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How long will an unopened can of paint last?

Under the right conditions, longer than you think

Published: June 13, 2014 03:30 PM

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Judging how much paint you need for a job isn’t easy, so buying extra an extra gallon might make sense. But if you never did actually open that can, store it right and its contents could last a decade or longer. “I’ve actually had paint last longer than the container!” Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute, part of Dow Chemical, said. From PQI and our own experts, here’s how to keep unopened paint.

Whether it’s interior or exterior paint, keep it from freezing. For long-term storage, this means keeping it out of the garage and shed. A basement should suffice.

Should you open the can years after the initial paint job, don’t expect miracles. While it should go down fine after proper mixing, keep in mind that what you painted years ago likely has faded some. So new and old side-by-side coatings might not match.

Of course, sometimes there’s no salvaging the paint. If paint seems to have solidified to the degree that no stirring will smooth it out, forget about it. And if the paint has a strange or unusual smell, don't use it—the paint’s preservatives have probably failed. Check with your town or municipal office for how to dispose of unused paint.

Top paints from our tests
When it’s time to start your next paint job, choosing a top-enduring paint from our Ratings of more than 100 interior and exterior paints. You can find top-rated paints as close as your nearest home improvement store. Behr, sold at Home Depot, tops our tests of flat exterior and satin exterior paint and Valspar, which is sold at Lowe's, makes our top semi-gloss exterior paint.

Behr also tops our tests of flat interior and satin interior paint and Clark + Kensington, sold at Ace Hardware, is the winner of the semi-gloss finishes. For the latest trends in paint, check out our buying guide . And if you’ll be refinishing your deck, see our Ratings of more than 30 wood stains.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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