How Long Does it Take for Enamel Paint to Dry?

When it comes to painting furniture, you can’t go wrong with enamel paint. Oil-based enamel paint is extremely durable and it holds up well against wear and tear. That said, this paint is perfect for furniture in “high-traffic” areas of the house. 

However, enamel paints, especially oil-based ones, are known to dry slowly. This can be an issue if you want to finish your project quickly.

In this post, we’ll discuss how long it takes for enamel paint to dry.


Under normal conditions, an oil-based enamel paint will usually take 1-4 hours to dry to the touch. Some of the factors that affect the dry time of enamel paint include the thickness of the coats, the brand of enamel paint, and the temperature and humidity in the area where you’re painting.

How Long Does it Take for Enamel Paint to Dry?

Under normal conditions, it will take 1-4 hours for enamel paint to dry to the touch. However, there are a few factors that can influence the paint’s dry time, and the brand and enamel paint product is most important.

Some enamel paint products dry in about an hour while others take several hours. For reference see the following popular enamel paint products and their respective dry times below: 

Product  Base Material Dry Time

BEHR Premium White Semi-Gloss Enamel Interior/Exterior Cabinet, Door & Trim Paint

Acrylic  60 minutes

Rust-Oleum High-Performance Protective Enamel Gloss Black Oil-Based Interior/Exterior Paint

Oil 240 minutes (4 hours)

Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint Stops Rust, Black Satin Finish

Oil 120-240 minutes (2-4 hours)

Valspar Semi-gloss Base Cabinet and Furniture Paint Enamel

Oil 240 minutes (2 hours)

BEHR Ultra Pure White Hi-Gloss Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint

Acrylic  60 minutes 

Note that enamel paint is most often oil-based as opposed to water-based or acrylic-based.

Oil-based enamel paint (like other oil-based paint) tends to have a much longer dry time than it’s water-based alternatives. As you can see above, the oil-based enamel paint options have dry times between 2-4 hours. To put things in perspective, most water-based latex paints dry to the touch in an hour or less.

Suffice it to say that oil-based enamel paint takes much longer to dry than most other paints.

With water-based paints, the water in the composition evaporates leaving the paint coat dry to the touch. As for oil-based enamel paint, when the paint is exposed to air it hardens through a slow chemical reaction. This process is much slower than the drying process of water-based paints.

Aside from the paints composition and brand, the thickness of your paint coats can also impact dry time. If your paint coats are on the thick side, they will take longer to dry. Thin coats will dry much faster and look much more even and professional as well.  

The environment you are painting in can directly influence dry time. Generally, the higher the temperature and lower the humidity, the faster your paint will dry. 

Ultimately, although oil-based enamel paint dries slower than most other paints, it is extremely durable in comparison. The paint’s resilience makes enamel paint ideal for furniture in high-traffic areas of your house that are prone to wear and tear. 

Related: How Long Does Chalk Paint Take to Dry

How Long Should Enamel Paint Dry Between Coats?

The label on the can of paint will likely tell you how long you should wait before applying a new coat. But in general, you should apply the next coat a few hours after your paint dries to the touch. For instance, Valspar Enamel Cabinet and Furniture Paint recommends recoating 480 minutes (8 hours) after applying the paint. Note that the dry time for this paint is 120 minutes (2 hours). 

Always check the label on the can of paint for information about the paint’s drying time. Also consider the humidity, ventilation, and temperature of the area where you’re painting. To be extra safe, leave your enamel-painted surface overnight before applying the next coat. 

What Happens if You Recoat Enamel Paint Too Soon?

It is incredibly important to let your enamel paint sufficiently dry before applying a new coat. If you apply the additional coat too soon, it will result in clumping, or bubbling. In short, you will likely get an uneven finish that can’t be repaired easily. You may also find streaks in your painted surface or discoloration in some areas due to uneven drying. 

Always check the product label for information about drying time before applying an additional coat. Not only does this ensure that the additional coat will be applied properly, but it will also save you time and money by not having to repair a botched paint job.

Enamel Paint Cure Time

After the last coat of enamel paint completely dries, the painted piece may not necessarily be ready for use yet. You need to allow the paint to cure first. Curing is the process paint goes through to reach maximum hardness. If the painted furniture is used before the paint is fully cured, you might risk scratching or leaving an indent on the paint.

The cure time for enamel paints vary depending on the brand and your conditions. However, oil-based enamel paints generally cure within 7 days to 3 weeks. Curiously, water-based enamel paints can take much longer to cure than oil-based enamel even though they dry much faster. It can take about 14 to 30 days for water-based enamel paints to fully cure.

Related: How Long Between Coats of Chalk Paint

How Can I Make Enamel Paint Dry Faster?

There are several methods you can use to reduce enamel paint dry time. One method is to use heat.

You can use a hair dryer or heat gun to rapidly dry the paint on your surface. However, be extremely cautious with this approach and hold your hair dryer at least 6 inches away from your surface. It can essentially dry your paint too fast, which can weaken your paint’s bond to the surface. This can ultimately result in cracks in the finish.

Humidity can also cause paint to dry slower. As such, you can use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity levels in your painting area. You can also use a dehumidifier in conjunction with a heater to further reduce the paint’s drying time.

Additionally, make sure that your painting area is well-ventilated. Open all doors and windows (unless it’s freezing cold outside). This should allow air to circulate freely. Better yet, you can simply paint your piece outside and leave it there to dry (weather permitting). 

If you’re willing to spend more on paint supplies, you could get yourself a Japan drier. This product is a paint additive for oil-based enamel paint that helps increase the rate of oxidization in the paint particles. It’s extremely effective for cutting down your paint’s drying time, especially in cool and damp climates. 

Related: Best Primer for Enamel Paint

How Do You Know if Enamel Paint is Cured?

Enamel paint is fully cured when it reaches its maximum hardness. However, you won’t be able to tell if it has fully cured just by looking at it. You can use the fingernail test to check whether your enamel paint has fully cured or not.

In an inconspicuous area of your furniture, lightly press your fingernail into the paint. Depending on whether the paint is cured or not, your fingernail might leave an indent. If it does, then the paint is not yet fully cured. You’d have to let it cure for a bit longer. If there’s no visible indent, that means that the surface is likely fully cured. 



Leave a Comment