Can You Use Old Paint That Has Separated? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Can You Use Old Paint That Has Separated

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We’ve all been there – you’re ready to start a new painting project, only to discover that your paint has separated into a watery mess. It’s frustrating, and you may be wondering if it’s still okay to use. Well, the answer isn’t always straightforward.

There are several factors involved in determining whether or not old paint that has separated can still be used. From storage conditions to how long paint last after it’s been sitting unused, there are many variables at play.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the issue of using old paint and explore some tips for safely assessing if your separated paint is still usable so you can get back to creating beautiful art without wasting time or materials.

Can You Use Old Paint That Has Separated?

Can You Use Old Paint That Has Separated

What Is Paint Separation?

Paint separation is a common issue that occurs when the pigments and binders in the paint start to separate from each other. This leads to the formation of lumps, clumps, or solids at the bottom of the paint can, while a liquid layer forms on top. Paint separation is more common in oil-based paints than in water-based or acrylic paints.

There are several reasons why paint can separate, including improper storage, exposure to extreme temperatures or humidity levels, using old or expired paints, and not properly sealing the lid after use. While separated paint may still be usable for future painting projects, it’s important to take precautions before using it to ensure that it won’t cause any hazards.

What Causes Paint To Separate and Why Does Paint Separate in the Can?

Paint separation occurs when the ingredients in the paint start to settle. This can manifest as clumps, lumps, or a thin liquid on top of thicker pigment. The causes of paint separation vary depending on the type of paint.

Water-based paints tend to separate more over time because they have a higher water content which evaporates over time, causing the paint’s other ingredients to settle out. Oil-based paints may also separate but less frequently than their water-based counterparts.

Storing paint improperly is one common reason for it separating. If you ever store paint in an opened can upside down or horizontally, it will likely separate quickly since there is no air circulation inside the container.

Another cause of separation could be that leftover paints were not properly sealed after use and were exposed to air circulation for years, making them unusable.

You’ll know when your paint has separated because there will be visible layers with different textures and colors that don’t blend together (even after stirring). Using separated paint might result in a poor-quality finish as well as undercoating and streaking issues during painting.

To summarize: Always check for any signs of mold growth or strong smell before a paint job or using old paints; if either exists then dispose of it properly.

What Are the Hazards of Using Separated Paint?

Using paint that has separated can be hazardous to both your health and the quality of your finished product. If you use separated latex paint or acrylic paint, it may result in lumps, clumps, or an uneven finish. Similarly, if you use oil-based paints that have separated, they might not dry properly.

Another issue with using old paint is that it might have expired and gone bad over time. The smell of the paint is a good indication of whether or not it has expired. If the paint smells sour or rancid, then it’s likely no longer usable.

In addition to this, using old paints can also pose environmental hazards if disposed of improperly. Always check with your local regulations on how to dispose of any leftover paints and follow them properly. It’s always better to dispose of them responsibly than pour them down the drain or throw them in the trash.

To avoid these hazards altogether, make sure you store your paints correctly by keeping them at room temperature and away from direct sunlight exposure for optimal longevity.

How To Tell If Paint Has Separated

It’s important to know if your paint has separated before using it. The most obvious sign is that the contents of the can will appear lumpy or have an uneven texture. If you find that there are chunks in your paint, then it has likely separated.

Another way to tell if your paint has separated is by checking its smell. Paints usually have a distinct odor, and if you notice any type of foul or rancid smell coming from the can, it’s best not to use it.

If your paint was stored for years without proper care, then the chances are high that it has already gone bad and should be disposed of properly. Separated latex paints will typically show clumps on top while oil-based paints will display a thick ring around the edge where sediment settles.

When in doubt about whether old paint with separation marks is usable or not, check with local disposal services rules on how to safely dispose of these materials rather than risking damage or exposure due to their expired composition.

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How To Fix Separated Paint

If you’ve checked your old paint and found that it has separated, don’t worry! You can still use it with some simple steps. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Shake the Can Make sure the lid is tightly sealed and shake the can vigorously for a few minutes. This will help to mix the separated pigment back into the paint.

Step 2: Mix the Paint Open up the can and stir with a paint-stirring stick until you get an even consistency. If there are any lumps or clumps, break them apart with your stirring paint stick.

Step 3: Strain the Paint To ensure that all of those little bits of dried-up pigment are removed from your newly mixed paint, strain it through a piece of cheesecloth or mesh screen before using it.

Step 4: Reapply The Paint Now that your old paint is usable again, apply it as normal. Keep in mind though that if your paint has expired or gone bad due to improper storage, then even after mixing thoroughly, chances are it won’t have much life left in it.

Before starting any painting project always check if your paints have separated or not as once they’ve been sitting on your shelf for years without proper usage, separation is likely to happen especially with oil-based paints which tend to settle more than water-based acrylics. Store leftover paints properly by sealing them tightly and storing them in a dry place away from direct sunlight so they don’t go bad quickly. When disposing of old paints always remember to follow local laws regarding disposal- most places ask homeowners not to throw liquid latex-based paints down their drains but dispose of them instead at designated hazardous waste collection sites.

