time). 


What is the Best Cabinet Paint?

Here at Oak City Coatings, we use urethane paint products the most and highly recommend them to our customers and readers. Urethane paints are used on the wheels of skateboards, scooters, roller skates, caster wheels, etc. Those wheels are designed to hold up to a lot of force and wear and tear on concrete, asphalt, jumps, etc. They are designed to hold up the best due to their tough nature. They also have a high ability to flex and not crack in half or shatter when put to the test. All of those wheels are made of molded urethane because of its high durability and flexibility. Therefore, water based paints are also the most durable cabinet paint option. 


When trying to decide which cabinet paint is best, you also must consider the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing oil based vs. water-based paints. Oil-based paints have to be treated and disposed of as hazardous waste when they leave recycling facilities. Therefore, your tax dollars are being spent to deal with and dispose of more hazardous and harmful waste. You also have to take special precautions when cleaning the materials used to apply the paint. Overall, using oil-based paints is a hassle and can be harmful to you, your family, and the environment. 

You can read more about what to look for in a water-based cabinet paint and check out some of our favorite paint products in this blog post

If you are looking to partner with a professional paint company to paint your cabinets with the best, most durable, flexible, and safe cabinet paint product, click here to book your free consultation with our team so we can help you achieve the highest quality paint job for your home while keeping you, your family, and the environment safe!

Recent Transformations


Hardware Exterior


China White Exterior


Gauntlet Gray Exterior

ready to transform your space with a fresh coat of paint?

Scroll to Top