Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside

Can I Use Exterior Paint Inside? (Ultimate 2023 Guide)

When it comes to paint, there are several options available.

Interior paint, exterior paint, primers, latex paint, and more, it can be easy tog et overwhelmed when making your choice.

If you already have some exterior paint handy you might be wondering if you can use it for interior use.

In this post, I’ll answer the question “Can I use exterior paint inside?”, the hazards when you use exterior paint, and much more! Let’s get started!

Is It Possible To Use Exterior Paint Inside?

You should avoid using exterior paint inside due to its chemical makeup.

Exterior paint is made to withstand the elements and has different chemicals than interior paint.

These chemicals can be toxic and potentially harmful to you and your family.

Although it might look the same as interior paint, some critical differences can make the material dangerous to be around.

If you can avoid it, you should not expose the interior of your home to exterior paint.

Not only is exterior paint impractical in many ways, but some dangers come with this type of paint indoors.

Potential Dangers Of Exterior Paint Inside

Using exterior paints indoors can be dangerous for several reasons.

Below are some of the dangers you should be aware of before using exterior paint indoors:

  • Off-gassing in the drying process can release toxic fumes
  • VOC emissions worsen health problems
  • Long-term VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions
  • Dizziness from the chemical fumes while painting

The main problem with using exterior paint indoors is the VOC levels it puts off.

VOCs are released into the air as the paint dries and can be extremely harmful to your health.

Prolonged exposure to VOCs has been linked to cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and more.

What Is Exterior Paint?

Exterior paint is quality paint that works to withstand the elements, such as sunlight and intense weather.

It must be strong enough to keep the color while preventing mold, mildew, cracking, peeling, and fading. It also needs to stick to more textured services than interior paint such as a fence or siding.

Exterior paint is designed to protect your home from the elements while still looking attractive.

If you buy a high-quality exterior paint, you will find it contains quality resin binders. This agent allows the material to stretch and contract when placed on a surface, which allows for better coverage.

They also have resin and UV protection to withstand even the most extreme conditions.

Most exterior paints are water-based, but there are also some oil based options.

If you purchase a high-quality paint, you can expect it to last ten to fifteen years.

Components of Exterior Paint

There are four components in exterior paint that help it withstand the harsh outdoor conditions.

Here are the four pieces of exterior paint:

  • Bases
  • Pigments
  • Additives
  • Binders


The base is the foundation of the paint.

Exterior paints come in two base types – oil and water.

Oil paints used to be the standard, but modern techniques have made the water-based variety more practical for the average person.

You can find linseed, tung, soybean oil, or synthetic alkyds in oil paint as the base. This type tends to have more VOCs, but there are intense chemicals either way.

Water works as the foundation for latex and other water-based paint available.

You can find both types of paints in one of several finishes – glossy, flat, satin, enamel, and semi-glossy. Each provides a different look once it dries.


The pigment is the agent that adds color to the paint.

It can be an organic material, meaning it comes naturally from the earth that creates a color thinner and more see-through.

Color could also come from an inorganic compound if it’s trickier to obtain a natural coloring option. This choice produces a more solid color in the paint, which many prefer.

The more pigment added to a base, the more vibrant the color will appear.

Pigments help with the durability of the exterior paint as well. Many are made to withstand UV, weathering, and other sun damage once the paint dries.


Additives are the third part of any exterior paint mix.

Mineral spirits are added to oil-based paints, while water is added to water-based paints. These liquids carry critical binders, pigments, and other critical components to give the paint its durability and appearance.

Once the paint is applied, the additives evaporate and leave behind the paint film on the exterior.

These additives might thicken the paint, fill holes, or provide a glossy finish to the color. There may be texture additives or scent masks to hide the chemical fume scent that comes with the paint.

There are different additives in exterior paint than interior paint because the exterior paints much withstand much harsher conditions.


Binders are the final component of exterior paint that play a critical role in the application and drying process.

Binders works to hold all the ingredients together – additives, pigments, and the base material in the liquid until the paint is applied.

Without a binder, the paint would fall apart and not hold up.

The binder in exterior paint is more powerful to help the pigment outside withstand more extreme weather conditions.

What Are the Differences Between Interior and Exterior Paint?

As the name suggests, interiors paints are best for interior painting while exterior paints are better for outdoor use.

There are many differences between the two, though they may not be clear at first glance.

Here are a few of the main differences:

  • Weather-Resistance
  • Durability
  • VOCs
  • Adhesion
  • Dry Time


Exterior paint is better at weather resistance than its interior counterpart.

Wind, humidity, and other elements can damage interior paint much quicker than exterior paint.

This is because exterior paint has a higher concentration of binders and pigments to help it withstand the elements.

Interior paints exist to sit on walls in controlled environments. They don’t have a chemical composition that defends against UV light, water, or freezing temperatures. When exposed, interior paints will fade and flake away very quickly.

On the other hand, exterior paints are made with all the qualities necessary to resist temperature changes and other conditions. They are tested to provide extreme weather resistance that interior colors don’t have.


It’s critical to have paint that can last a long time so you don’t have to repaint your home every few years.

Interior paints are excellent at hiding imperfections and providing an even coverage. However, they don’t last as long as exterior paints.

