How should I keep leftover paint organized, labeled and stored?

How should I keep my leftover interior paint organized, labeled and stored? (I live in Kirkland)

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It’s always convenient to have a little paint left over after a big interior paint project. Sooner or later, some corner or other trim will get scuffed, and a quick touch-up can bring it all back to looking new again. Particularly if you have kids in the house, a quick touch-up job after the kids reach a certain again can be a lot less expensive than a full-on repaint of an entire room, and will buy you a few extra years before the next big paint job is required. It’s also handy to be able to eliminate some flaws before your house goes on the market. For all these reasons, people like to store unused paint for that time in the future, saving them the cost and effort of finding and purchasing the exact paint you used years ago. Let’s look at the subject of paint storage, and what the best way of approaching it is:

How to label the paint containers correctly

It can be a shock when you look at old paint containers which have the original project date written on them. Years fly by, and what seemed like last year’s paint project was actually five years ago! At least, that’s been my experience, so I always like to write on home projects the date and other project details so that I can know for sure later what happened and when.

This rule-of-thumb applies to almost any project. A few weeks ago, I had to replace the water heater. Amazingly, the plumber was able to tell me it had originally been installed 27 years ago, so I knew it had lasted a full 17 years longer than it was estimated to last. So, once the new one was installed, I took a sharpie and wrote “installed in 2017” clearly on it for me or the next owner to know.

When the paint project is completed, you will likely have several containers sitting there. Before you forget, you should label them with date of use, and where used. To make sure what you write will be readable seven years from now, you might use a sharpie on white paper, then use wrapping sticky tape to stick it to each can, covering the white paper with the tape. It sounds a bit like overkill, but it will make it all easier when the time comes. So, it might say “back bedroom door trim, April 4, 2017”. And if the exact type of paint is not obvious on the can, write that down too.

Storing unused paint in the right container

One thing to remember about paint is, once you open a can, the paint inside the can begins to change. When it comes in contact with air, some of the ‘curing’ processes deliberately designed in to the chemical compounds of the paint product itself are triggered. For this reason, you must understand that paint in a can is never quite the same once that can is opened. Secondly, you can’t be totally sure you closed the can with a perfect seal. Even the tiniest opening or gap will, over time, allow the paint vapors to evaporate significantly. With enough time, the paint will lose a lot of its content through that evaporation, the paint will set or ‘cure’ in a way not intended by the paint manufacturers, and the product will essentially become useless. When sealing the paint can – or another container you have decided to use for long term storage – you must make a perfect seal. Dried paint on the lid, for example, will interfere with that seal, so you might consider using a different container altogether. When I last painted several rooms in my own house, I used perfectly cleaned out jam jars to store my unused paint. I had run those same jars – and their lids – through the dishwasher several times, so I knew they were spotless. What’s more, I filled each jar to the brim, because I also know that the more air in the container, the faster the paint will deteriorate.

An alternative to storing any paint in jars or cans or other containers, some homeowners purchase a sample size of each type of paint they used. For a few dollars each, it’s a simple way to keep a sample of each paint for touch-ups years later. They’re clean, unopened and manageable. They take up very little space, and add value to your house should you ever put it up for sale.

Now that you have the paint in the right container, where should you put it?

Most folks are not bothered by having unused paint stored in their garage, under their house, or even in a workshop or such a type of room in their house. And I acknowledge that paint products have become a lot safer over the years, with laws – for example, the federal prohibition of lead additives – to protect the consumer, the environment and further stipulations as to how paint is to be disposed of. Licensed painting contractors, in particular, are expected – and inspected – to keep to these regulations, and for good reason. Personally, I don’t like to store unused paint products anywhere near where I live. Certain types of paints, oil based paints in particular, can be highly flammable, and in the event of a serious fire, a bad situation might be made worse when an otherwise manageable fire in your garages, for example, reaches your supply of unused paint. Better to store all of it in a storage shed, if you have one, a little bit away from where you and your family live and breathe.

It’s important to remember, paint does not completely cure for several weeks. It depends on the paint type (water-based paints cure in several week’ oil-based paints take about twice as long), the season, humidity levels, ambient temperature, and ventilation. It might feel dry to the touch, but you are still inhaling whatever vapors are still being emitted from the walls you finished painting a week earlier. My rule-of-thumb is, as long as you can still smell something, the curing process is still going on.

For as long as is comfortably possible, keep every room you painted fully ventilated until you are perfectly satisfied the curing process is complete. Paints are safer these days for sure, but why take the risk? It’s a whole new meaning to the term watching paint dry.

I hope you visit again next week!

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