How to Store Paint

Paint is a versatile and useful product that can drastically transform the look of a space. However, improper storage can lead to wasted paint and money. Knowing how to properly store paint ensures it will be ready to use for future projects. We’ll provide tips on storing paint of all types so it stays usable as long as possible.

Choose the Right Container

The first step in proper paint storage is using the right container. Here are some tips:

  • Use the original can: Store paint in its original container whenever possible. The can protects the paint from air and prevents spillage.
  • Use airtight containers: If transferring paint, choose an airtight plastic or metal container. Plastic jars or metal cans work well. The container should have a tight seal to limit air exposure.
  • Avoid glass: Don’t store paint in glass containers. Paint can react with glass, ruining both the finish and the jar.
  • Consider size: Make sure the container has enough room for the remaining paint. A large container leads to excess air which can dry out the paint prematurely.

Prepare the Paint Can

Before storing, take a few steps with the paint can to prevent leaks, spills, and skinning:

  • Wipe the rim: Use a paper towel to wipe away any dried paint on the rim of the can. This ensures a tight seal.
  • Place plastic wrap over the opening: Put plastic wrap over the opening before sealing the lid. This prevents oxygen from reaching the paint.
  • Turn the can over: Flip the can over to create a tight seal. This prevents leaks from air bubbles.
  • Store upside down: Continuing to store upside down maintains the tight seal.
  • Hammer down the lid: Lightly hammer down the lid with a rubber mallet to reinforce the seal.
  • Label the can: Mark the name, color, finish, and date on the lid so you know what’s inside.

Choose the Right Storage Location

The ideal paint storage location differs slightly depending on the paint type. Here are some guidelines:

Store Latex and Acrylic Paints Above 50°F

Latex and acrylic paints are water-based. They will freeze and become unusable below 50°F. Avoid storing them in unheated garages or sheds during cold weather. The optimal storage temperature range is 50-90°F.

Oil-Based Paints Require Cool, Dry Storage

For oil-based paints, aim for a cool location between 40-70°F. Avoid storing in hot attics or near heat sources. Additionally, keep humidity low to prevent rust on the can. An interior closet or basement are good spots.

Store Aerosol Cans Away from Heat

Aerosol spray paint contains pressurized flammable gas. Store in temperatures between 60-80°F and avoid placing near stoves, heaters, or in direct sunlight.

Keep Multiple Cans Organized

Use storage organizers or racks to corral multiple cans. This keeps them upright and easy to access. Group paint cans by color or room for convenience.

Additional Tips for Paint Storage

Follow these extra guidelines for keeping paint in optimal condition:

  • Check seals periodically: Ensure lids are tightly sealed before placing paint in storage. Check seals occasionally and tighten or replace if needed.
  • Limit exposure to air: Paint deteriorates faster when exposed to oxygen. Keep containers tightly closed. Consider pouring leftover paint into smaller containers to minimize air.
  • Store paint out of direct sunlight: Light can break down paint polymers over time. Keep cans in a dark closet, cabinet, or drawer.
  • Maintain moderate humidity: Very dry air causes paint to thicken, while high humidity can cause mildew or rust. Aim for 40-60% relative humidity.
  • Keep paint from freezing: Freezing ruins water-based paints. Move latex paints to a warmer spot if temperatures drop below 50°F.
  • Store flat to prevent leaks: Store paint cans upright instead of on their side to avoid paint oozing from the lid.

By following these storage tips, quality latex and oil-based paints can last 2-5 years or more unopened. Even after opening, proper storage extends the lifespan of leftover paint.

Frequently Asked Questions About Storing Paint

Storing paint correctly ensures it lasts. Here are answers to common questions about paint storage:

How long does unopened paint last?

Most quality paints last 2-5 years if unopened and stored properly. Oil-based paints generally last longer than latex. Avoid using paint that has been sitting for over 10 years.

Does paint go bad if not used?

Yes, all paint has a shelf life and will eventually become unusable. Signs of bad paint include thick texture, separation, unpleasant odor, and poor coverage.

What happens if paint freezes?

Freezing ruins water-based latex and acrylic paints. The water components can permanently separate or become clumpy. Always store above 50°F.

Can you store paint in the garage?

This depends on the climate. Unheated garages often drop below 50°F in winter. Only store paint in temperature-regulated garages. Keep latex paints inside if unsure.

How do you store small amounts of leftover paint?

Pour leftover paint into a smaller airtight container like a cleaned yogurt or margarine tub. Cover surface with plastic wrap before sealing the lid. Store upside down.

Should oil-based paint be stored upside down?

Yes, storing upside down maintains a tight seal and prevents leaks. Just be sure to lightly hammer down the lid and wipe any paint from the rim first.

How do you reuse old paint?

