Keeping Acrylics Fresh

Q. Is there a shelf life for acrylic paints? What can I do to make them last longer?

A. You should be able to store your unopened acrylic paints for a few years without experiencing significant changes in their consistency or working qualities. However, there are several factors that reduce their shelf life and may render then useless.

Once you begin to use the paint—whether you have tubes or plastic jars with screw-on lids—air gradually flows into these containers, evaporating liquid contents and drying out the acrylic paint. And by simply regularly opening and closing the container, paint may dry out around tube caps or screw-on lids. You may need to scoop out and discard the dried paint globules. Eventually, further drying may change the physical properites of the acrylic paint, making it impossible to work with.

You know it’s too late to save your paint when it’s rubber in consistency and you can’t remove lumps from the tube or jar. However, here are some suggestions for making your acrylic paints last longer before they reach this state:

  • With a wet sponge, wipe out paint tube caps and screw-on lids. Doing this regularly will discourage paint from drying out around the container opening.
  • Periodically open your jars of acrylic paint and lightly spray the inside with water to keep the paint inside wet.
  • If you work with a lot of paint tubes and jars, you may want to write the date you open the container on the outside. A dating system can remind you which containers you should use the quickest.

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