Is Your Old Paint Still Good? How to Tell When It's Time to Toss - Home & Texture
Homeownership Paint Tips

Is Your Old Paint Still Good? Here's How to Tell When It's Time To Toss It

Got old paint? Find out when it’s time to toss it to keep your DIY projects looking fresh.

January 26, 2024 at 8:06 AM PST

A fresh coat of paint can be the quickest way to transform a space. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or someone who sporadically dabbles in interior painting, chances are you’ve got a few cans of paint lurking in your garage or closet. It’s a common scenario: you finish a painting project, and the leftover paint gets shelved for ‘just in case.’ But, just like spices in your kitchen, paint doesn’t last forever. Knowing when to toss out old paint can save you from a DIY disaster and ensure that your next project looks fresh.

So, how do you know if it’s time to dispose of that half-used can of eggshell blue you have in the back of your closet?

can of paint in house
Photo Credit: Anete Lusina

The Smell Test

Firstly, the smell test is your initial and possibly most telling indicator. If you open a can and are greeted by a rancid odor, it’s a clear sign that the paint has gone bad. Paint that has been properly sealed and stored can last up to 10 years. However, if it’s been exposed to extreme temperatures or hasn’t been sealed correctly, it can spoil much quicker.

Consistency Check

Secondly, check the consistency. Paint that is still usable should have a smooth, creamy consistency. If you notice that the paint is lumpy, rubbery, or has severe separation that can’t be fixed with a thorough stir, it’s time to get rid of it. These texture changes are a sign of an irreversible chemical reaction, typically due to age or poor storage conditions.

Condition of the Paint Can

Another red flag is the condition of the can itself. Rust and corrosion on the can may lead to contamination of the paint inside. This deterioration can introduce impurities that affect the paint’s color and application quality.

can of paint
Photo Credit: Blue Bird

Consider the Color

Lastly, consider the color. Over time, paint can lose its original hue. If you’re seeing a noticeable difference in shade or tone when you test it on a surface, the paint has likely degraded past its prime.

How To Dispose of Old Paint

Disposing of old paint responsibly is important. Many areas have specific guidelines or facilities for paint disposal to prevent environmental harm. If it’s time to let go of that ancient can of paint in your garage, make sure to do it the right way.


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