Quality paint can be quite expensive. Saving your leftover paint instead of throwing it away is a wise, economic decision. You can use your leftover paint for simple touch-ups or other projects. By doing this, you’ll save more cash in the long run. Saving your paint is really the smart choice, but how long does paint stay good for and how should you store it?

Typically, unopened cans of paint tend to last longer than pre-opened cans, and oil-based products generally last longer than latex paints. That being said, the longevity of your paint is really determined on where and how you store it. If you follow the tips listed below, you’ll keep your paint good for many years going forward.

How long is paint good for after opened?

The longevity of paint is really determined on many factors, including whether or not the can of paint has been opened. If you don’t store them properly, for latex paint, you have around 6 months before it will go bad. For oils, the life of the paint is around 9 months.

As long as you properly cover the opened can of paint with either the original lid or a piece of plastic wrap and store it carefully, your paint will last nearly as long as a can of unopened paint.

How long does an unopened can of paint last?

The cans last 10 years for latex paints and 15 years for oil-based paints if it has never been opened and exposed to air.

The reason why covering your already opened can of paint is so important is because not only will it start to dry up, mold can begin to grow in it as well. Painting the interior portion of your home with mold-infected paint can be quite unhealthy for your household. Keep your family safe by keeping a lid on that paint.

Besides keeping a lid on your can of paint, you’ll also want to make sure you take the same precautions as you would with an unopened can. Never store your opened can of paint in freezing temperatures, in a hot environment or directly in the sun, or in a wet or damp environment.

You’ll also want to make sure you store it in a dry place, preferably off the concrete floor. If the metal paint container becomes rusty, both the color and the performance of the paint can be altered.

If you follow these instructions, your can of paint should stay good for many years, maybe even a decade.

Paint storing checklist

When storing your unopened or opened paint, utilize these easy tips listed to ensure your paint will still be good after years of being stored:

For already opened cans, make sure the lid is on properly. You can use a hammer to lightly tap the lid on if you’re having trouble getting it on. You need a tight seal to prevent the growth of mold and the drying out of your paint.

Never store in a damp or wet environment or directly on the concrete floor.

Never store your can of paint next to a hot appliance like a water heater or a boiler, and never let your can of paint sit directly in the hot sun or a hot environment. The attic is never a good place to store your paint.

Never store your paint in freezing temperatures. This is why the garage is a bad place to keep your paint.

The closets in your home are great locations to store your opened and unopened cans of paint.

How to tell if your paint is still good

If you’ve been storing a can or more of paint, and you want to know if it’s still good to use, you can apply this simple, easy-to-do test. It’s important to note that you should refrain from shaking the paint up before performing this test.

After you’ve removed the lid, start by looking for lumps in the paint. Lumps are usually the result of extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. Lumps don’t always mean that the paint is worthless, but you’ll first have to pour the paint through a strainer before you can use it. Strainers are not very expensive and sold at most paint and home improvement stores.

In addition to looking for lumps, you’ll also want to look for mold. Like mentioned above, mold can grow in your paint if you don’t get the lid on properly. Using moldy paint on the inside of your home can be quite unhealthy for your household. If you do see mold, you’ll want to dispose of the paint right away.

The next thing you can do to see if your paint is still good is to smell it. Make sure you get your head close, so you can get a good whiff. If your paint has a foul or rancid odor, then it’s probably bad. Bad smells are usually the result of mold. If your paint does have a bad smell, it’s time to dispose of it.

The last thing you can do to test and see if your paint is good is to try it out. Find a test surface and use your brush to spread a little. If the paint you just brushed on has a bumpy and rough texture to it, then it’s best to get rid of the paint.

Tips for keeping your paint fresh

First, pour your leftover paint into smaller bottlers. By doing this, you’re minimizing the paint-to-air ratio. This will help prevent the growth of mold and other bacteria. Just make sure the containers you’re storing your leftover paint in is airtight and can be sealed properly.

Second, if you do plan on storing your paint in the original can, make sure you clean all the paint off the around the top of the lid. Why? You don’t want dried paint chipping off the lid and falling into your paint. These chunks of dried flakes can leave blotches on the surface you’re painting. These blotches are very noticeable.

Lastly, to help maintain the quality and freshness of your paint, take plastic wrap and add a layer over the paint can opening before putting the lid back on. This layer of plastic wrap will help keep your paint good for a longer period of time while also keeping dirt, filth, and bacteria from seeping inside. It’s really a useful trick.

How to properly dispose of your old paint

If your paint is bad, and you need to dispose of it, make sure you do it right. Not only is it against the law to dispose of paint improperly, but it’s also bad for the environment.

Places you should never dispose of paint include storm sewers, down your toilet, in your yard, or in the woods. Paints consist of a variety of chemicals, some which can be hazardous. If these hazardous materials would happen to seep into the soil, they can contaminate septic tanks, ruin soil, and can be very unhealthy with anyone who comes into contact with these chemicals. So, how do you properly dispose of old paint?

Most home improvement stores, in addition to paint centers, will take their customer’s old paint for either free or a small cost. You can also contact organizations like Habitat for Humanity and PaintCare. These two organizations will take your old paint and recycle it. Another good tool to use is Earth911. This website will help you find a local hazardous waste material drop-off center in your area. This site is easy to use and very useful.

If you do have to throw paint away in the garbage, it’s always best to let the paint fully dry out first. Like mentioned above, paint sometimes contains hazardous chemicals, and when it’s runny, it can seep out of your garbage and into our environment. This is why it’s smart to let your old paint completely dry before you throw it away. To make the process faster, you can add in a little kitty litter or even an old newspaper to absorb the paint.

Above all, make sure you educate yourself on your local laws. This will save you a lot of time and trouble. Different cities will have different laws, so make sure you familiarize yourself with every ordinance that related to the use of paint.

Mike Bailey

Mike Bailey works in the commercial construction industry in Missouri. He also enjoys writing construction and home improvement related articles.
Mike Bailey
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