How Long Should Latex Paint Dry Between Coats?

Once you've committed to painting the interior -- a wall, a hall or a room -- you'd like to get through it and enjoy the results. But many jobs require a second coat of paint, to cover an old, darker color or to increase the depth of the new color on the wall. Take a shortcut here and you could pay for it. Latex paint -- another name for acrylic, water-based paint, and the typical choice for coloring on your walls -- can be dry to the touch in as little as an hour. The manufacturer will give you suggested wait times before the application of a second coat. The perfectionist in you may counsel patience, in order to achieve the best, most durable finish.

Watching the Paint Dry

Most latex paint dries in about one hour and is ready to paint over in about four hours. But, not so fast. Cold temperatures, high humidity, a thick initial paint application or a lack of good ventilation will increase paint drying times. You want a bonded, hardened first coat on the walls so the next coat won't soften the surface and pull the just-dried paint away from the wall. Although your paint may be advertised as "dry in an hour," give it a rest. If you can tap into the luxury of time, don't rush to apply that second coat in four hours. Let the paint harden for up to 24 hours and then brush or roll on Perfect Paint Color 2.0.

Making It Stick

There are some pro painter's tricks you can use to help speed things along:

  • In humid weather, turn on the air conditioner and add a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air and dry fresh paint faster.
  • Sand the surface of an interior wall painted with oil-based emulsion before applying the first coat of latex. Creating a rough finish permits the new paint to stick securely, rather than peel or crack, as it dries.
  • Test the old paint to determine whether it's latex or oil-based by scrubbing a small patch with detergent and water, rinsing, drying and then rubbing a cotton swab dipped in alcohol over the cleaned area. If the paint comes off, it's latex. If not, the old paint is oil-based.