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Does Paint Expire?

many colorful cans of paint, open to display the paint inside
Andreas Kraus/Shutterstock

Yes, paint does expire, but when it expires depends on the type of paint. You may not find an actual expiration date on the packaging, so how can you tell if your paint is still good?

Basics on Paint Types

There are a few main types of paint you’re most likely to use in your home regularly. If you’re an artist, you may also use acrylic or oil paints. In your home, oil and latex are commonly used.

  • Oil-Based Paints – With proper care and storage, oil-based paints will last up to fifteen years. Oil-based paints use synthetic or natural oils, making it take longer to dry both in storage and when you’re using it. It’s a more durable paint option, though, which makes the long drying time worth it.
  • Latex Paints – Latex-based paint will only last up to ten years. This type of paint dries faster, but it is less durable than oil-based. It’s also less shelf-stable.
  • Acrylic Paints – Acrylic paints, most commonly used in art, may last more than a decade, depending on packaging and storage.

Proper Storage for Paint

Properly storing your paint, no matter what type it is, will extend its life and ensure it lasts for the longest duration possible. Proper storage begins with tightly sealing the paint can or tube, but proper temperature matters as well. Keeping your paint sealed tightly helps keep it from drying out and all those precious compounds from wafting away and curing the paint in the can.

Extreme temperatures, too cold or too hot, will immediately ruin your paint. Paint needs to be stored above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and below 72 degrees. This means storing your paint in the garage or a shed isn’t a good idea if you want it to last. Keep it in the house where you have more control over the temperature. Latex paint, especially, is susceptible to freezing and one solid freeze is typically enough to turn it into a weird colored spongey mass, ruining it in the process.

How to Tell if Your Paint is Already Bad

Here are the things that indicate your paint is bad:

  • It’s dried out.
  • There’s a fishy or odd smell that it didn’t have before.
  • It’s chunky.
  • When you stir it, it doesn’t hold the proper smoothness and separates again quickly.

So if it’s odd-smelling—you know; odder smelling than VOC-loaded paint already is—and won’t blend back together, it’s time to dispose of it.

How to Track the Age of Your Paint

Improper storage aside, the primary thing that causes paint to go bad is simply time and the breakdown of the compounds in the can. You can save yourself a lot of hassle by recording the date of purchase clearly on the container with a permanent marker.

You should also keep a notebook of your paint purchases, especially if you’re painting your home. If you ever want to paint in scrapes on the wall or repaint the whole room in the same shade, you’ll want the exact paint mix, and you may run out at some point (or have to toss your paint if it goes bad). Write down:

  • The brand name of the paint
  • The purchase date
  • The name of the paint color
  • What type of paint it is and the finish type
  • The formula numbers from the can

That might seem excessive but trust us. Ten years from now, when you decide you want to repaint and you really like the color, the information above will make it an absolute breeze to get a fresh can in the exact shade you want.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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