In Repair & Maintenance

Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside? There Are 3 Important Differences…

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So you have gotten everything ready to paint your kitchen cabinets. Have you read the instructions on painting your kitchen cabinets already? You already have a gallon of paint in your garage but it’s exterior paint.

What’s the difference between exterior and interior paint? Can you use exterior paint inside?

I decided to research this and finally find an answer to that question. Surely I’m not the only person who needs that answer right?

What’s The Difference Between Interior And Exterior Paint?


Can you use exterior paint inside

While not a hard and fast rule, exterior paint is generally more expensive than interior paint.

This is because it has more additives to make the paint more resistant to color fading, mildew, and damage from the outside.

However, you can find higher quality interior paints that are more expensive than some exterior paints.

Cost is one of the main differences between exterior and interior paint. This difference would seem to indicate that you should not choose exterior paint for inside.

But, if cost is the only concern and you already have a gallon of exterior paint, then you could use it indoors. There are several factors to consider though.

Weather Protection

Outside of home during winter

Exterior paint comes with several additives that give it more weather resistance than interior paint. The paint needs to resist cracking, peeling, and chipping when exposed to the sun and rain.

Exterior paint also needs to resist mildew and mold so it has mildewcides incorporated into it.

This weather protection isn’t something that you need from an interior paint so the fact that it is included in the exterior paint would be worthless.

However, there is a health concern with these additives when you use exterior paint inside the home.

These additives could cause respiratory or nervous system issues for more sensitive people.

Based on the weather protection additives in exterior paint, you may not want to use exterior paint indoors.


The final factor to consider, and one of the major differences between interior and exterior paint, is the odor. Many people confuse odor with VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds.

These VOCs have been linked to serious health concerns, even in healthy people, and are a legitimate concern. You can read more about VOCs in this Modernize article.

But you can have a paint that is high in VOCs without a lot of odor. Since exterior paint is not usually used inside the home, you may have trouble finding a low VOC formula to use.

If you are going to use an exterior paint inside, you need to make sure that the paint is in fact a low VOC paint.

If you have a low VOC exterior paint and you want to use it indoors, you could use the exterior paint inside as long as the odor doesn’t bother you.

So Can You Use Exterior Paint Inside?

Shrug your shoulders

I guess what this boils down to is that you need to consider a few things before you use exterior paint inside your home.

The simplest factor is that exterior paint costs more. However, the most important consideration that I see are the health concerns with using exterior paint indoors.

Especially people with more sensitive immune, respiratory, or nervous systems, there are serious health concerns with using exterior paint inside.

If you have no existing health concerns and you accept all of the other differences between exterior and interior paint, you could potentially use exterior paint inside.

Make sure that you understand all of the issues when you consider using that spare gallon of paint from your garage.

For example, I would try to use exterior paint inside if I already had it on hand because the differences between interior and exterior paint don’t matter as much to me.

But you need to decide that for yourself.