How To Tell If Old Paint Is Still Good

Did you know that oil paints are considered good for up to 15 years and latex paints for up to 10 years? Most people do not know that there is no expiration date printed on paint cans. That being said, a good rule of thumb is that once opened, paint will typically last for 2-4 years. There are a few things that can cause your paint to go bad more quickly, though, such as freezing, mildew and drying out. So just how can you tell?  The following information will help you determine if your paint is still good.

1)      Has the paint ever frozen? If your paint has frozen and thawed multiple times it will begin to get chunky and no longer be good for painting.

2)      Has the paint dried out at all? If the lid of your paint was not completely sealed the paint will begin to dry out. This will happen to different degrees; if there is a light skin on the top of the paint you can most likely remove this skin and your paint will be fine. Any more drying usually causes the paint to become too hard and chunky for proper use.

3)      Has the paint been contaminated? If you have mixed water into the paint you have most likely introduced bacteria. This will cause the growth mold and mildew. Other things that can contaminate paint are: rollers, brushes, hands, or anything that may harbor bacteria. A good test is to smell the paint when you open it. If it stinks, throw it away.

4)      If you paint has separated, don’t worry yet. Paint separation is completely normal; you should only discard that paint if it has separated to the point where there is a solid film on the bottom that cannot be mixed back into the paint. Otherwise stirring your paint will fix the separation problem.

5)      If there are minor chunks (sand size grit) from drying or slight freezing, you can strain your paint through an old nylon or a paint strainer from your local paint store.

Remember, paint can have a very long shelf life, so proper storage is key. Make sure your lids are on tight, temperatures do not drop below 50 and not to introduce any bacteria into your paint and it should have a long shelf life.

Disposing Of Old Paint

If you determine that your paint is no longer any good, you can throw it in the garbage only if it is no longer in liquid form (throwing liquid paint into the garbage is illegal). You can harden the paint two ways, the first is to let it dry out naturally. This can take a long time though and needs to be stirred every couple of days. A quicker and more efficient way to harden paint is to use paint hardener. Paint Hardener will harden any latex or oil based paint over night. You can purchase Paint Hardener From Amazon for $2.47 (will harden 2/3 gallon).


  1. hi there. i got a can of cil eggshell at the reuse center, it is dated from 2009. It had not even been opened. so i took the lid off and there was about 2 inches of gloss and under the color in opeque. I figured it to be fine. i started to stir. i did for about 3 mins. steady. i poured it into my tray and it seemed to be slimy. not overly. resembeling scrambled eggs pre heat. i stirred more and did a test spot. it seems a bit eggy and transparent…. the paint did not look, smell bad, no curd, no chunk. Im just wondering if i can do somthing. its brand new, so i imagine that it has froze.>>> ??? maybe i should take it to a store and have it shaken??? or is it junk>? thank you.

  2. I’d say it is junk – very typical of paint from a reuse store. People let their paint freeze, etc and then dump it off at these places. I would never use paint from a reuse store even if it was free.

  3. Hi, I remodeled a condo about 4 or 5 years ago and bought 2 gallons of oil based semigloss paint from Freeze. I live in southern California and it does get below 50 degrees but I do not know how cold it gets in my garage. When I opened one of the cans it looked like it had never been opened. The oil had separated and was floating on the top. I started to stir it and after 10 minutes or so the brilliant white came back to looking good as new. I started cutting in the ceiling and walls with a brush and everything looked fine. I then started rolling the center of the ceiling and little purple specks started showing up on the ceiling and on the roller. I put a new roller on the cage and the same thing happened a second time. The paint in the tray looked fine, the roller covers were brand new and from different manufactures. I took the paint back to Freeze and the salesman said he had never heard or seen such a thing. I asked him to shake the 2 gal cans but he refused saying that the oil based paint had been outlawed in the county and he was not allowed to touch it or process it. On my way home I got to thinking that while stirring the paint with a paint stick may not have been enough mixing even though it look good. I thought maybe a paint mixer that is attached to a drill might really mix the oil and paint pigment better. Other than that single idea, I do not know what else to do. The only other thing I can thing of is that the synthetic roller cover was not compatible with oil based paint and it caused the oil to separate from the pigment but I don’t think that is a realistic idea.

  4. What to do if you already painted a bedroom ceiling with ten year old paint that may have been frozen. The bedroom still smells? When I opened the can it look good and mixed will and had not strange odor. Please advise?



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