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The Shelf Life of Paint & How to Properly Handle Old Paint

Posted by Nolan Painting on February 5, 2024
When to dispose of paint

If you own a home, you’ve likely encountered the dilemma of what to do with leftover paint. Over time, paint can change in composition and quality, leading to questions about its shelf life and usability. By understanding the signs of paint gone bad and following proper storage and paint disposal practices, you can make the most of your paint supplies while minimizing waste and environmental impact.

Does Paint Expire?

Yes, paint can expire, although the timeline for when it goes bad varies depending on several factors, including the type of paint, storage conditions, and whether it has been opened or used. Latex and water-based paints typically have a shelf life of about 2-10 years, while oil-based paints can last even longer, up to 15 years or more. However, these are just general guidelines, and the actual longevity of paint can vary.

Signs That Paint Has Gone Bad

  • Separation: If the paint has separated into layers or appears chunky or lumpy, it may have gone bad.
  • Odor: Paint that emits a bad odor is likely past its prime and should not be used.
  • Mold or Mildew Growth: The presence of mold or mildew indicates that moisture has penetrated the paint, rendering it unusable.
  • Thickening: Paint that has thickened beyond its original consistency is no longer suitable for application.

ProperĀ  Paint StorageĀ  Tips

To extend the life of your paint and minimize the risk of it going bad, follow these storage tips:

  • Seal Tightly: Ensure paint cans are tightly sealed to prevent air from entering and causing the paint to dry out or deteriorate.
  • Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Keep paint containers in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures, which can accelerate the degradation of the paint.
  • Label Clearly: Clearly label paint cans with the date of purchase and the room or project it was used for to help track its age and usability.

Disposal of Old Paint

If you find yourself with leftover paint that has gone bad or is no longer needed, it’s important to dispose of it properly to minimize environmental impact. Here are some options for disposing of old paint:

  • Dry it Out: If you have small amounts of latex paint, you can dry it out by leaving the lid off or adding an absorbent material like kitty litter or sawdust. Once dried, you can dispose of it with regular household trash.
  • Hazardous Waste Disposal: For larger quantities of paint or oil-based paints, check with your local waste management facility for instructions on how to dispose of hazardous waste safely.
  • Recycle: Some communities offer paint recycling programs where you can drop off old paint for proper disposal or recycling.

Nolan Painting donating paints for Habitat for Humanity in Greater Philadelphia

When you dispose of old paint, it would be helpful to take a photo of the paint lid so that if your space needs paint touch ups in the future, you can reference the color and ensure you have a color match when you purchase new paint.

At Nolan Painting, we follow these disposal practices, but also recycle and donate paint to organizations like Habitat for Humanity or local theater productions when the paint is still usable but unwanted by the owner. Annually, our team collects old paint at a charity race called the Frostbite Five Miler in Ambler, PA to help participants properly dispose of their unwanted paint. We typically collect over a hundred cans of latex paint and use a hardening product to harden before disposing of them.

Categories: Tips and Resources