Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside? Debunking the Myths

When it comes to home improvement projects, many people wonder if they can use exterior paint inside their homes. While it might be tempting to save some money by using leftover exterior paint for an indoor project, there are a few factors to consider before making a decision.

Technically, exterior paint can be used indoors, but there are several reasons why you might want to avoid doing so. Exterior paint contains additives that help it withstand outdoor conditions, such as moisture, temperature changes, and UV exposure. Some of these additives, like fungicides, mildewcides, and UV blockers, can be toxic and harmful to human health when used indoors (source). Moreover, exterior paint is formulated with a softer resin to allow for flexibility in response to environmental changes, which can make it more prone to scrapes and scuffs when used inside (source).

Before deciding to use exterior paint indoors, it’s essential to weigh the risks and ensure you understand the differences between interior and exterior paint formulations. In many cases, it’s safer and more practical to use interior paint designed specifically for indoor use.

Differences between Exterior and Interior Paints

While both exterior and interior paints serve the fundamental purpose of adding color and protection, they differ in various aspects, including their composition and durability.

Composition and Ingredients

Exterior paints are formulated with ingredients specifically designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, UV radiation, and other outdoor elements. They contain higher levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and more flexible resins that allow the paint to expand and contract according to temperature and humidity changes.

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Interior paints, on the other hand, are designed with less VOC content and softer resins for better indoor air quality. Moreover, they have specific additives to improve stain resistance and washability, making them more suitable for interior surfaces.

Durability and Performance

Exterior paints are engineered for higher durability, as they need to withstand fluctuating temperatures, moisture levels, and other outdoor factors. Consequently, they tend to be more resistant to fading and peeling. However, this also makes them more susceptible to scrapes and scuffs when used indoors.

Interior paints are primarily designed for the relatively stable environment of indoor spaces. They offer better resistance to abrasion, stains, and cleaning, making them an ideal choice for rooms subjected to daily wear like kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas.

While exterior paints might seem appealing to use indoors for their durability, potential hazards and performance issues make them a less suitable option for interior applications.

Possible Hazards of Using Exterior Paint Indoors

Although it might be tempting to use leftover exterior paint for an indoor project, there are potential hazards associated with doing so. In this section, we will discuss the dangers related to using exterior paint inside your home and why it’s essential to choose the right type of paint for your project.

VOCs and Air Quality

Exterior paint often contains higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than interior paint. VOCs are chemical compounds that evaporate into the air and can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, and other health issues, especially in people with respiratory sensitivities or allergies. When exterior paint is used inside, the increased VOC levels can negatively impact indoor air quality and pose health risks to the occupants.

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Safety Concerns

Besides VOCs, exterior paint also contains additional additives, such as fungicides, mildewcides, and UV blockers, to withstand the harsh outdoor conditions. These additives are harmful and toxic when used indoors, posing a threat to the health and safety of those living in the space. Furthermore, exterior paint is engineered to be much more durable and flexible to hold up against weathering and temperature changes, which is unnecessary for interior use and can result in unforeseen issues.

In summary, despite its technical compatibility, using exterior paint indoors poses significant risks related to VOCs, air quality, and the presence of harmful additives. It’s crucial to choose the appropriate type of paint for your project to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in your home.

Alternatives to Using Exterior Paint Inside

While using exterior paint indoors may not be the best idea due to its potential toxicity and the fact that it is designed for outdoor conditions, there are alternative options available for painting your home’s interior.

Interior Paint

Interior paint is specifically formulated for use inside homes, providing a durable and long-lasting finish without the risks associated with exterior paints. It is designed to withstand everyday wear and tear, and is less likely to become damaged from scuffs, scrapes, and moisture.

As mentioned in, the color application of exterior and interior paints is the same, so there is no need to sacrifice the desired appearance when choosing an interior paint instead of an exterior one.

Water-Based and Low-VOC Paints

For a safer and more eco-friendly option, consider using water-based or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. These types of paint emit fewer toxic fumes and are typically better for indoor air quality.

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As stated in The Family Handyman, true enamel or oil-based paints can release harmful VOCs into the air; by choosing a water-based or low-VOC alternative, you can minimize the impact on your home’s atmosphere and the environment.

In conclusion, when painting the interior of your home, it is a better idea to go for specially formulated interior paints or water-based and low-VOC options. These alternatives provide a high-quality finish without the potential risks and drawbacks associated with using exterior paints indoors.

The Verdict: Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside?

Technically, you can use exterior paint indoors; however, it is not recommended due to the potential health risks and overall drawbacks associated with its composition. Exterior paint contains additives such as fungicides, mildewcides, and UV blockers that can be toxic when used indoors, exposing you and your family to harmful chemicals.

Exterior paints are designed with a softer resin to allow flexibility for outdoor conditions like moisture and temperature changes. This makes them more prone to scrapes and scuffs when applied in an indoor setting. Additionally, exterior paints tend to produce higher emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are not ideal for indoor environments.

Choosing the right paint for your project is essential. While exterior paint may look similar to interior paint in terms of color application, remember that the formulation and purpose for each type of paint are distinctly different. To maximize safety, durability, and overall appearance, always opt for a paint specifically designed for interior use when painting inside your home.


Hello! I'm Nikita, the creator of Abodenation, a blog dedicated to home improvement, troubleshooting, advice, and decor. With years of hands-on experience and a keen eye for detail, I love sharing my passion for creating functional, beautiful, and comfortable living spaces with others. Join me on my journey to transform houses into homes, one project at a time.

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