Also known as a water-based paint, latex enamel paint comes in flat, semigloss and high gloss sheens. Before technological advancements and the introduction of plastics, all paints used to be oil-based paints, until water-based latex paints came along in the 1940s containing natural latex found in plants and rubber trees. But today, latex paints are made from plastics.

Creativity concept: color roller brushes with trails of paint
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Clean up latex enamel paints with soap and water.

Latex Enamel Paint

The first latex house paint -- a water-based paint -- was introduced by the Sherwin-Williams paint company in 1941. Most paint professionals still preferred the durability of oil-based or alkyd paints. Everything changed with the invention of acrylic emulsion technology in 1953 by Otto Rohm and Otto Haas, founders of Rohm and Hass Chemical Company -- now known as the Dow Chemical Company. But it would take until the early 1970s for acrylic water-based house paints to catch on. The company overcame many of acrylic's challenges, and developed a variety of emulsions that made acrylic latex paints easy to apply, with greater durability and adhesion.

Spreading Agent

In the paint industry, the solvent in paint refers to its spreading agent. Modern latex enamel paints use water as the spreading agent or carrier of the pigments and emulsions, whereas oil-based paints have petroleum solvents or bases. The spreading agent or solvent can thin the paint or is used during the cleanup process, which is why paintbrushes and gear can be cleaned up with water when you use water-based latex paints, a favored choice among homeowners.

Paint Adhesion

All paints have a binder as part of their chemical makeup, which helps the color particles adhere to the painted surface for a consistent, uniform look. Latex enamel paint binders are made from plastics -- vinyl, acrylic or a combination of the two. In oil-based paints, synthetic resins -- alkyds or natural oils are the binding agents. Because paints are named for the binding agents in them, latex paint has become synonymous with water-based paint.

Oil-Based and Water-Based Paint Differences

Latex enamel dries quicker than oil-based paints, cleans up with water and usually contain less volatile organic compounds, emitting less noxious paint fumes. But many professionals prefer oil-based paints because the longer the paint takes to dry, the smoother the surface becomes to hide paintbrush strokes. When comparing durability between the two products, oil-based paints beat latex enamels, especially when used on the exterior of a home. But cleanup of oil-based paint requires chemical paint thinners -- turpentine or mineral spirits.