Step 1: Shake the Can

If you have an old can of paint that has separated, the first step in making it usable again is to shake the can thoroughly. This will help to mix together any settled pigment or other materials and bring them back into a uniform consistency.

It’s important to note that not all types of paint can be shaken in the same way. Water-based paints should be shaken for at least two minutes, while oil-based paints require a bit more time – around five minutes – to fully mix together. Acrylic and latex paints are easier to shake than oil-based ones, but they still need a good shaking session before use.

When shaking the can, make sure you do so with enough force to properly distribute the settling pigment throughout the paint without creating lumps or bubbles. If you’re unsure about how long or hard you should shake your paint can check out instructions from its manufacturer.

Keep in mind that even after shaking up old paint cans containing water-based and acrylic types of paints for some time, if it still looks like it has separated, then there is likely no saving it, and disposing of it properly is recommended instead.

Step 2: Mix the Paint

Once you’ve shaken the can well, it’s time to mix the paint thoroughly. This is particularly important if the paint has been sitting for a long time and has separated significantly. You’ll want to use a paint stirrer, stick or paint mixer attachment on a power drill to ensure that all of the pigment and binders are properly mixed together.

When you start mixing, you may notice some lumps or chunks in the paint. Don’t worry – these are likely just bits of dried pigment or binder that have clumped together during storage. Keep mixing until they are fully incorporated into the mixture.

If there is still some separation after shaking and mixing, try adding a small amount of water (for water-based paints) or mineral spirits (for oil-based paints) to help thin out the mixture and make it easier to mix thoroughly.

Remember that different types of paints have different shelf lives once opened, so be sure to check how long your particular type of paint is usable before attempting to mix it back together. And always dispose of old paint properly according to your local regulations – never pour it down the drain or put it in regular trash!

Step 3: Strain the Paint

After shaking and mixing the paint, you may notice there are still lumps or particles in it. In this case, straining the paint is necessary to remove any impurities from the mixture. You can do this by using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth placed over a clean container.

Pour the mixed paint through the strainer slowly, allowing it to filter through while catching any remaining debris. This step may take some time, but it’s important to ensure a smooth and even coat of oil paint when painting.

If you’re using an oil-based paint that has separated and cannot be properly mixed back together, or if your water-based acrylic latex paints have expired beyond their usable shelf life (usually 2-3 years), it’s best to dispose of them properly rather than trying to use them. Check with your local waste management center for proper disposal methods as not all types of paint can be thrown out with regular trash.

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By following these steps and storing your paints properly, you’ll avoid having them separate in the first place and save yourself time and hassle when starting your next painting project!

Step 4: Reapply the Paint

Once you’ve shaken, mixed, and strained the separated paint, it’s time to reapply it. Take a small amount of paint on your brush or roller and test it out on a small area first. This will give you an idea of how well the paint is applied after the separation.

If the paint is still lumpy or has an unusual texture, it may not be usable anymore. It’s important to check for any weird smells or discoloration before using old paints as they are likely expired.

If everything looks good and the paint applies smoothly, then go ahead with painting your surface as usual. You may need to do an additional coat depending on how long the paint was separated and stored improperly.

Remember that storing paints properly can help prevent separation in the future. For water-based paints like acrylics or latexes, store them between 50-80°F and avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures such as freezing temps (which could cause water-based paints to freeze). Oil-based paints should always be stored above 32°F as they could thicken up if left in cold temperatures.

To dispose of leftover paints properly, check with your local municipality’s trash disposal guidelines as some types of unused/unopened oil-based paints cannot be thrown away with household trash due to environmental laws (they require special disposal methods).

Remember that proper storage techniques are key in maintaining your leftover cans of paint so they’ll stay fresh for years!

Storing Paint So It Doesn’t Go Bad

Proper storage of paint can help extend its shelf life and prevent it from going bad. Here are some tips on how to store your leftover paint properly:

  • Always make sure the lid is tightly sealed to prevent air from getting in. You can use a rubber mallet or even a piece of wood and hammer to ensure that the lid is securely in place.
  • Store your paint in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Exposure to heat and light can cause paint to dry out or change its chemical composition, making it harder to use.
  • Keep water-based paints separate from oil-based paints, as they have different storage requirements. Water-based paints should be stored at room temperature while oil-based paints should be kept above freezing temperatures.
  • If you have multiple cans of similar colors, label them with the date they were opened, so you’ll know which one to use first.
  • To keep track of what type of paint is inside each container, write down the brand name, and color name/number on a piece of painter’s tape and stick it on top.

By following these simple steps for proper storage, you’ll be able to extend the life of your leftover paints for years while keeping them usable whenever you need them again!

When To Throw Out Old Paint and How to Properly Dispose of Old Paints

It’s important to properly dispose of old paint that can no longer be used. This not only keeps your home or workspace clutter-free but also ensures that the environment is not negatively impacted by hazardous materials.

If you have unopened paint cans, it’s best to donate them to a local organization or charity instead of throwing them away. However, if the paint has separated or expired, it’s time to dispose of it properly.

