How to Store Paint So It Lasts

Paint cans on shelf

Paint doesn’t last forever, but it has a pretty good shelf life if you store it properly. A variety of factors make paint go bad, including exposure to extreme temperatures, moisture, and air. But by protecting it from these factors, you can extend its lifespan. Here’s how you can store paint so it lasts.

What Makes Paint Go Bad

Various factors compromise the integrity of paint over time. This may result in oxidation reactions and undesirable changes in consistency. Check out some of them below:

  • Airflow: If you expose your paint to air, it will dry over time.
  • Temperature: Extreme temperatures are another factor that may make your paint go bad. It may become damaged, thickened, or frozen.
  • Humidity: Just like air, low humidity may also dry paint. On the other hand, humidity may also be too high, leading to problems like mold and mildew.
  • Age: Most paints last anywhere from 1 to 15 years, depending on type, how they’re opened, and how they’re stored (see more below).

However, you can take proactive measures to prevent these risks, ensuring the longevity and quality of paint products. 

The Correct Way to Store Paint

You can make your paint last longer by protecting it from all the factors that may compromise its integrity.

Don’t Open Paint Unnecessarily

Two people opening a can of paint
Photo Credit: Blue Bird from Pexels / Canva Pro / License

When you open paint, you expose it to air and humidity. So the best way to protect it is to open the paint can only when you are ready to use it and then be sure the lid is tightly sealed after each use. 

You can avoid opening your paint too soon by knowing the amount of paint you need. Check out our paint calculation guide.

Don’t Damage the Lid When Opening

If you do need to open the paint, you have to make sure you do so carefully. It’s easy to bend, dent, or crease the lid or rim, which will cause problems. Once damaged, the can won’t seal as well as it should and air will get in. If that happens, transfer the leftover paint to a new airtight container.

Choose a Suitable Container

Metal cans
Photo Credit: Comstock / Canva Pro / License

You should use an airtight container to prevent air from getting in. Store your paint in a lined metal can or a container made of glass or plastic. The original container may sometimes be reusable. See how you can achieve an airtight seal further down below.

You don’t want to pick a material that might rust. But there’s no need to get too fancy; even old tupperware or similar plastic containers can store paint just fine. Just make sure to label the container clearly to avoid any confusion between paint and food!

Re-Seal Open Paint Properly

If you’ve already opened your paint, there’s no going back, but you can still keep it in good condition for a long time. Be sure to reseal it properly to prevent it from drying out. An airtight seal will help to maintain the paint’s consistency and prevent it from becoming unusable. 

Here are a few steps to take to properly reseal your container:

  • Be sure that the rim of the container and lid are completely clean before you reseal it.
  • You can put plastic wrap over the opening of the paint can before replacing the lid.
  • You can also use a rubber band to secure the lid tightly.
  • Additionally, consider using a rubber mallet or hammer to tap down the lid and ensure a tight seal.
  • Storing your paint upside down can create an extra barrier and prevent air from entering.

Store Your Paint in a Cool, Dry Place

Where to store leftover paint? As mentioned above, you should keep in mind that high temperatures and low humidity may dry your paint. Low temperatures may change your paint’s consistency, or even freeze it. High humidity may cause problems like mold and mildew. To prevent all these issues, store it in a dry place out of direct sunlight at between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 to 60% humidity.

You’ve read above that you can store paint in tupperware, but other than that, it should stay out of your kitchen—more specifically, your fridge. The only paint you should store in your fridge (and use ASAP) is milk paint. 

Is Your Paint Expired?

Even if you do everything correctly to properly store and maintain your leftover paint, it will eventually expire. It’s important to know how long each paint type usually lasts, but even then, you should keep an eye out for common paint expiration signs, especially if you have old paint.

Signs that your paint has expired include:

  • It has become thick, clumpy, or lumpy
  • It has become separated and quickly separates again after you mix it
  • There’s any other type of odd texture
  • There’s mold or mildew
  • It smells foul

Here’s the average shelf life of unopened paint:

Paint TypeEstimated Lifespan (unopened)
Water-based latex paint10 years
Oil-based paintOver 15 years
Chalk paint5 years
Acrylic paintOver 10 years
Limewash paint5 to 10 years
Premixed milk paint1 to 2 years
Powdered milk paintIndefinite

Knowing how long each paint type lasts will help you with your painting and home improvement projects. Read our paint longevity guide for more information.

Pro tip: Write details about your paint on the container or use a label. Include what type of paint you’re using, when you bought it, and when you opened it.

FAQ

What paint color fades the least once dry?

Beige, gray, and white are neutral colors with fewer pigments. That means they’re less likely to fade compared to colors with more pigments, such as bright red or deep blue. 

Can you reuse expired paint?

No, you should never reuse expired paint. It may contain harmful chemicals. Plus, it wouldn’t give you the effects you’re looking for anyway.

Can you reuse separated paint?

In some cases, it may be okay to reuse paint that has separated. Try to mix it, and if it doesn’t separate again or show other signs that it has gone bad, it should be okay to use.

How long does paint take to dry?

Fast-drying acrylics can dry in 30 minutes. However, oil-based paints may take up to 8 hours. Read on about average drying times in our paint drying times guide. Drying times are always affected by weather conditions.

Less Hassle, More Dazzle: Hire a Pro

Whether it’s for a DIY project or minor touch ups, we’re all likely to have leftover paint at some point. Knowing about the right paint storage can be the difference between preserving the paint’s quality and having to buy new paint sooner than expected. But there’s a way to transform your space without giving you a list of things to worry about; why not hire a pro to tackle your painting project? Contact a painting pro in your area.

Main Photo Credit: jpgfactory / Canva Pro / License

Judith Gallova

Judith Gallova is a freelance writer living in Slovakia. She found her passion for writing when she created her first blog at the age of 10. Later on, she started working in marketing, and eventually combined her writing and marketing skills to become a freelance writer. In her free time, she often studies the Bible, goes to the gym, spends time with loved ones, and enjoys all things art and design.