How Long Can You Store Paint?

by Team eLocal
Suffolk, Virginia, USA - June 15, 2014: A horizontal shot of a collection of opened and unopened American brand cans of paint, wood stain and paint sprays organized neatly on a wooden shelf. The brands include cans of indoor house paint by Sherwin Williams, spray paint by Rustoleum, and wood stain by Minwax.

Painting your walls a new color is a great way to freshen up a room, and it makes a wonderful DIY project. Having leftover paint is expected — especially because it is better to have too much than too little. Keeping old paint can be great for little touchups or for future projects.

But how long does paint last in storage? Find out more below.

How Long Does Opened House Paint Last?

Most paint, properly sealed, will last a year in storage. The right paint in the right conditions can last over a decade. How long your paint will last depends on how well it's sealed, the storage conditions and the type of paint.

How Long Does Unopened House Paint Last?

Most paints will last many years unopened if stored properly. Keep your paint between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 32 degrees Celsius) to protect it from freezing or heating. If your paint has been sitting for a while, you might want to take it to the hardware store to have them shake it back up and mix the dyes.

How Do You Seal Open Paint?

Sealing paint will keep it airtight and stop the paint from drying out or becoming contaminated. First, clean any paint out of the groove on the paint can. Use a rubber mallet to tap the lid into place. This prevents dents to the can. It's a good idea to write on the lid where you used the paint and when you sealed it.

What Are the Different Types of Paint?

Different types of paint behave very differently in storage. When it comes to judging how long paint lasts, it's important to consider the type of paint you're storing.

Latex Paint and Acrylic Paint

These water-based paints are great and very versatile, but the water content also makes them more susceptible to freezing. If you're in a colder climate, you should keep these paints out of the garage.

Oil-Based Paint

A thick paint that spreads beautifully, oil-based paint has the longest shelf life of any paint. Fully sealed, it should keep for over a decade. However, if not sealed properly, this paint will dry out easily.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a thick and smooth paint that is perfect for smaller projects like furniture or doors. If stored properly, it can last up to five years but will dry quickly if exposed to air.

Milk Paint

This has the shortest shelf life of any paint as it is completely organic. Once mixed, most milk paint lasts only a day. Before it is mixed, milk paint powder can be stored for about a year.

How Can You Tell If Paint Has Gone Bad?

The first sign of bad paint is a rancid or sour smell coming from the paint. Another is texture. It is normal for paint to separate, so give the tin a stir before judging this. If you still notice clumps in the paint, do not use it.

Another thing you may see is a layer of scum developed on the paint. However, a layer of visible scum doesn't mean the paint can't be salvaged. You can remove this layer and use the paint as long as there are no other signs of expiration.

If the paint smells and looks good, be sure to test a patch before applying it to a full wall. Paint a strip onto old newspaper and look for good quality color and adhesion.

Can You Throw Paint in the Trash?

The answer here is a resounding no. Paint — especially oil-based paint — is considered household hazardous waste and should be disposed of with care. Don't pour any paint down the drain because this can clog pipes and cause environmental pollution.

You must make sure the paint is dry before disposal. Leaving the pot open, especially in the sun, will dry out the paint. To speed up the process, you can add cat litter or sawdust to the mixture.

How Do You Dispose of Old Paint?

Many community organizations may have uses for your old paint. Call around to local churches, schools and charities to find out before disposing of your paint. Your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore might accept the paint for recycling if it isn’t expired. If your paint has expired, find a local recycling center. Make sure that they accept the paint you have before you visit.

Before getting rid of paint, make sure to note the brand, finish and color from the label. If you need it later, this will be invaluable information.

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