Interior paint lasts quite a long time on interior walls under normal conditions. It can sit in a temperature-controlled environment for years and years without the need for a touch-up and withstands the occasional bombardment and scrubbing. However, outside, interior paint will fall flat when it comes to durability.

Exterior paint works to withstand constant torment from the weather conditions outside. It can experience turbulent winds or severe thunderstorms and remain intact. It’s much more durable than interior paint on the outside, meant to last for years in any conditions it faces.


VOCs, also known as volatile organic compounds, are items in paint that release fumes. These fumes can be deadly if you breathe them in too often or for too long, hence the reason you should never use exterior paint inside.

Interior paints exist to for indoor use surrounded by living people. They have VOCs that release fumes, but the levels are low and not enough to be dangerous. Some colors even have No VOCs at all for the benefit of the household. They are safe to use on your walls, cabinets, and other projects as long as you allow airflow in the painting process.

On the other hand, exterior paints are made with high levels of VOCs to help the color withstand outdoor conditions.

They have much larger amounts of VOCs to work with the outside air, which makes them harmful to people and animals inside.

You should not use exterior paint indoors because of the harmful chemicals and toxic fumes released that pose potential health hazards when applied indoors.


Exterior and interior paints have excellent adhesion to whatever surface they sit on. However, they are not exactly the same.

Interior paints stick well to solid walls, wood, metal, and other even surfaces. They provide an even coat that can last for years without any peeling or flaking.

However, exterior paint adhesion is much stronger thanks to the high levels of VOCs.

The VOCs in exterior paint help it to meld with the surface it’s applied to, creating a bond that is much harder to break.

This is why exterior paint can last for years outside without any touch-ups, even in the most extreme weather conditions.

Dry Time

Finally, there is a difference in the dry time.

You can’t expect exterior paint to dry at the same rate as interior paint.

Exterior paints tend to dry faster than interior paints. This process is faster because exterior paints are exposed to the sun and tend to be water-based.

Interior paints rely on airflow to dry, which can take much longer than natural sunlight. Exterior paint can dry as fast as 30 minutes to an hour in the sun, while interior paint can take a few hours or even overnight to fully dry.

Can You Use Exterior Paint in Garage

Can I Use Exterior Paint In My Garage?

A garage is another part of the house you may want to paint, but what type of paint should you use?

It’s a confusing area to consider.

It feels like an indoor spot, but it’s also partially outside at the same time.

It makes sense to use indoor paint, but it also seems like exterior paint could be a functional option. What’s the right choice for your garage?

Although it seems correct, exterior paint should never go in your garage. It’s still an indoor area and could leak VOCs into your home. Every single time you head into the garage, you and your family members will be exposed to the paint which isn’t good for anyone’s health.

You’re better off going with interior paint for your garage.

Before painting your garage, ensure that the temperature is mild and humidity levels are low so that the paint can dry evenly and quickly.

Can I Mix Interior And Exterior Paint?

Let’s say you have some interior paint, but you don’t have enough to cover the entire surface.

If you have leftover exterior paint, it might be tempting to mix the exterior with the interior paint. However, this isn’t advisable, even for the smallest finish on a wall. You should not mix exterior and interior paint for any reason.

Here’s why:

  • Variation in base: There is a potential that one paint may have an oil base while the other has water as its structural component. These won’t mix and will cause problems in the future.
  • Difference in ingredients: Exterior and interior paints are formulated with different ingredients, from the adhesion qualities to the colors.
  • Change in chemicals: There are stronger chemicals in exterior paints which will not mix well with interior paint.

Instead of trying to mix paints, your best bet is to head to a local hardware store and purchase a new can of paint for your interior or exterior wall.

Can You Use Interior Paint Outdoors

Can I Use Interior Paint Outdoors?

We’ve clarified that exterior paints can’t go inside.

But can interior paint be used outdoors?

Technically, you can use interior paints outdoors, However, they lack the proper composition to withstand the harsh nature of the outside world. The color will fade and peel much faster than exterior paint.

If you want the paint to last a long time, don’t use interior paints on your exterior walls or surfaces.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Painting

Before you start painting, there are a few things you should always do to ensure a safe and successful job.

Keep the Room Well Ventilated

No matter if you’re painting and interior room or outdoor surfaces, always make sure the area is well ventilated.

Whether you’re using a brush, roller, or sprayer, paint fumes can quickly fill up a small space.

If you’re working in confined spaces or a room with little to no airflow, the fumes can become overwhelming, and you may start to feel dizzy or lightheaded.

To avoid this, open all the windows and doors in the room, and set up a fan to help circulate the air. If you’re painting outdoors, try to work in the shade on a breezy day.

Use the Right Type of Paint

Oil based paints are great for durability, but they can be difficult to work with.

Water based paints are easier to apply, but they don’t last as long.

The type of paint you use will also depend on the surface you’re painting.

For example, if you’re painting a wall in your home, you’ll want to use an interior paint.

If you’re painting a deck or other outdoor surface, you’ll need to use an exterior paint.

Final Thoughts on Can I Use Exterior Paint Inside?

If you are an inexperienced painter, you may not be aware of the differences between interior and exterior paints.

Although they look similar, you should not use exterior paints inside.

It’s not created like interior paint and contains more chemicals and VOCs. These items can be harmful to humans and animals in your home.