How to Distinguish Good Paint From Bad Paint

How to Make Old Paint Usable Again {5 Quick Fix}

If you’ve reserved some paints in the basement or garage for future touch-ups, don’t throw them away even if they have defaced! They might still be useful in spite of their looks.

In this article, I’m going to show you a quick fix on how to make old paint usable again, and the process is COMPLETELY hassle-free.

Even if the paint seems dead and gone, you can stir them back to live with our handy guide.

And it works miraculously well not only on snugly closed paint cans but also on exposed ones.
But before we proceed though, you need to know if the paint is still usable, whether it has expired or not.

How to Tell If Old Paint Is Still Usable

How to Make Old Paint Usable Again

Any paint can turn bad, but it depends solely on what type of paint it is, the storage location, and whether or not it was opened or sealed.

Below are some telltale signs that the paint has passed its prime.

Properly sealed and covered Paint can

If the container is well sealed or hasn’t been opened before, there are 98% chances that the paint might still be usable. Sealed paint maintains its ratio of liquids and semi-solids, that’s why they are eligible after a long period.

Unopened latex and water-based acrylic paints can last up to 10 years, whereas alkyd and oil-based paint longevity are about 15 years.

The only problem you are likely to encounter with a well-storage unopened old paint is separation.

Separation occurs when the paint has been sitting untouched for a very long time. The top of the paint becomes watery and solid on the bottom.

If we’re on the same boat, you would have to blend the content thoroughly together with a paint stirrer for at least five minutes. (More on that soon)

Then test it on a piece of cardboard with a paintbrush or roller. If it looks normal and goes on smoothly, the paint is still healthy.

However, if you notice lumps or grainy bits in the paint that you can’t stir out, the chemical makeup has changed entirely, and it is no longer workable. Discard it immediately.

Exposed Paint

There may still be hope for exposed paint, but it depends on the circumstances of storage and the type of paint.

If it was stored in a garden or shed, it has been exposed to extreme temperatures one way or the other. And there are higher chances that the paint is no longer worth it.

However, if the can is exposed to harsh weather conditions, the ratio or consistency of paint will change over time, and will eventually cause the paint to dry out.

Extreme temperature is the kiss of death for old paint. Harsh temperatures are anything below 50°F or above room temperature 72°F. And would damage the purity and integrity of the paint, changing its chemical makeup.

And NO paint (not even sealed ones) can survive such fiery and icy fate.

If the paint is only exposed to air, there might still be room for miracles.

Now let’s abracadabra and make the semi-dried paint juicy again.

You need to remove the thickened layer on the top, then mix the paint thoroughly well with the stirrer. You can as well test it out on a piece of cardboard to see its consistency.

If the solution has dried completely. The paint is dead. Don’t even bother to thin it.

Succinctly, a tightly sealed can lid is the secret to the longevity of the paint.

Therefore, any leftover paint must be closed up tightly and stored in a climate-controlled area. And should be used within two years or else one of two things will happen.

Either the paint will dry up or bacteria will enter and render the paint useless.

How to Distinguish Good Paint From Bad Paint

How to Tell If Old Paint Is Still Usable

So How can you identify whether or not the paint has gone rogue? There are two methods you can use to recognize bad paint.

The first is to smell it. If it oozes out badly like spoiled food, or fish when you remove the lid, get rid of it.

Secondly, stir it with a stirrer. If it looks chunky or textured it is defunct. Other signs include a thick, rubber-like film topping it, or the paint doesn’t stay uniformly blended after a 10 to 15 minutes mixing.

At their worst, you are likely to see mold and mildew dancing and jubilating on top of the paint.

Now, that’s out of the way, let’s discuss how to make old paint usable again.

Read Also: Learn How to Thin Enamel Paint

How to Make Old Paint Usable Again

Step 1: Clean the Lid and Rim

The first thing you need to do is to lay down a drop cloth, plastic, or some old newspaper. The cloth will help catch splatters while mixing the paint.

Place the paint directly on the material and wipe the top of the lid clean. Then wrap a clean cotton rag around the mouth of a flat-blade screwdriver to clean the rim cautiously, removing any dried paint or rust before opening.

Step 2: Open the Can’s Lid

Without shaking, remove the lid and position the edge of the flat-blade screwdriver under the lid’s rim, partially lifting it from the can.

Redo it in multiple locations around the can’s perimeter until the lid is finally out. Then put it aside for later.

Step 3: Gently stir the paint [optional]

How to Distinguish Good Paint From Bad Paint

At this point, you should be getting your first glance at the paint.

If the paint is fluid and the color seems evenly dispersed without any visible mold, or mildew that is a good sign.

