When you paint a wall, a ceiling, a door, furniture, a floor or a countertop, you will inevitably ask yourself: How long does the paint take to dry?
The answer depends on the circumstances of your project, though. The two main factors are:
- the type of paint you are using, and
- the material (and its condition) which you are painting on.
In addition, circumstances like temperature, humidity, the thickness of your coats, and many other factors will also affect the drying time. Therefore, all information provided in this article should be seen as indicative guidance.
- Typical Drying Time of Paint
- When Can You Start Using a Freshly Painted Object?
- Drying Times by Material
Typical Drying Time of Paint
This section provides you an overview of usual drying times, based on the product specifications of the most common paints and stains.
The Different States of Drying
The drying time is generally distinguished in
- “touch” and
- “ready to re-coat”.
“Touch dry” describes the state where you can lightly touch the painted surface without affecting the coat or feeling adhesion (source). “Ready to re-coat”, on the other hand, refers to the drying time needed before you can apply another coat of paint without affecting the surface or the adhesion of the new coat.
In addition, paint needs a certain amount of time to cure. Curing is an invisible chemical process that starts when paint is applied to a surface (hence exposed to oxygen) and ends with the coat achieving its final state and hardness.
Most types of paint cure fully within 2-4 weeks.
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Table: Drying Times by Type of Paint and Material
This table summarizes typical drying times per coat for common types of paint and materials (indicatively, as times may vary depending on the brand and the individual circumstances of the application and object).
*note that nowadays Enamel is also sometimes used for water-based paints – check the product details to make sure that you buy the product you want to get.
These drying times refer to an application under “normal” conditions, e.g. regular humidity and a temperature between 50 and 90 °F (c. 10-33 °C). Good air circulation can shorten the drying time while high humidity requires more time for paint to dry. For exterior application, e.g. fences or patios, make sure that you choose a time when it will not rain for at least 1 to 3 days.
In any case, refer to the instructions on the can and add an additional buffer to the recommended drying time of the product you are using.
Oil-based Paint (Amazon).
When Can You Start Using a Freshly Painted Object?
The answer to this question depends on the object and its typical use. Floors, Countertops or Furniture are obviously used in a different way than walls or ceilings.
Walls, ceilings and decorative objects which are usually not regularly touched, are dry enough at the time listed as “touch-dry” – i.e. that’s when you can continue using a freshly painted room. Avoid producing dust, though, as some areas could still be sticky at that time.
Floors and countertops can be lightly used after 12-24 hours if they have been painted with water-based or latex paint. Light use means: you can put lightweight objects on it for a little while or walk on it, preferably with socks rather than shoes or slippers. For oil-based paints, wait at least 24 hours though.
A regular use, e.g. putting or storing heavyweight objects or furniture on a floor or cleaning / wiping a surface, should be possible after 3-7 days. However, wait longer if you can to be on the safe side.
Drying Times by Material
How Long Does Paint Need to Dry on Drywall, Plaster or Wood?
Water-based or latex paint, probably the most common type of paint nowadays, will usually dry to the touch within 1 hour. Usually, you will have to apply at least a second coat. Wait around 3 to 6 hours before you re-coat the surface to make sure the additional coat sticks to the previous one.
It takes significantly longer, though, if you are using oil-based, solvent-borne paint or lacquer. Such finish will take 6 to 8 hours to become touch-dry and 16 hours before you can apply another coat. However, oil-based paint usually does not require a second coat.
For the curing time and the time till the first use after painting, refer to the previous sections.
Water-based aka latex paint.
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How Long Does It Take Paint to Dry on Concrete, Masonry, Stucco, Stone and Bricks?
If you are applying water-based or latex paint on these materials, plan with a drying time of 2 to 4 hours (touch-dry). Let it dry at least 4 to 6 hours before you go for another coat.
Oil-based or solvent-based paint and lacquer require a drying time of 6 to 8 hours to the touch and at least a full day (24 hours) before you can apply a second coat, if necessary.
If you use paint outside, check the forecast and avoid painting these materials when it is going to rain within 24 to 48 hours. Also, be aware of the time until you can use the painted object again, read the details in the previous section.
How Long Does It Take for Stain to Dry on Wood?
Stain is a transparent or semi-transparent finish for wood or concrete which is thinner than regular paint. Therefore, it tends to dry faster: for most stains, it takes only 1 to 3 hours until you can apply another coat of stain (which is usually recommended). Read more in our article on the drying times of different types of stain.
However, make sure that you avoid contact with water or exposure to rain for 2 to 4 days.
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How Long Does Stain Need to Dry on Concrete?
Stain dries faster on concrete than water-based or latex paint. As a rule of thumb, it is dry to the touch after 90 minutes to 2 hours and ready for another coat after 2 to 4 hours.
Nevertheless, freshly stained concrete surfaces should not be used for at least a full day, similar to the advice given for the other types of paint.
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All in all, it takes water-based or latex paint between 1 and 4 hours to get touch-dry and 3 to 6 hours until you can apply another coat. This is significantly less than the time needed for oil-based paints to dry. However, take into account that the use of latex paint often requires at least 2 coats while often only one coat of oil- or solvent-based paint is needed.
Thus, the much longer drying time of oil-based or solvent-based paint (sometimes referred to as enamel) and lacquer – 6-10 hours (dry to the touch) and 16-24 hours before a new coat can be applied – does not necessarily translate into more working hours. Read our article on the drying time of oil-based paint and ways to accelerate it.
Stain, on the other hand, is comparatively fast-drying as it is thinner thanks to the lower density of color pigments.
Whichever type of coating you use, be aware that it takes much more time until you can start to use the painted object – up to 7 days under adverse conditions. Read the details in the respective section and keep in mind that you lower the risks if you plan with additional drying time buffers.
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