Can Paint Freeze and Still be Used Again?

paint freezing

Have you ever discovered that an expensive container of paint froze overnight? Maybe it left you wondering if there is any way to reuse the frozen paint. In this article, I will share a few ideas about reusing frozen paint. 

In some instances, you can reuse frozen paint. However, reusing frozen paint will not always be possible. Sometimes, the paint will have frozen too many times to be saved. 

Most of the time, reusing frozen paint is on a case-by-case basis. Some paint that only began to freeze (or was frozen for a short time) is more likely to be salvageable than paint that was frozen solid all winter. 

For this reason, it’s important to learn how to assess your paint for usability. Know this, applying low-quality or ruined paint to a project can be a disaster. 

Let’s jump in. 

Is Frozen Paint Usable? 

You should thaw frozen paint completely before assessing usability. 

Here are the steps to assessing if frozen paint is still usable. 

  1. Allow the paint to thaw 
  2. Assess the paint for lumps or separation 
  3. Stir paint vigorously 
  4. Test paint on an inconspicuous surface 

Below, I provide a more in-depth discussion on these four steps. 

  • Allow Frozen Paint to Thaw 

First things first, you need to allow the frozen paint to thaw. Allow the paint to thaw by placing the frozen paint in a warm room. Resist the urge to use a direct heater or hairdryer.

It’s best to allow the pain to thaw by itself. Applying too much heat could further alter the paint. 

  • Assess the Thawed Paint for Lumps or Separation 

Once the paint is thaw, it’s time to assess. If the paint was only partially frozen, then it may appear almost normal. 

However, you may need to look a little closer. 

Sometimes, after the paint has frozen, it will develop little clumps. Some people describe these clumps as being similar to cottage cheese. 

To look for clumps, try pouring the paint slowly into a different (clean) paint can. As the paint is pouring, look for any clumps. 

If you find a bunch of clumps, your paint is likely unusable. However, there’s one more thing you can try. 

  • Stir the Frozen Paint Vigorously 

If you’ve encountered some clumps after allowing your frozen paint to thaw, then it’s time to stir. 

Some painters report they can successfully stir some of these clumps out of the paint. So, stirring is probably worth a shot (if you have a motor-powered paint mixer, even better). 

Depending on how many clumps you have, this could take some time. 

Note: If your paint contains severe clumps, then stirring may not work. 

Tip: You can strain out large lumps in your paint using a strainer. Even though this paint may not keep the quality as it once was, it might still work for touching up an outdoor project

  • Test the Thawed Paint in an Inconspicuous Area

You should never use previously frozen paint on an important project without testing it. 

Try using some of the paint on some scrap pieces of wood if you can. Of course, it’s always best to try to match the test surface with the actual surface you need to paint. 

While testing the paint is time-consuming, it’s an important step to ensure you don’t end up with a disaster. 

If the paint appears to be working as usual, then you could cautiously apply some to your project. 

Even if the frozen paint appears fine, you may want to hold off on using it for something important, like an indoor wall or a nice piece of furniture. 

How Fast will Paint Freeze? 

How fast your paint will freeze depends on the type of paint, where you’re storing the paint, and the temperature. 

Here’s a list: 

  1. Type of paint – Oil-based vs. water-based 
  2. Where you’re storing the paint 
  3. The temperature 

Let’s explore these more. 

  • Oil-Based Paint vs. Water-Based Paint During Freezing Temperatures 

Water-based paint will begin to freeze at the same temperature as water: 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. 

However, oil paint is much more resistant to freezing. Many oil-based paints will use linseed oil as their medium. Linseed oil will begin to freeze at -4 Fahrenheit or – 20 Celsius. That’s cold! 

In some parts of the world, you probably never need to worry about your oil-based paint freezing. But, on the other hand, there are plenty of areas that experience below zero temperatures in the winter. 

  • Storage of Your Paint 

If your paint is completely exposed to the elements, it will freeze at a faster rate. 

Even if you have a garage with no heat, storing your paint near a door that leads inside may provide enough radiant heat to prevent your paint from freezing. 

Also, double-check the freezing point for your specific type of paint. Depending on different ingredients, each type of paint may need to be stored at a slightly different temperature. 

  • The Temperature and Frozen Paint 

Water-based paint can start to freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. At exactly freezing temperatures, your paint can begin to freeze within an hour. 

However, at lower temperatures, 20 degrees Fahrenheit for example, the paint can freeze even faster. 

Practically speaking, there’s no way of knowing exactly how fast your paint will freeze. While you could measure this in a laboratory, there are many factors at play in the real world. For example . . .

Is the paint sealed? How close is the paint to your home? Was there any insulation around the paint? 

All these questions affect how fast your paint will freeze. 

As a rule, if your paint was directly exposed to freezing temperatures for an hour, then you can expect freezing. 

How to Prevent Paint from Freezing 

The best way to prevent your paint from freezing is to store the paint in an insulated area with a heat source.  

Of course, if you have lots of paint to store, then it’s not practical to stack it in a room inside your home. Buckets of paint can be messy, give off fumes, and take up space. 

Here are three ideas to prevent your paint from freezing during the winter:

  1. Use paint before winter 
  2. Store the paint in a heated garage
  3. Build a heated and insulated paint storage box in your garage 

Let’s go over these ideas in more depth. 

  • Use Paint Before the Winter 

Though using up your old paint may seem like a common-sense idea, we often delay projects. So, if you’ve been avoiding a painting project around your home, motivate yourself by thinking about how you can use up that old paint before the winter. 

Maybe you need to touch up your fence. Could the shed use an extra coat? Perhaps your basement is due for some clean walls. 

Using up old paint has two huge advantages. 

First, the paint will eventually expire, so storing paint for years on end is not ideal. Paint will work best when it is used fresh from the can. 

Second, even if you don’t think you need to repaint the shed just yet, you might be surprised what some preventative painting can do for you. 

Instead of spending your whole summer scraping off old paint and sanding that old shed, you can repaint it before it becomes an eyesore. 

  • Store Paint in a Heated Garage 

If you can’t use up your old paint, it’s time to think about storage options.

Of course, the easiest method would be to store your paint neatly in a heated garage. If you go with this option, make sure you have a thermometer in the garage so you can monitor the temperature. 

However, even if you can heat your garage, not everyone will want to pay the extra utility cost just to prevent their paint from freezing. 

If you don’t have a heated garage, or you’d rather not keep your garage heat on all the time, there is another option for you. 

  • Build a Warmed Paint Box in Your Garage 

Before you dismiss this idea, know this – it’s not as complicated as it sounds. 

You can make a heated paint box in very little time. 

Here’s how. 

First, get some heat tape or a heat lamp/light. These options are easy to install and relatively inexpensive.

Second, use foam insulation to build a small box around your paint cans. Be sure to make enough room to hang your light (or place your heat tape) and store all your paint. 

You can get as creative or as simple as you’d like when building a box for your paint. 

How to Dispose of Frozen Paint

Often, your frozen paint will have seen better days. In these cases, you need to dispose of your paint. 

Here are a few ways you can dispose of frozen paint. 

First, you can open the lid and allow the paint to dry out. Once the paint has fully dried, you can reapply the lid and toss the paint in the trash. 

Second, you can pour your bad paint into a container with sawdust or kitty litter. These compounds will allow the paint to dry so you can safely throw the paint away. 

Finally, always check your local guidelines for paint disposal. Some areas are strict about how you throw away old paint.