Paint is one of humanity’s oldest inventions. We used it on cave walls thousands of years ago, and the last century of chemistry has contributed every color imaginable, and then some. But can you safely store paint in the garage without ruining it?

You cannot store paint in the garage, especially if it is not climate controlled. The extreme temperatures from winter or summer will break down the chemical bonds in the paint and essentially will ruin it. Your better bet is to store it in the basement or in another spot in the house.

This article will explain how and where you can store your paint. It will also look at how to properly dispose of unusable paint if you accidentally leave your paint in the garage over the winter. Let’s get started.

Can You Store Paint in an Unheated Garage?

Paint is a unique mixture of liquid medium and chemical pigments. There are also other additives mixed in depending on the type of paint and your project’s needs. Over long periods, the different parts of this cocktail will separate, with the denser particulates settling on the bottom.

You cannot store paint in an unheated garage. In fact, you’re better off not keeping paint in any area where there’s a strong likelihood of extremely hot or cold temperatures. Such conditions can chemically alter the paint, making it difficult, or perhaps impossible, to use.

The paint can solidify if brought to near freezing, and that will pretty much ruin it. Scorching environments can taint the solvents in the can, which affects the paint’s ability to mix and could cause it to fail to adhere to surfaces as designed.

Admittedly, these situations are concerns that develop over lengthy timespans, but the safest options for long-term storage are dry, climate-controlled rooms and basements.

How Long Can You Keep Paint in the Garage?

The semi-open nature of most home garages makes constant climate control almost impossible. Latex paint can last for years when properly sealed and stored, assuming the temperature and humidity remain stable.

Keeping the garage door closed is advised, though it will only marginally affect the climate.

You can keep paint in a garage for as long as you plan to use it. There’s nothing wrong with keeping closed cans of paint in a garage for a few hours if it happens to be winter and near freezing. But to leave even sealed paint cans in such conditions overnight or longer risks ruining the paint.

The most straightforward strategy is to store paint exclusively in a dry, insulated room, preferably inside a cupboard. Painting in extreme conditions requires planning and careful execution to avoid a lot of mess and waste.

The Best Ways to Conserve Paint

Preserving paint is all about preventing it from drying. Take care to limit canned paint’s exposure to air and light.

Use Proper Can Openers

The lid on the can is an often-overlooked factor in maintaining paint freshness. Never open a can of paint with a screwdriver or another incorrect tool that could bend or dent the lid’s lip or warp the rim of the can. Enough damage will prevent a proper seal from keeping air out.

Always use proper paint can openers, which are available at paint stores along with stirring sticks.

Keep It Sealed

Place a clean sheet of plastic wrap over the open can before closing the lid on top for an added bit of insurance. This plastic barrier will enhance the seal and protect the paint most exposed to air. It is also wise to keep plastic wrap handy to cover open paint cans currently in use from particulates contaminating the paint.

Don’t Use a Hammer to Seal the Can

Fit paint lids on cans snugly, but don’t brutalize them with hammers. Tap hard against a piece of wood against the cover to firmly seat it in the opening. Investing in one or two smaller empty paint cans is a good idea, too.

When a standard gallon of paint can run low, it’s smart to decant the remaining paint into a smaller quart or pint-sized can. Doing so will reduce the amount of air exposure in the container. 

How Do You Know When Stored Paint Is Bad?

Paint won’t last forever, but you’d better know how to tell. If there is no clear label on an unopened can and you have no idea where it came from, grab a paint opener and take a look.

When paint is bad, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the smell and not the distinct, plastic scent of wet paint. Bacteria and mold can grow in the paint can if they have enough time and air. You don’t want to paint your walls with that.

Sometimes a semi-solid layer forms on the top of paint inside the can from air exposure. Poke at the surface to break this membrane and remove it. The layer of drier paint preserves the paint beneath it.

Discard the membrane as the fresh paint cannot reabsorb it.

Use a stick to stir the paint to make sure it’s smooth and fluid. If there are any lumps, that means the paint is congealing and is pretty much dead. Everyday latex and acrylic paints will maintain for up to a decade when properly stored.

Getting Rid of Unusable Paint

Always check local laws regarding proper paint disposal, especially oil-based paints that could create fumes.

Make sure you know what kind of paint you’re getting rid of before taking any steps.

It’s a good idea to fully dry out paint and paint cans before throwing them away. Mix larger quantities of paint that won’t simply solidify in a can left open for a few days with cat litter or shredded paper.

The mass of painted debris can be put in a dry cardboard box and thrown out with your regular garbage after it hardens.

The one place in your house that will be most convenient for drying unusable old paint will probably be your garage. You won’t need to worry about temperature or humidity ruining the finish of that project.

Conclusion

If you follow this advice about keeping your paint in a climate-controlled environment, you’ll be able to keep your paint fresh for many years to come. You don’t want to ever keep your paint in the garage, especially if you live in an area that experiences extreme temperatures.

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