Does Spray Paint Expire? (Shelf Life Revealed)

Spray paint offers a more even coverage than using paint brushes, and many of us have a few cans stashed away for DIY projects. However, if you've had your spray paint for a while, you might be worried about whether it's still usable, and the last thing you want to do is ruin your work with dodgy paint. The real question is, does spray paint expire? In this guide, we'll give you a clear answer, so you know if it’s safe to use.    

Spray paint won’t last forever, and it does expire. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go and check your cupboards immediately, but you do need to be conscious that after a certain period of time, the paint won’t work. This is because it's an aerosol, and it relies on a certain amount of pressure to function. The change in pressure as the paint is released through the nozzle is what transforms it from a liquid to a fine spray. Over time, the pressure releases so the paint can no longer be released as an aerosol, and the spray paint becomes pretty useless.  

On average, an unopened spray paint can should be good for 3-4 years. This does vary depending on the type and brand of paint, but if you've had it for under 3 years, you should be fine. Rust-Oleum spray paint should last 5-10 years, and Krylon spray paint should last 2-5 years. Glow in the dark spray paint often lasts longer than regular spray paint, and you should expect 3-5 years before it expires (and up to 10 years before it stops glowing). Essentially, every manufacturer and product is slightly different, but there should be an expiry date printed on the bottom of the can, which tells you the date it should be used before.  

If your spray paint can is opened, the pressure will release more quickly, and it won't last as long. In fact, the spray paint will expire twice as fast once it's opened, so if it had 18 months left until it expired, it would drop to 9 months once opened. That's why it's really important to store your spray paint properly to maximize the life span.  

Just because your spray paint is past the expiry date doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work. Some spray paints can be used for 6-12 months after that point, but it isn’t guaranteed. It’s best to use it before the printed expiry date, but do make sure you test it before you decide to throw it away.  

Does Spray Paint Expire

How To Know If Spray Paint Is Bad?

The main way to tell if your spray paint is bad is to check the expiry date. If you're way past, there isn't much hope, but you might be ok if it's within the last 6 months. The easiest way to tell if the spray paint is still usable is to test it and see if there's enough pressure. If the paint isn't coming out as it should, it won't give you an even coverage, and you're going to struggle to use it. Some paints will also start to smell like ammonia once they’ve expired. This is due to the chemical compounds involved, but this tends to be much less noticeable with spray paint because it’s contained within an airtight can.  

If your spray paint has passed the expiry date, then you may still be able to use it, but the loss of pressure will make it more challenging. This could mean that it doesn't stick to the surface properly, or it could mean that it doesn't come out of the nozzle at all. Shake the aerosol can upside down for a few minutes to improve the flow and test it somewhere to make sure it's working properly. If it is, then you've got lucky, but try to use it as quickly as possible.  

spray paint cans

Storing Spray Paint To Make It Last Longer 

To get the most from your spray paint, you need to store it correctly. Here are some tips to maximize the lifespan of the paint:  

  • Keep The Lid On  
    If possible, try not to open the spray paint at all until you’re going to use it. An opened can will deteriorate more quickly, and the paint will expire faster. If you have to open it, then make sure you keep the lid and seal it as tightly as possible once you’re finished with it.  
  • Keep It Upright  
    Keep the spray paint can upright to stop the paint from traveling up the nozzle. If the paint dries there, it can disrupt the flow and make the can unusable.  
  • Store It In An Ambient Temperature 
    Ideally, you want to store your spray paint in a room that's 41-86 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5-30 degrees Celsius). Keeping the paint away from hot and cold temperatures will minimize any impact on the paint and help it keep for longer. Many people store their spray paint in a garage or shed, but it's worth checking how hot or cold it gets in there to stop any unnecessary damage to the paint.  
  • Check The Instructions 
    Every spray paint is slightly different, and the manufacturers will include storage instructions. Make sure you read and follow them to maximize the lifespan of your spray paint.  

Ways To Properly Dispose Of Unused Or Expired Spray Paint 

Aerosols can be damaging to the environment, and spray paint cans are considered hazardous. This is primarily because aerosols cause damage to the ozone layer around the planet, so different countries have rules and restrictions on how they should be used, stored, and disposed of. There are usually two different options depending on whether the can is full or empty. 

If you think the can is empty, then you should hold down the nozzle to get rid of anything left in there. Once you're sure the paint is completely used up, then you can put it with the rest of your recyclables. They should not be pierced, crushed, or flattened during this process.  

If your can is full or half full, then it's considered hazardous waste. You should first try to empty it, but if you can't, then you'll need to check the local area's recycling plan. This can usually be found on a local government website and often involves going to a hazardous waste collection site. These are typically free, and some local businesses will take these cans off your hands for you.  

Remember, some non-water-based spray paints can be hazardous, so you should handle them with care, wear gloves, and use them in a well-ventilated space.   


Frequently Asked Spray Paint Expiration Questions 

Does spray have an expiration date on the can? 

Yes, spray paint usually has an expiration date printed on the bottom of the can.  


What’s the smell of paint when it's expired? 

Expired paint usually smells like ammonia or rotten eggs. If you can smell this, it probably means that your spray paint has expired and needs to be replaced.  


Does spray paint adhere to the surface when it's expired? 

It can do, but it usually won’t stick as evenly to the surface that you are painting. This will make the paint look thinner, and may even mean you have to go over it again with fresh spray paint.  


Conclusion

Spray paint is a quick and effective way to get a nice even coat of paint, and lots of people have a few old cans kicking around. It isn't always easy to tell if they're still in good condition, but hopefully, this guide has helped explain how to know if your spray paint has expired and how to maximize the product's lifespan.  


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