What Is Latex?
Go to a local home store and ask the clerk in the paint department what latex paint is and you will probably get a response that references water solubility, drying speed and durability. Latex is not an oil-based paint; it is instead a water-based paint. As a result, its curing or drying time is very short unless extended with additives. Latex paint is part of a family of products derived from rubber and is described as particles of synthetic or natural rubber or plastic suspended in water. In general terms, latex is used in adhesives, rubber products and paints. The latex in the paint is what makes is such a popular painting choice.
There are three necessary ingredients in the making of any paint--pigment, binder and solvent. Additional ingredients referred to as additives may also be included for special applications but latex paint does not require them in its very basic form. The pigment in latex paint gives the paint its color. Pigment is generally the same product for latex as oil-based paints. It is the binder and solvent that creates the difference. The binder for latex paint is the polymer called latex. The solvent is, of course, water which gives the paint consistency and its liquid format. Paint makers work from formulas for each color they make. The ingredients are added together in their correct combinations and then the product is shaken to disperse them evenly. Latex paint does not separate in its container the way oil-based paints do and should not need stirring before use.
Advantages And Disadvantages
Water-based paints were initially developed to replace oil-based products. Oil-based products require a solvent for clean up. These solvents can be caustic, smelly and harmful. Latex paints only require water for clean up, although if left to dry before being cleaned, the painting tools are not cleanable and will need to be disposed of. With water as its solvent, the paint's drying process revolves around the evaporation of the water from the paint. This evaporation pulls the latex and pigment into a tighter formation on the painted surface making it very durable. Each layer of paint reinforces the strength of the paint; therefore, if the walls or object being painted will need future cleaning, the more layers the better. A single coat of latex paint can be damaged by a swipe from a damp rag.