An unopened can of paint can last for decades if it is stored in a dry, cool (but not too cold), dark place. It’s best not to leave any paint cans in sunlight, outdoors, or in a damp location. Most of your cans were probably opened and still have some paint that you might want to use for touch ups or another project. Even if you think you will get rid of your leftovers, follow these tips to keep your paint in better condition so someone else can use it or recycle it.
Opening and Closing
Don’t be Reckless with the Rim
When opening the can, use a paint key instead of a typical screwdriver because it will bend, distort, or otherwise damage the lid, making it difficult to put back on. You can pick up a paint key, or paint can opener, wherever you purchase paint.
When putting the lid back on the can, tap it with a rubber mallet instead of pounding it with a hammer.
If you don’t have a mallet, place a piece of wood or an old book (or even a thick magazine) between the hammer and the lid and then carefully tap it down.
Keep the Rim Clean
If you wipe the edge of your brush on the rim of a paint can, you will end up with a rim full of accumulated paint. If you finsh the can, that’s not a problem, but if you want to reseal the can and save the paint, you will have trouble getting the lid on tight. Follow these tips to keep the rim clean:
Poke holes in the rim with a medium size nail or awl so that paint drips back into the can and doesn’t accumulate in the rim.
By taping the rim of a paint can into the shape of a “V” or an arrow, it provides a clean pour that leaves the rim clear for an easy clean up.
Wipe out the rim regularly while you are working and just before putting on the lid.
If the paint has dried in the rim, you can try to pry it out before replacing the lid – but be careful not to drop any dried paint into the can.
While You are Working
When you are using a brush, pour paint from the original can into another container (such as a plastic quart container sold at most paint stores), then dip your brush into the container, rather than the original can. This will also allow you to close the original can while you are working and keep air from drying out the paint.
By securely strapping a rubber band around the top of the paint can, it can be used to clean the edge of a paint brush – making a more efficient painting experience.
Cover the opening with a piece of plastic wrap before putting on the lid. The plastic will act as a gasket, creating a tighter seal.
You may have heard that you should put on the lid, then turn the can upside down, but it’s not necessary. If the lid is on tight, there is no reason to turn the can upside down. Rather than take a chance that you didn’t put the lid on tight, just check it one more time.
Keep from Freezing
Water-based paint labels normally say “keep from freezing,” but did you know that paint may still be usable even after it freezes once or twice? If you can stir paint into a smooth consistency, it’s still good. If it freezes and thaws several times, it will get worse each time. If you stir paint and it stays lumpy and never gets smooth, it’s spoiled.
Keep Out of the Rain or Damp Locations
When cans get wet, they will rust and the labels will fall off. Even plastic cans have metal lids that can rust. Rusty cans and lids make a mess and fall apart when you handle them, and the rust will fall into the paint, making it unusable. If the label falls off, you won’t know what type of paint or color is in the can. Keep your paint dry.
To indicate the level and color of paint in a particular can, use a brush to paint a line on the exterior of the paint can. Use the same color as the paint that is inside the can. Use a permanent marker to write a note on the side that will tell you when you bought the paint and where you got it. Include a brief description of the room or wall that the paint has been used on, as well.