One of the most common home improvement projects is painting. Maybe you got extra paint for touchups later and now you are wondering what to do with it. If you have limited storage space in your home, you might be wondering if it’s okay to store the extra paint in your garage.
In general, your garage is not the best place to store your paint because of the extreme temperature conditions. Very hot and very cold temperatures can alter the formula of your paint. The dampness in your garage can cause the metal paint cans to rust.
Knowing more about paint and how to store it will help your leftovers last until it’s time to do touchups or start your next painting project.
How Long Can You Store Paint?
If you store your paint properly, you can expect water-based paints, such as acrylic and latex paints, to last up to five years. Oil-based paints can last up to ten years if stored correctly. Generally, older oil-based paints will form a skin on the top that you can remove and discard before using the paint as normal.
If you are not sure how long it will be until you next use your paint, you could consider donating it to someone who can use it, such as Habitat for Humanity. This is a better alternative than letting the paint take up space for years and eventually having to throw it out.
Can Paint Dry in the Cold?
If you’re working on a painting project, you should not use your paint in weather colder than about 50 degrees. While the paint will still dry, it may not dry uniformly, causing uneven color. The paint may eventually crack.
When you store paint in cold temperatures, it will not dry out, as long as you have sealed the can properly. However, paint stored in your garage in the winter is at risk of freezing. Water-based paints such as latex paints are especially likely to freeze in cold weather.
Usually, you do not have to worry quite as much about oil-based paints freezing, but it is best to store both water-based and oil-based paints as close to room temperature as possible.
Does Paint Have to be Stored at a Certain Temperature?
Most paints made now can be stored at temperatures down to 35 degrees. However, you should not keep them at temperatures any colder than this because it may freeze – especially if they are water-based.
When latex paint freezes, the solids can expand and separate from the rest of the paint. This can result in a lumpy paint. However, this is not always the case when paint freezes, and as long as the texture and smell of the paint seem normal, you can most likely still use the paint. The exact type of paint, the length of time it was frozen, and whether it ever froze before will all determine whether or not your paint will still be usable.
On the other hand, storing paint in extreme heat can also alter the paint’s consistency. If the temperature is above 110 degrees, a skin of dried paint can form on top, and the pigment can settle. Over time, the paint may slowly dry out into a gel-like consistency. When the pigments of water-based paints settle, it is not always reversable and can make your paint less glossy.
It is especially important to keep oil-based paints in a cool location because they can combust if stored in excessively high temperatures.
How Can You Tell if Paint Has Gone Bad?
You can tell if your paint has gone bad based off a few signs. The most obvious is smell. If it still smells like chemicals, it is probably still good. But if it smells sour or has another offensive odor, bacteria has gotten into the paint and you should not use it. Using paint with bacteria or mold in it can cause an offensive odor in your room that will only grow worse.
Look at the amount of separation in the paint. Can you mix it up again? Or have the paint particles separated from the liquid for good? If the color is not consistent, the paint has gone bad.
Another way you can tell if paint has gone bad is by its texture. When paint, especially latex paint, is frozen, it is generally ruined. If it smells normal and has a normal consistency, you can most likely use it. But if it is very lumpy or has the consistency of cottage cheese, you should not use it.
However, sometimes latex paint can survive being frozen and thawed a couple of times. Thaw it out slowly by bringing it inside and leaving it for a day or so. Once you have thawed your paint, smell it and look at the consistency.
If it doesn’t have a lot of lumps, you may be able to strain them out. You can use a paint strainer for this, or you can use an old nylon stocking. Test the paint on a small area first because sometimes those “lumps” you strained out were actually the pigment.
Disposing of Bad Paint
If your paint does not smell or look normal, you should dispose of it properly. This will help protect the environment. You should always take oil-based paints to a recycling center for proper disposal because they are considered hazardous waste. But there are a couple of things you can do to dispose of latex paint without going to a recycling center.
If your paint is lumpy or already starting to dry out, spread it out on a thick layer of old newspaper and allow it to dry completely. Then fold up the newspaper and throw it away.
If the paint is bad but still liquid, you can add clumping cat litter or a commercial paint hardener to the can and let it sit for an hour. Then you can throw the entire can in the trash. The cat litter or paint hardener will prevent the paint from spilling in the trash.
Why Does My Paint Smell Rotten?
Paint has organic compounds which are very volatile. When you don’t store your paint properly, bacteria can get in – especially if you did not completely seal the can. When bacteria gets in the can, the organic compounds can start to decay.
Although it’s rare, bacteria can also get in the can if your brushes or other tools have bacteria on them. Storing the can in an excessively warm environment can cause these bacteria to multiply, leading to rotten-smelling paint when you next open it.
Occasionally, bacteria may get in the paint in the factory. If you have a new can of paint that smells rotten, you should get an exchange. Paint should have a chemical smell, not a rotten one.
Does old paint smell bad?
Certain types of paints may smell bad when they get too old because of bacteria buildup. Many paints have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in them. These help the paint last longer, but they are not good for you to breathe, and they can build up in your home.
They remain in the air even after the paint has dried. Because of this, you can find paints that have few or no VOCs added to them. The problem with low or no VOC paint, however, is that you usually can’t store it as long as other paint. That’s because bacteria usually grow faster in low or no VOC paint than regular paint.
