How Long Does Paint Last?

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Leftover Paint

Leftover paint: We all have it. From large painting projects like full home exteriors to smaller jobs like painting a foyer, it’s unusual to use the exact amount of paint you purchased. And that’s actually a good thing — it means you can save whatever’s left for touch-ups later, if needed.

But how long does paint last after you open it? And what should you do with it when it’s past its prime?

Water-based latex paints, the most popular type of paint used, can last as long as 10 to 12 years when stored properly. That means:

  • The lid is secure or unopened
  • The paint is kept in a dry area at room temperature
  • The paint is labeled so you know how old it is

While not as popular, unopened oil-based paints can last even longer — as long as 15 years. Follow the same best practices above to prolong the life of your oil-based paints.

How Do You Know if Paint is Bad?

Opened cans of paint are exposed to air, making them more susceptible to growth of microorganisms that affect the composition and quality of the paint. If you’re not sure whether your paint is still usable, look for these tell-tale signs that it’s ready to pitch:

  • Puffed-up lid
  • Bulging can
  • Foul smell, which can indicate mold growth
  • Rubberlike film on top of the paint
  • Difficult to mix or doesn’t stay blended after mixing

If the paint has a thickened skin coating the surface, remove and dispose of it with a paint stick. If it has lumps that won’t blend, pour the paint through a strainer before use. It’s always a good idea to test the paint on a piece of cardboard before applying it to a wall, door or other surface.

How to Dispose of Old Paint

If the paint is no longer usable, you can’t just toss it in the trash. How to properly dispose of old paint varies depending on where you live. Check for instructions on the website of your municipal or county government, or call your local department of public works.

Another option is searching for a hazardous waste drop-off location near you. Use’s search feature for the type of paint you need to throw out.

Want to avoid the hassle altogether? When you work with a professional home painting service, there’s no need to worry about disposing of unwanted paint — they’ll handle it for you. Your painting pros can also provide additional recommendations on storing and using leftover paint from your project.

Professional Home Painting Services

Our home painting experts are ready to help you tackle your painting project. We provide interior room painting, stair painting, kitchen cabinet painting, basement painting, and exterior painting to take the workload off your shoulders. Contact us today for a free painting quote.