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How to Tell if Paint Has Gone Bad

Most homeowners have a half-empty can of paint on a shelf in their garage of basement to use for touch-ups and colour matching later, but how can you tell if paint has gone bad? Like anything, paint can deteriorate over time due to different factors. Those factors include temperature changes, micro bacteria, and humidity. We’re going to give you 4 of our biggest indicators to tell if that paint should be disposed of, or if it’s still good to use in your home.

Identify The Type of Paint

The first step is the most important – you need to identify the type of paint you have in your can. Paint comes with different bases such as acrylic, oil-based paints and water based paints.

Typically, oil-based paints tend to last longer due to their resistance to wear and tear when the cans are in places with higher humidity levels. An unopened can of oil-based paint can last 15-20 years when stored correctly. Oil based paints also contain synthetic and natural oils, which help the paint stay in liquid form and not dry out as quickly. Water based paints tend to last a shorter amount of time.

If you’re not sure what type of paint it is, check the label and make a calculation on when the paint was purchased and opened.

Smell Your Paint

When paint goes bad, it has an odour that comes from the bacteria and mould growing inside the paint, and the smell is from the gases put off by the mould. It’s essential to be careful not to inhale the gases as they can be detrimental to your health.

One of the common odours that bad paint gives off is a vile or rotten smell from the bacteria growth. It can smell similar to rotten eggs or tomatoes in some cases.

Look for Crusting and Skin on the Surface

If the paint hasn’t been used for some time, it can have a buildup on the surface of the paint. Generally this is a dried film across the top. This dried coating can be easily removed using a paint stirrer or similar tool. One of the main reasons why this skin occurs on the surface of the pain is temperature imbalances where its stored. A light, think layer of skin on the paint isn’t harmful, but if you let the skin sit for months or years, it will damage the colour and the formula of the paint and should be disposed of.

Give The Paint a Stir

Sometimes paint is still good but can look horrible due to it separating in the can. The easiest way to solve this is to stir the paint up well and have some patience. After a whole, the pain formula goes down in the can leaving only water and oils on the surface and it has to be stirred to mix it back together.

When you stir your paint in this state, be sure to stir it constantly for about five minutes. If the paint comes back together normally, it’s still good to use. If its still separated after stirring it for five minutes, the paint has gone bad and should be disposed.

Store Your Paint Properly

The best way to keep paint from becoming damaged and unusable when it’s stored is to store it properly. Paint shouldn’t be exposed to temperature changes so that means your attic and your garage are out of the question. The best option for storing paint is in your basement where the temperature remains fairly consistent.

To help keep your leftover paint in top shape longer, we recommend putting a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the can before you put the lid on. Once the plastic wrap is in place, close the can as normal with a rubber mallet. This helps to seal the can and keep moisture out longer. It’s important to ensure your cans are stored in a dry place because humidity can amplify the damage to the paint.

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