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How long is paint supposed to last in the can?

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  • Aug 16th, 2021 11:13 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Apr 27, 2009
183 posts
23 upvotes
Maritimes

How long is paint supposed to last in the can?

I inherited about 2 dozen cans of paint when I bought my current house several years ago. Judging from the graphic design on the cans, they dated from between the 1970s to the 2000s. All but one of them were still good. I've been using them whenever I need to repaint walls. The colour is obviously the same colour the previous owners used, so why not? They match. No need to try and get the right colour at the store.

When I ran out of one colour, I bought a new can of Premier Active exterior paint. That was only 3 years ago. I reopened the can yesterday because I was going to use some of it to repaint a wall, and discovered that it was unuseable. Some parts of it are completely hardened, the rest of it is gooey in a way that can't be stirred, and whatever water is in the product is floating on the top. You can't stir it to mix it up like any other old paint. It's impossible to stir. This paint is no good.

Yes, I put the lid back on after I used it last time. I put the lid on the same way I put any paint can lid back on. Place it on the can, press it down with your foot or bash it down with the soft edge of your fist or a piece of wood so no air is getting in. With old paint, there's no problem.

Why did this happen? I've already explained that I often open up 30 or 40 year old paint cans and use the paint in them like it's brand new. There's no problem with old paint. But this is new paint. Is the paint being produced these days not useable after only 3 years? Is it like every other product being made today, designed to stop working after a short time so you have to buy a new one?

Or is is this an issue limited to Premier Active paint, which means I should avoid buying this brand?
13 replies
Sr. Member
Aug 29, 2019
995 posts
453 upvotes
I find paint goes moldy if not used within a few years so never buy more than you need.

Stain on the otherhand seems to have a long shelf life, even if the can has been opened and used a few times.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 19, 2009
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Make sure there is no paint residue in the groove before putting the lid back on and then store the can upside down.
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Feb 11, 2007
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Probably because of the low VOC additives in modern paint. Go for high VOC paint if you want it to last longer.
Also, store it upside down to prevent air intake.
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Deal Fanatic
Oct 6, 2007
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Old paint is probably oil based. It lasts for ages.
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Feb 8, 2014
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There may have been a small defect in the lid or can head allowing air to get in.
However formulation changes may also be the cause.
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Oct 12, 2007
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Yup. Low VOC paints from these here days have a way shorter shelf life. The advice to store upside down is good.
Deal Addict
Jan 5, 2003
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I've used 15+ year old Behr paints and they work fine. They separated in the can (watery on top, thick on the bottom), so if I had to remix them by hand, it would be be lumpy mess, but I have a mixing paddle to attach to a drill and it'll make them smooth again. Maybe that's all that would be required for your more recent paint.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Apr 27, 2009
183 posts
23 upvotes
Maritimes
jm1 wrote: I've used 15+ year old Behr paints and they work fine. They separated in the can (watery on top, thick on the bottom), so if I had to remix them by hand, it would be be lumpy mess, but I have a mixing paddle to attach to a drill and it'll make them smooth again. Maybe that's all that would be required for your more recent paint.
No, I've done that with old paint, but this paint is completely shot. There's no way. I suspect the newer low-voc formulations is the correct explanation for why new paint can't be stored for any period of time. You have to use it all at once. But there was no need to use it all 3 years ago. I only needed a little bit to finish a wall I had started with 20 or 30-year old paint. I assumed the paint would last until I needed to use it again, just like all the other paint.

I get that they're attempting to be environmentally friendly with this low-voc concept. But it's not environmentally friendly when you have to throw out most of a can and buy another one.
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Oct 12, 2007
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noahboady wrote: No, I've done that with old paint, but this paint is completely shot. There's no way. I suspect the newer low-voc formulations is the correct explanation for why new paint can't be stored for any period of time. You have to use it all at once. But there was no need to use it all 3 years ago. I only needed a little bit to finish a wall I had started with 20 or 30-year old paint. I assumed the paint would last until I needed to use it again, just like all the other paint.

I get that they're attempting to be environmentally friendly with this low-voc concept. But it's not environmentally friendly when you have to throw out most of a can and buy another one.
It's not just the environment, it's also what we breathe when we're painting or when a recent paint job is off-gassing. I am very comfortable exchanging shelf life for better quality air in my home.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 19, 2009
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noahboady wrote: I get that they're attempting to be environmentally friendly with this low-voc concept. But it's not environmentally friendly when you have to throw out most of a can and buy another one.
You're suppose to only buy the amount of paint to do the job as that's why they make different size cans.
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Jul 4, 2009
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I've had various cans of paint from Dulux that is going on close to 3 years now - all opened and used and stored in the original can without turning it upside down or anything, and they're all fine.

I painted this house close to 3 years ago, and in the last month, used those same paint to touch up patched walls and getting it ready for sale. All paints was stored in the basement. Maybe paint quality and where you stored it and how contaminated the paint was also affects opened shelf life.
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Sep 27, 2006
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Not so easy there Ma…
Premier Active exterior paint appears to be sold by Canadian Tire. I've never used their paint. I've found old paint properly sealed in full or nearly full cans last year's with a good electric stir tool.

It could also be that the paint manufacturer has found a way to make paint slowly go bad in the can to increase overall sales too.
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Oct 2, 2018
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Any smell of mould and best to throw out immediately as that smell lingers forever and you'll have to reseal with a primer and paint it all over again.
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