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How Long is Paint Good For?

Paint stored correctly will be good for decades. There are however a few problems that will determine how long is paint good for. Big safety issue!

How long is paint good for? Until Hell Freezes Over! Paint is good for as long as it has not frozen or been infected with mold spores (you don’t want mold flying around in or around the outside of your house).

We try to simplify this complex question below…but…

How long does paint last in a can that was never opened?

For latex around 10 years, and for oils around 15 years… but these both will probably need to be strained before it is used. Here is all about it. We use strainer cones: they are not expensive.

If you need any tools, check our post for every basic professional painter’s tools.

Some FAQ’s on How Long is Paint Good For:

  • Does paint go bad? The shelf life of almost all paint is years and years. We show below how to save old paint and give tips on paint storage.
  • How long does paint last? That depends: was it opened or not…
  • How long is paint good for once opened? That’s complicated. If you know about paint storage, you may be ok. More below.
  • How long does paint last in a bucket? 10 years for latex, 15 for oils… Maybe! See below.
  • How long can paint be stored? Not forever, but for a very long time. Key point: avoid freezing.

So, does paint expire like food? No, as George said, “All things must pass”.

Big safety tip: Never use old (or any) exterior paint inside your home. We explained the dangers in a recent post: paint is good if it passes the test we show you there. When is old paint no longer useful? How do you get rid of old paint easily? It’s all there.

By the way…

We NEVER pour old paint down a drain, either to septic tanks or city water. It’s just wrong. There is an easier way, but the best way is to use it! This paint hardener powder turns unwanted liquid paint into a solid that the landfill will accept….and keep the nasty chemicals out of our drinking water. If you want to go the slow way, just open the lid and leave covered with a rag in a warm area. It will take some weeks to dry up.

Paint storage - place a rag before hammering
If any paint is in the lip of the lid, place a rag before hammering or you’ll get a shower.

Also, your town will probably give you a ticket if they find liquid paint in your garbage or recyclables.

Tip: if you are using oil-based paints, always wear a respirator (we simplified the complex world of respirators in an earlier post).

Finally, if you have an old can of paint, you can put it in the shaker at the paint store for free…but they will not put rusty cans in the shaker because they have seen it all: Ba-boom. Paint showers.

But you can strain with re-useable strainers (linked above) and put your old paint into clean, empty cans for shaking…it’s an offer no paint store can refuse.

The strainer cones you see above are not expensive so we don’t even try to wash them. But even better are the large strainer bags. These are the 5-gallon bucket size and have a slot for a sprayer siphon. We wash these also if they never touch oil-based paints. But for about a ½ buck each, it’s a no brainer.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments!

6 thoughts on “How Long is Paint Good For?”

  1. This is very helpful. All other sites said 10 years max for interior latex. But i recently needed to touch up after drywall work was done. My paint was bought 11 years ago but was kept inside house in dry location of upper shelf and my husband had sealed it very well . I took it to the paint store to be shaken and they said (without opening the can) that it probably is bad. But they did shake it. I used it last night and it went on beautifully with no lumps and no oder.

    If I’m wrong and it really is bad , how soon would i notice peeling or flaking? In a few days a shower panel is going to be glued to the walls i painted.

    • You may be ok. no smell, no clumps? I’d set a reminder to look at it every few months… mold?
      If ok, great. If now, you should scrape it all off…a huge job.
      I don’t think you can put a max life on paint. Trying to save a few bucks can cause extreme headaches.
      I think you will be ok if it looks good.

  2. Long ago I learned a technique to make paint last almost indefinitely–in quantities of 1 gallon of less (though it might be possible with current plastic 5 gallon buckets). Making very sure that the cans are tightly sealed, turn them over every year or two. Today I’m painting with a 36-41 year old can of (long since discontinued) Flecto plasticized Varathane enamel. I first opened and used it 11 years ago, but had always flipped it every year or two. It does take about 3-4 days to dry, but I’m betting it was slow even back in the day. This is the the third “opening,” and it’s behaved the same each time.


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