What's The Best Way To Select And Store Leftover Latex Paint?

What’s the best way to select and store my leftover interior latex paint for my Bellevue home?

Bellevue Home Painting Project
How long will leftover interior paint remain usable? (I live in Bellevue).
January 30, 2017
Paint Brushes
How can I tell if my Bellevue interior walls were painted with latex (waterborne) or oil paints?
February 12, 2017

Paint products today have become sophisticated. There’s a lot more inside that can that there used to be a generation ago. Today, lead additives are prohibited by Federal law, which clearly makes them safer in that regard, but they have also become a lot more complicated to manufacturer, as those same manufacturers clamber over each other to make the next great paint product. Today, paint can be UV resistant, water resistant, and just about everything resistant, depending on where you plan to use the paint. Interior paint must consider the well being of humans as well as their pets, plants and food. Exterior paints must withstand the elements. To make paint perform in so many different ways, paint makers have done their own research – as well as piggybacked upon the research of other organizations, using complex scientific methods, and come up with a staggering set of choices for the customer. To satisfy all these requirements, chemicals are used in new combinations, and new chemical compounds are also created. Probably millions of hours of experimentation has taken place to push the limits of their competitiveness in their respective markets. What that all means is, paint should be treated with respect and care. Just because the Federal government doesn’t mandate every last step you should take with those leftover paints you didn’t use, it doesn’t mean there are good safety tips to consider. Here are my favorite:

Store unused paint away from your home or where people live

Once paint goes on that wall, a number of chemical actions begin to take place. In fact, the very moment you open the can, the paint begins to react with the air, so that in fact is when the clock starts ticking, as it were. You have probably noticed how paint inside the can cannot simply be left open until the next day’s work. It must be sealed properly and immediately after the day’s work is done.

It’s quite difficult to close and seal a can of paint once it has been opened. In the factory, care is taken to make a perfect seal between the lid and the can. By the time you have used some paint from that can, in order to make a perfect seal again, you have to clean the joining edges first. That is, the place where the lid and the can meet must be perfectly clean. That’s hard to do, especially because there is some paint in the can. It’s better to use a fresh, clean container, but even still it’s hard to mimic the hermetically sealed work of the original manufacturer. And if it’s not perfectly sealed, there is a chance vapors will escape over time. You never know for sure what is in paint, and if vapors are escaping from it into your living space, there are several potential risks, fire and inhalation being two of them.

There is no reason to keep paint close to your living quarters, so why do it! In all likelihood, you’ll never use the unused paint again anyway.

Why your garage is the second worst place to store unused paint

Unused paint is very often stored in containers which are not full. That is, the paint sits in the bottom of a paint can that is mostly comprised now of air. The gallon-size can now only has eight ounces in it, and the rest of the can is air. What happens is, that air becomes largely full of paint vapors, and the exact nature of those vapors is unpredictable. The manufacturers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what happens in the empty space of a leftover paint can, so it’s probably safe to assume we can’t really know what might happen.

Garages are usually not part of your home’s heating and ventilation system, so they will often get as cold as the winter outside of them, even if that temperature is below freezing. In summer, a garage temperature can exceed by many degrees the outside temperature because a garage, uninsulated, can behave like an oven as the midday sun beats down on it and heats it up enough to fry an egg. If you are storing your leftover paint in that hot-cold-hot-cold environment, there is no telling how that leftover paint is going to behave.

In the event of a fire, leftover paint makes the challenge more dangerous. It can both increase the chances that a fire will start, and it makes a house fire more difficult to put out if that leftover paint catches fire, even if it started somewhere else, like the kitchen. Many paints burn well – extremely well, in fact – and present fire department staff with the added risk of explosion, chemical fire, and hazardous material fires. You can never know for sure what kind of smoke a paint fire will emit. I, for one, would not like to have to inhale it.

Do your fire department staff and your family a favor and make sure there are no leftover paint containers in your garage.

Suggestion: Purchase – and keep closed – sample sizes of the paint you used

Most if not all paint manufacturers sell small, sample size cans of every paint type and color they sell. If you’ve used eight gallons of “Ocean gray number 3401” on the interior walls of your home, you can buy an eight-ounce can to keep for future use, just in case the manufacturer no longer sells it in five years when you come to do that touch-up when your teenage kids have gone to college. If you don’t want to keep actual containers, the next best thing is to simply document the exact paint you used and in which room. If you return to the paint store ten years later and show them what you used, they will get you some more. If they no longer have it, stores can produce any conceivable color, to produce a unique color from an object or color code you provide them with.

Keeping a house journal documenting all the paint projects you’ve used

When we’re in the middle of an exciting project, it’s often easy to forget that we might need to know details later of the project. This goes for washing machine installation, furniture, fixtures, roof replacement, paint and just about any other home project. I’ve never been good at that sort of documentation, but I’ve seen such project journals for sale in the past. If you’re just moving into a new home, now is the time to do something like that. A house that has all of its projects well documented is an attractive deal for any future buyer interested in your house if it ever comes on the market. It shows good homeowner attention to detail, and it give a would-be buyer a great insight into the condition of the house they are considering.

More next week!

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