Starting out a home painting project can be very exciting. Choosing colors, brushes, paint brands and types gives me, at least, that “retail therapy” feeling, which I do enjoy. But when the job is over,I’m sick of the smell of paint, my arms are exhausted, and I want to end the project as soon as possible. The sight of all those throw sheets, half-empty paint cans and brushes everywhere is enough to drive a person to the wine cabinet for relief. The job isn’t really done, though, until you have put everything away and there’s no sign of the work, expect for beautiful rooms and the vague, fading scent of paint. Now is the time to wrap up the project by producing exactly that: no sign of it.
They always say ‘store in a cool, dry place’. It always makes me think of a town like Santa Fe, New Mexico, but that’s obviously no going to work. Ideally, I would prefer never to store any paint whatsoever in or near my home. If there is ever a fire, your six leftover gallons in your garage – baking in the August afternoon sun – might become a fire bomb. And needless to say, containers of paint are certainly not what you want inside your house, where people are living, sleeping and breathing. Even with the best of intentions, a previously opened paint can might not be totally sealed properly. Even if you had sealed it, paint – like any complex chemical – changes with time, in the heating-cooling-heating-cooling cycles of a typical home. With that process, a small crack in the seal may occur, leaving paint vapors to leak slowly and imperceptibly from the container. It would be difficult, indeed, for a physician to work out in the usual ten minutes what ails your sickly child. It might be their proximity to paint vapors over an extended period of time.
Paint is far safer than it was, of course, but why take the risk! Once your paint project is finished, take all the remaining paints to your storage lock, if you have one. Alternatively, dispose of them in the proper place. Wherever you bought the paint in the first place is where you can find out where the leftover paints can be disposed of. The very fact that there are laws about how paint can be disposed of tells you that it’s probably not safe to keep them where you live and breathe every day.
Paint cans, in my experience, are notoriously difficult to seal properly after you’ve opened them and used some of the paint inside them. For me, the biggest problem was making a clean seal between the lid and the container after paint contaminated it during the painting project. The second problem was, when a paint container only had a fraction of the paint in it, was it really worth keeping. Five years later, though, all you might need is a few ounces of paint for a quick touch-up job, so a way to store a few ounces would be great. So, I used jars I had previously used to make jam. They had a great sealing device, they’re made of glass (so you could see the paint color, even hold it up against a wall for comparison) and they were often the perfect size for leftovers. (Just make sure no one mistakes them for actual jam). Then comes the issue of labeling…
There are three important pieces of information you need on your paint storage container;
1.the exact name and brand of the paint. Some of these come with a unique code you can use for ordering more later if you need to.
2.The date you used the paint in the first place. It’s amazing how quickly you forget when you did this or that paint job. It’s great to know how many years old the paint is in the jar. You will know when it might have expired.
3.The exact rooms and place you used the paint. E.g. “Johnny Junior’s bedroom ceiling”.
Knowing those fact makes the paint valuable and potentially usable in the future.
Another great use for old paint, by the way, is on such things as a rabbit hutch. Young children will often not care – or may even like it – if their rabbit hutch has five different paint colors on it. Be adventurous and put that old paint to good use.
That’s a great question, and the answer is… it depends. Stored at a constant sixty degrees Fahrenheit all year long will keep the paint in usable condition for many years, even decades. Different paint types and brand might last for different lengths of time, but freezing and overheating cycles over a few years will compromise the quality of your paint for sure. A temperature-controlled storage locker is expensive, of course, so you must ask yourself, is it really worth keeping any paint at all!
Some people tend to hoard more as they get older. My father, who had experienced the Great Depression and tremendous personal poverty in his formative years, wasted nothing. He would extract nails from firewood, straighten them out, then sort them into sizes. Later his nail collection would obviate the need to buy nails. I scoffed at the behavior as a child, but the older I get, the more I respect it.
Well, as nails get rusty, so does paint deteriorate with time. Sometimes you have to just let stuff go. I’ll never pull rusty nails from firewood, neither will I store paint close to where I live. In all my years of living in accommodation, I have never reached for a stored leftover of paint to do any kind of touch-up.
Most paint is available in small containers. The beauty of these small containers is, you know they are sealed. Once the painting job is finished, consider paying another visit to your paint store to pick up a few small containers – I believe there are in eight-ounce sizes, but at least close to that size. They’re often used as testers before a paint project ever starts, but make perfect touch-up containers for later if you think you will need them.
Whether you store leftover paints of get rid of everything, having a solid record of what paint was used where is of great value. If you ever want to sell your house, having a record of all of it is attractive to potential buyers, as well as a strong signal that you have likely been taking care of the home they are considering purchasing. That’s gotta be worth something!