Can moldy paint be used?
You should never use moldy paint anywhere. Even if you can pick out and remove the visible mold, the spores will still be in the paint. If you use moldy paint, you will risk spreading the mold on your walls when you paint. Most of the mold you will find growing in paint cans is toxic and you do not want that in your house!
Can bad paint make you sick?
Sometimes bad paint can make you sick, but this is not always the case. It depends on what caused the paint to go bad. If the paint froze and is now lumpy, it won’t make you sick. It will just make the paint job look bad.
On the other hand, if bacteria got in the paint, causing mold or a sour smell, you can get sick from it. Depending on the type of mold, the paint may cause you to have respiratory problems, including coughing, headaches, and congestion.
Can You Store Paint in Plastic Containers?
You can store paint in plastic containers, but the problem with this is that plastic is not often airtight. This means bacteria can get in the container or your paint can dry out, so your paint will not last as long in a plastic container as it would in a metal container.
Your best option is to transfer any leftover paint to a metal paint can, which you can find online or at your local hardware store. This will help prolong the shelf life of your leftover paint.
What Gets Rid of a Strong Paint Smell?
If you have already used a bad paint and your walls stink, there are a few things you can do to get rid of the smell. If the paint smelled sour or had mold in it, there are bacteria causing the bad smell. You can kill the bacteria by washing the painted area with bleach and water. Use one part bleach to 10 parts water.
If this has not gotten rid of the smell within a couple of days, you may need to consider repainting the whole area with new paint. Start by finding a primer meant to seal in odors and apply two coats. Then paint the area with fresh paint that does not smell bad.
The smell may be caused by mold if it is persistent. You should choose a primer that is not porous, because mold needs air in order to grow. A shellac primer will seal the mold off from the air supply so it can die.
If you used a new paint that left behind a strong paint odor, there are a couple of household items you can use to get rid of the smell. The most well-known one is baking soda, which can absorb all kinds of odors. Place several small bowls full of baking soda around the room and leave them overnight. Replace the baking soda every day until the smell dissipates.
You can also use scented candles, either scented ones or odor-absorbing ones. Burning candles helps absorb odors. Place a couple of candles around the room and let them burn for a few hours. Make sure you don’t leave them overnight and that you extinguish them before leaving the house.
You may choose to use a few of these methods at once to get rid of the smell as quickly as possible. Of course, no matter what is causing the odor after painting, you should always keep the windows open and use fans to further eliminate the odor from your home.
Can Paint Fumes Kill You?
Paint fumes will generally not kill you unless you already have some serious health problems or are purposefully inhaling them to get high. However, paint fumes can cause some serious respiratory problems if you inhale them for too long. Paints high in VOCs can cause headaches and lung problems. VOCs are also believed to be carcinogens.
Generally, painting your room or house every now and then won’t harm you as long as you don’t spend too long in the room while the paint dries. It takes a lot of painting for the chemicals from the paint to build up in your system. Taking proper safety precautions will keep you healthy while you are painting.
Using paints that are low in VOCs or have no VOCs is the best way to prevent health problems from paint fumes. Open the windows and turn on some fans while you are painting, and always close your paint cans tightly when you are done to keep paint fumes from escaping.
Does Paint Smell Toxic?
Paint does have a chemical smell to it. However, it should not smell toxic. If it smells sour or rancid, it is old, and you should not use it. Oil-based paints generally do smell worse than latex paints, and the smell might bother some people more than others.
Paint Storage Tips
Most people purchase extra paint in case they make a mistake or want to do some touchups later. Knowing how to store this extra paint is important so it will still be useable later on.
Keep It Away from Extreme Conditions
We’ve seen that storing paint in very cold or very hot conditions usually leads to the paint going bad. The best place to store your paint is in a cool, dark location. This will prevent temperature fluctuations in the paint.
Basements are excellent locations to store your paint because the temperate is neither too hot nor too cold. If possible, keep your paint cans off the floor because damp conditions can cause metal paint cans to rust.
Damp conditions can also allow mold to grow in your paint, especially if it has not been sealed up completely. Try to store your paint cans on a shelf at least a few inches off the floor and not touching the walls.
Seal Up the Paint Can as Best as Possible
If you do not seal up your can of paint properly, it can dry out, especially if you are not planning another painting project anytime soon. Before putting the lid back on, wipe out the grooves of the paint can to remove any excess paint. Make sure the lid is clean too. This will ensure a tight fit and keep the lid from getting glued shut.
Place some plastic wrap over the top of the can before you put the lid on. To put the lid on tightly, use a rubber mallet to gently tap the lid in place. You should not use a regular hammer directly on the lid because this can misshape the lid. But you can use a hammer with a piece of wood over the lid.
When you open the paint can later, use a paint can opener instead of a screwdriver. Screwdrivers can damage the lid and make it impossible to close the can properly later.
Keep Everything Clean and Organized
You should label all of your paint cans, so you remember which one is which. To make it easy to use the color again later, you should mark on the can exactly which room you used that color in, as well as the date. If that room has multiple colors, you should also mark where you used that color in the room.
While you should not store your paint in your garage, there are many other options for storing it. Following these tips will ensure your paint will last for several years after your project is completed.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare