How to Store Leftover Paint

Safely Storing Leftover Paint For Touchups

After a fresh coat of paint, you might view the leftover cans as burdensome, but it’s always best to keep them. Resealing paint cans and proper storage will ensure future use for accurate paint touch-ups. Conversely, when paint cans are stored in non-temperature-controlled areas, the shelf life is drastically reduced.

Even unopened paint should not be exposed to high or low temperatures for an extended time. From paint brushes, containers, & rollers, we will offer tips for preserving house paint and tools for future effortless reuse. 

The Importance of Storing the Original Paint

It can be a real headache when you need touch-up paint and can’t find the matching can. Equally as bad is when the touch-up paint doesn’t match. Effectively touching up walls or trim is not as easy as heading to a local paint store to get what you need. You must repaint the entire area if you don’t have the original paint cans. 

The reason is that each paint store’s machine is calibrated slightly differently. So, one Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore paint store will vary from the next, even when choosing the same color and paint type. 

Secondly, paint manufacturers change color formulations over time, which results in subtle color variations. So, in many cases, those cans of leftover paint that “take up space” are the difference between a minor, low-cost touchup vs. a more involved repaint. 

Leftover paint cans are the best means to reference color, sheen, and paint brand. However, even that original can of paint can be negatively affected if not properly stored. 

Sealing Leftover Paint

Tip: Excess air can be the enemy of leftover paint, causing it to dry out. Here are the steps to prevent the paint from drying.

  1. Consider how full the can is and if there are any damages.
  2. Consider transferring the bucket to a smaller container if it is less than half full. 
  3. Check the rim for excess paint, and if there is any paint along the edge of the can, remove it to ensure a tight seal.
  4. Once the edge of the can is clear, use a mallet or carefully tap the edge of the lid with a hammer.
  5. Label which room or areas the paint was applied to for future reference. 

Paint Storage

Knowing how to store paint properly is critical to increasing its shelf life. Many people will stash their leftover paint out of the way in an attic or garage. Unfortunately, those are among the worst places to store excess paint. 

Often forgotten, some paints are flammable, and most are hazardous, yet the storage requirements are the same whether the paint is interior house paint or exterior.

Attics, garages, and storage sheds are prone to drastic temperature changes, and extreme heat or cold can negatively impact the paint. A better choice to properly store paint is inside a closet or finished basement. 

Additional Storage Tips:

  • Avoid placing paint cans on cold concrete floors.
  • Place an old towel or cardboard beneath the container to protect surfaces and spills, which will also help insulate the can.
  • Don’t place paint cans on shelving where they can fall.

Reusing Leftover Paint

When you have stored extra paint appropriately, it can easily be reused. But if a paint container is opened and contains a foul odor similar to rotten eggs, it has been contaminated and unsuitable for use.

When there are no foul odors or separation, and the paint has not dried, here is how to reuse it for touch-ups. 

  1. Make sure the lid is on tight.
  2. Shake the can for about 5 minutes.
  3. Open the can of paint and stir it for another 5 minutes.
  4. Filter all lumps or dried paint flakes.
  5. If the contents are not thoroughly mixed, close, reshake, and reopen.

Pour the contents into a bucket or roller pan once ready to reuse. 

How To Open & Seal Paint Cans

Whether a can of paint dries out in storage depends on how it was initially opened. To properly open a paint can, we recommend using a paint can opener or painter’s multitool rather than your keys or a screwdriver. Using these tools will avoid damaging the rim of the can when removing the lid. 

When the paint can lid maintains a proper seal, contaminants, mold, bacteria, and air remain out, preserving the contents inside the can for longer.

How Long Does Stored Paint Last?

Generally, oil-based paint will last longer than water-based paint when stored. But when paint containers are stored in a controlled environment, and excess air inside the container is eliminated, paint cans last 7 – 12 years in a one-gallon or 5-gallon bucket.

Quart containers and spray cans offer the most extended shelf life, ranging from 8 to 15 years.

Maintaining Paint Brushes

You don’t need to clean your brushes if you need a break while painting. You can use The Paint Brush Cover, a handy temporary paint brush storage cover that prevents the paint from drying for up to 2 weeks. If you’re in a pinch or heading off to lunch, you can also cover the brush in thick mil plastic for a few hours. 


Brushes containing oil-based paints should be cleaned using paint thinner and water-based acrylic paints in hot water combined with detergent. A wire brush can also be used to remove stubborn paint clumps. 

Extreme heat can alter the form of paintbrush bristles, so store them in a mild environment. Before storing, allow the bristles to dry and return the brush to its original packaging, also referred to as a shuck. High-quality paint brushes are reusable when they’re cleaned and stored correctly. 

How to Store Acrylic Paint

One of the benefits of acrylic paint is that it dries quickly and that quality also makes it challenging to store. When acrylic paint is exposed to extreme temperatures, it is no longer usable. Paint pigments can also alter in extreme cold, resulting in a minor color shift. 

Acrylic paint can solidify, and the raw materials can separate if stored in extremely hot or cold conditions. Ideally, store acrylic paint in areas that maintain temperatures ranging from 50 – 80 degrees and keep the container open for only as long as you are using it. 

How to Store & Wash Paint Rollers

If you’re on a project and need to store a paint roller for a few hours, you can preserve it without washing it. As professional painters, we use a hack to prevent having to clean paint rollers every time we stop for the day; here is how.

  1. Load the roller as if you were going to start painting.
  2. Wrap the roller in heavy-weight plastic wrap or use multiple layers of thinner plastic.
  3. Then, tape the ends tightly to create a seal. 
  4. Place the roller against a wall to prevent resting pressure from causing the plastic to burst or leak onto the floor.

Tip: For an easy, mess-free temporary seal, you can use The Paint Roller Cover, a snap-tight closure that will keep your paint roller fresh for several days. If you finish your project, you must wash the roller thoroughly to preserve it.

  1. Roll out excess paint and use a painter’s tool to scrape the rest. 
  2. Separate the roller from the frame and submerge both pieces in warm, soapy water.
  3. Continue the cleaning process by rinsing all parts clean. 
  4. Get the roller nap as dry as possible before hanging it in storage. 


House painting is full of details, and properly storing paint and tools is a detail that will save time and money. Properly storing the original paint provides an easy means of maintaining your home, and if you’re selling your home, the buyers will appreciate good touch-up paint. 

In the middle of a painting project, skipping cleaning and sealing your paint and supplies can be tempting. However, it could be a massive and expensive headache to deal with later. Remember, touchup paint is critical to keeping your paint looking fresh for years to come, and you’ll be grateful you took the time to store it the next time you need it. 

View our social media platforms and related articles, or contact us today!

Similar Posts