Latex and water-based paints can usually be disposed of in the regular trash once they are completely dried out. You can do this by leaving the lid off and letting it dry out until it becomes solid before placing it in the bin.

Oil-based paints, on the other hand, are considered hazardous waste and need to be taken to a proper disposal facility. Check with your local government for specific instructions on where and how to dispose of oil-based paints. Even some paint stores have a waste program so best to check your local area.

When considering whether or not old paint is still usable, check for any lumps or an unusual smell as these are signs that the paint has gone bad. As a general rule of thumb, most water-based paints last up to 10 years while oil-based paints can last up to 15 years when stored properly.

In summary, always aim to donate unopened leftover paints rather than throwing them away. Dispose of separated or expired latex/water-based paints by letting them dry out before putting them in the trash and take oil-based paints to a proper disposal facility according to your local regulations.


Using old paint that has separated is not recommended as it may cause problems in your painting project. If the paint has been stored for multiple years, it’s likely expired and should be disposed of properly. Proper storage of paints, both oil-based and water-based, is important to ensure their longevity and usability. Always check the smell and look at the paint before using it.

If you do have leftover paint that hasn’t separated or expired, store it properly with a tight lid and keep in mind its shelf life depending on the type of paint. Water-based acrylic paints can last up to 10 years if stored correctly and sealed properly, while oil-based paints can last up to 15 years.

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When disposing of old or unused paints, check local disposal regulations as some paint types may require special handling. Don’t throw away old cans of paint in regular trash bins as they may leak hazardous materials into landfills or contaminate groundwater sources.

Overall, it’s best to use fresh, unopened cans of paint for optimal results in your painting projects but if you find yourself with separated or older paints, take proper steps to assess its usability before proceeding with any project.


Q: Can I use old paint if it has mold growing in it?

A: No, you should never use paint that has mold growing in it. Mold can cause serious health problems when inhaled or touched, so the best course of action is to dispose of the paint properly.

Q: How long does water-based paint last once open?

A: Water-based paints have a shorter shelf life than oil-based paints and typically last around two years after opening. However, proper storage can help extend their lifespan. Keep them sealed tightly and store them at room temperature to prevent separation and spoilage.

Q: How do I properly dispose of old paints?

A: Proper disposal methods for old paints vary depending on your location and the type of paint you have. In general, latex and acrylic water-based paints can be disposed of by letting them dry out completely and then throwing them into the trash. Oil-based paints, however, are considered hazardous waste and require special disposal through your local government’s household hazardous waste program.

Q: Is separated paint still usable after being fixed?

A: It depends on how long the paint was separated and how well it was mixed back together. If lumps or an unusual smell persist even after mixing thoroughly, it’s probably best not to use the paint as these are signs that it may have expired or gone bad.

Remember to always check whether any leftover or unopened cans of paint are still usable before using them for painting projects – this saves time, money, and effort while also helping you avoid any hazards associated with expired or moldy materials!

Can I use old paint if it has mold growing in it?

It’s not recommended to use paint that has mold growing in it. Mold can cause respiratory issues and other health problems. If you see mold growing on your paint, it’s best to dispose of it properly.

To prevent mold growth in your paint, make sure to store it properly. Keep the lid tightly sealed and store the paint in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing paint cans on concrete floors or next to exterior walls as they can be damp and could cause condensation inside the can.

If you’re unsure if your old paint is still usable, there are a few things you can check for before attempting to use it. Check for any lumps or clumps in the paint as this may indicate that the pigment has separated from the solvent. Also, give your old paints a smell test: if they have a strong odor or smell rancid, they are likely expired and should be disposed of properly.

When disposing of old paints, check with your local waste management facility for proper disposal instructions as different types of paints have different disposal requirements. It’s important not to dump them down drains or throw them into regular trash bins as this is harmful to both our environment and human health.

Overall, while using old separated paints may seem like an easy solution at first glance but always take necessary precautions before using them especially when molds appear on top of them otherwise always try checking its usability first by following some steps mentioned above but never compromise with safety measures when it comes painting because its an activity involves hazardous chemicals & substances

How long does water-based paint last once open from the paint store?

Once you have opened a can of water-based paint, you can expect it to last for about two years. However, there are several factors that can influence the shelf life of your leftover paints. If stored properly, unopened cans of water-based paint can last up to 10 years or more.

It’s important to note that oil-based paints have a longer shelf life than their acrylic counterparts. This is because oil-based paints dry through oxidation and not evaporation like water-based paints do.

To check if your water-based paint is still usable after being opened for some time, give the container a good sniff test. If it smells rancid or has an unpleasant odor, it’s likely expired and should be disposed of properly.

If the paint has separated in the can, as discussed earlier in this article, you may be able to fix it using our recommended steps. However, if the paint is lumpy or contains mold growth then it’s best not to use it and dispose of it instead.

When disposing of old paints, make sure to follow your local regulations for proper disposal methods. In most cases, latex/waterbased paints can be thrown out with regular household trash once they are completely dried out while oilbased/inflammable types of exterior paints will require special disposal methods due to their hazardous contents.

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