Tips For Proper Storage Of Leftover Paints

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No matter how big or small paint project you handle, there’s always a little paint left over when the job is done. You’ll probably want to keep that remaining paint in good condition for touch-ups or re-paint a scratched or damaged wall in the future. The problem however, is no one wants cans of paint inside their home. So the obvious place for storing the leftover paint would be garage or in a corner of the shed in the backyard.

Where to store leftover paint?

Storing paint without giving much thought means when you do need the paint, you will find it unusable. Extreme temperature changes wreak havoc on your leftover paint. The paint will lose its consistency when stored in very hot or very cold places. Latex paints can freeze at about same temperature as water, while oil based paint freezes at a much lower temperature. Freezing paint means it will permanently separate and become unusable. Excessive heat will dry out the paint, leaving a thick skin across the top of the paint.

So when it comes to storing your paint, there are 2 important factors to consider when choosing the acceptable place: low-moisture and temperature-controlled. So, try to find a dry, cool (not cold), dark place, place the jars on high shelf, away from food and drink and out of reach from children. Paint should be stored between 60-80 degrees.

A cool and dry utility closet, mud room or laundry room should be fine but unheated garage, crawl space, shed, wet basement or hot attic is not a good idea.

Tips to proper storage

Here are some other tips that can help make sure your paint is stored right.

Make sure to seal the paint can properly

Storing the paint the right way will help keep it in good condition for later touch ups. When paint comes in contact with air, the lifespan of the paint will begin to diminish, so sealing properly is critical. When closing the paint can after use, cover the opening with a piece of plastic wrap before you put on the lid. The plastic wrap will act as a gasket, making the seal tighter and prevent metal-to-metal corrosion. By keeping air from getting at the paint, you will prolong the life of your leftover paint. Use rubber mallet (no hammering) to close the lid.

When opening the paint can use paint key, instead of screwdriver, which may bend or damage the lid, to open the lid. This way when you put the lid back on at the end of project, it seals tight.

Don’t wipe your paint brush on the rim of can when painting. Also clean the sealing rim off the paint residue. This will make it easier to open it next time and also makes the lid fit tight.

Repackage it

When you have a little bit of paint left, it makes sense to store it in a smaller container than original container to minimize paint surface contact with air, which may diminish lifespan of paint.

You can reuse an old quart-sized can for that purpose (that has been completely cleaned out and thoroughly dried) or buy a new one in any paint or home improvement store. Avoid using rusty cans. Rust falling into the paint makes it unusable.

Make a color note

Well you did find the right place and right way to store your leftover paint. But the real trick is trying to remember what paint goes to which room or surface. Is it interior or exterior? Without proper labeling, one might never know and becomes a problem when you need a quick touch up.

So before storing away your leftover paint, mark each paint with a permanent marker – notes on what room or surface the paint was used for, name and number of the paint (if this information on the lid has become smudged or covered by paint), where you bought the paint, the date it was used, color and type of finish. Put a dab of paint on the lid and side of the can easy identification and to verify that the lid matches the can correctly.

How to use the leftover paint

When it comes time to use your leftover paint, do not shake an old can of paint to mix the paint before opening and assessing the paint. If you do this, you’ll end up mixing the paint contents with any dust, rust or debris from the deteriorated interior of the can.  Always check for paint “skin” that may have formed on the top of the can. Carefully and thoroughly remove this film (check the edges) with a stick or spoon before stirring the paint, or you’ll end up with a paint full of junk.  If the skin is mixed with paint when shaking the can, pour the paint through a strainer before you using it.


Follow above tips to utilize your leftover paints whenever you’re in need of touch-ups that can have similar finish as the original paint. Even if you think you will get rid of your leftovers these tips will help keep your paint in good condition so someone else can use it or recycle it.

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