Get a wooden or plastic paint paddle handy. Insert it into the can and stir the contents gently to confirm its consistency.

You may be wondering if it’s okay to use old paint that has mold or mildew floating on it. I’m afraid not!

Mold and mildew are unworkable. However, if you apply the contaminated paint on the wall, you will get caught up in a dilemma. Not only will you get a lousy finish job, but also would be growing toxic molds on the surface that are health-threatening.

Step 4: Stir the solution vigorously

To mix the paint thoroughly, you need a paint mixer attached to a variable-speed drill.

Insert the attachment deep into the paint can and set it on at a low speed, gradually increasing the drill to a breakneck speed.

While in motion, you should progressively move the piece around the perimeter of the can’s bottom. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes before turning off the drill.

Endeavor to let any leftover paint from the mixer drip back into the can to avoid splatter.

Step 5: Test the paint on a cardboard

It is critical to test the paint’s consistency again after defeating separation. But this time around, on cardboard.

If it goes on smoothly and looks normal, congratulation! You’ve just completed your quest on how to make old paint reusable.

Don’t have any plans on using the paint any time soon? Replace the lid and gently hammer it into place using a rubber mallet.


For those of us who want to play smart using a strainer to filter out the lumpy particles, karma will catch up with you later, exposing your dirty little secret.

There are no two ways about it. Once the paint is condemned, no wonder product or remedy can restore life.

Any attempt to revive the paint will be medicine after death. And it’s not worth the effort.

Read Also: How to Fix Peeling Paint on Ceiling

How do you bring dried paint back to life?

You can fix dried out acrylic paint by mixing them with some warm water. Only a small amount should be added at a time to avoid thinning down the paint too much. This only works if the paint has been sealed inside the container, so that the paint was not exposed to fresh air when it dried out.

Can you bring old paint back to life?

If the can was snugly closed and sealed, you can probably revive the paint for future use. Old paint separates, however, so it must be thoroughly stirred up prior to use. You can request that service from your neighborhood paint retailer, or you can perform that chore yourself with some basic tools.

Can you use 5 year old paint?

Unopened Paint

The good news is that if you have an unopened can of paint that has been stored properly, it’s almost guaranteed to still be fine to use. It’s important you test a small patch before you plan to use that can of 5-year-old paint in your home.

How do you fix lumpy paint?

Just stir it with a stir stick, and it should settle out. If it is an older preponed can of paint, you can attempt to screen the lumps and chunks out of it. If the paint is lumpy because of contamination or exposure to freezing and thawing, then the best suggestion is to throw it away.

How do you soften paint?

Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to gently scrape away paint (tip: vegetable oil can be used to soften up the paint). Denatured alcohol or acetone will work on tougher areas but be sure to spot test beforehand. Upon completion, clean the plastic with warm water and soap.

Can you add water to old paint?

Go slowly and be careful when adding water because this is only a one-way process: You can always add more water to paint to further thin it out but you cannot thicken the paint again. The best way to save paint that is too thin is to add it to a second can of paint.

What happens if you use bad paint?

Make no mistake—if paint smells bad, it is bad and should be discarded. Most latex paints have a shelf life of up to 10 years, but paint can go bad in a much shorter window of time, especially if it’s not stored properly. Bad paint may not go on properly, leaving a visibly rough finish that also may peel.

How can you tell if paint has gone bad?

Rancid– or Sour-Smelling Paint

After the lid is opened, some paint might have a sharp smell: rancid, foul, or sour. Other paint might smell like mold or mildew. If the smelly paint is applied, the smell may lessen but not disappear.

What happens when you use expired paint?

So there is nothing wrong with using old paint because the shelf life of paint is extremely long if you stored it properly. Note: some paints today are sold in plastic cans. Plastic is not air-tight. They slowly allow evaporation.

How do you fix paint that is too thick?

Paint wrinkles happen when applying paint too heavily, there isn’t enough drying time between coats, or the painting was done in extreme temperatures. You can fix this by sanding the area down, then cleaning, priming, and repainting it.


That is that, on how to make old paint usable again.

The stirring stage is the real deal. And you can either let the dealer do the messy work or do it yourself. Yeah, you heard me right!

The retailer that originally sold the paint to you will be more than inclined to re-mix the solution using high-performance blenders and shakers, free of charge.

I once had a preference for them handling the mixing over DIY because they will tell you immediately if the paint is still usable or condemn. More importantly, the contents will be well mixed.

More important, the stir makes the paint perform as if it were new, without affecting the color. But what fun would it be as a DIY enthusiast having others do the dirty work?

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