First, strain old paint through a mesh bag or pantyhose to remove solids and impurities. Then thin with the recommend thinner amount and type per manufacturer instructions. Test on cardboard before using.

Storing Paint by Type

From latex and acrylics to specialty finishes, proper storage is important for keeping all kinds of paint usable over time. Here are tips for storing common paint varieties:

Latex Paint

Latex paint, also called acrylic or water-based, is the most widely used wall paint. It requires:

  • Ideal conditions: Store between 50-90°F and under 5 years. Avoid humidity over 60%.
  • Container: Keep in original can or airtight plastic container. Glass allows moisture loss.
  • Checking paint: Inspect regularly. If showing signs of aging like thickening or separating, strain before using.
  • Freezing: Don’t allow latex paint to freeze. Keep indoors during winter.

Oil-Based Paint

Known for durability and a glossy finish, oil-based paint needs:

  • Cool, dry storage: Ideal conditions are 40-70°F with under 60% humidity. Prevent moisture.
  • Airtight metal can: Store in original container or metal paint can with tight lid.
  • Limited light: Keep away from direct sun exposure which can react with chemicals.
  • Flat positioning: Store flat instead of upright to prevent leaking from the lid over time.

Acrylic Craft Paint

Acrylic craft paints require proper storage for maintaining smooth flow and pigment color:

  • Room temperature storage: Avoid freezing, refrigerating, or storing above 90°F. Heat and cold degrade acrylic.
  • Tight lids: Dry tip bottles or squeeze tubes should have lids closed firmly between uses.
  • Upside down: Turn bottles upside down to keep moisture content steady and prevent drying.
  • Dark space: Light can break down pigments over time. Keep paints in a cabinet or drawer.

Spray Paint

Aerosol spray paint presents unique storage hazards due to pressurized contents:

  • Moderate temperatures: Store between 60-80°F. Don’t leave in very hot or cold areas.
  • Ventilated area: Store in a well-ventilated spot away from heat sources or open flames. Vapors are flammable.
  • Upright position: Store spray cans upright instead of on their side to keep pressure even.
  • Protect from bumps: Avoid dropping or shaking spray paint cans. This can rupture the internal components.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint creates a glossy, protective finish but has specific storage needs:

  • Cool and dry: Store enamel between 50-70°F out of direct sunlight. Prevent humidity buildup.
  • Airtight container: Keep in original can or pour into sealed metal paint can to prevent thickening over time.
  • Strain before reusing: Enamel can settle. Strain before use for a smooth consistency.
  • Invert can: Turn can upside down during storage to get a liquid seal over the lid.

Warning Signs Your Stored Paint Has Gone Bad

While proper storage maximizes shelf life, paint does eventually spoil. Here’s how to identify bad paint:

  • Thickness: Paint is no longer pourable and has a paste-like consistency.
  • Separation: Pigment has separated from the liquid, leaving watery residue. Shaking won’t recombine it.
  • Mold or smell: Paint emits a rancid, rotten, or ammonia-like smell. Mold may visibly grow.
  • Color change: The shade now appears faded, darker, or inconsistent.
  • Poor coverage: Paint applies patchy and streaky rather than evenly covering.
  • Clumps: Latex paint contains clumpy gelatinous blobs.
  • Frozen: The container feels icy cold to the touch, indicating frozen and ruined latex paint.
  • Rust: Rust spots appear on the lid or sides of the metal container.

When you encounter these issues, it’s unfortunately time to dispose of and replace old paint.

Disposing and Recycling Old Paint

Leftover paint takes up storage space. But don’t just throw it in the garbage—here are some environmentally-friendly disposal options:

  • Donate: Local organizations may accept leftover paint for reuse. Schools and theater groups often want paint donations.
  • Take to disposal site: Many waste management companies hold periodic paint recycling events or sites. Some retailers like Sherwin-Williams accept returns.
  • Dry out: Add absorbents like cat litter or sawdust to thicken latex paint, then dispose in trash. Let oil paint fully dry out first.
  • Contact trash collection: Some garbage providers allow drying out latex paint and placing cans at curbside pickup. Always check regulations first.
  • Eco-friendly paint: Consider low-VOC, water-based options which are easier to dispose of responsibly.

Properly disposing of paint keeps hazardous chemicals out of traditional landfills. Dried latex and oil paints are typically considered non-hazardous household waste.

Storing Paint to Maintain a Long Shelf Life

Paint adds vibrancy and style to home decor when used on walls, furnishings, crafts and more. But no one wants to spend money replacing paint that has gone bad prematurely. By selecting quality paint, using appropriate storage containers, keeping paint cans sealed and in climate-controlled conditions, you can maintain fresh, usable paint for years beyond the first use. Monitor your inventory and dispose of aged paint properly to ensure you always have the perfect color on hand for touch-ups or starting new projects. With the proper storage strategy, you can keep paint in ideal condition and avoid waste.