Can I Pour Unused Paint Back In The Can?

Can I Pour Unused Paint Back In The Can?

Are you staring at your half-empty paint tray, wondering, “Can I just pour this unused paint back into the can?” 

It’s a common question, and it’s something that is totally possible. But hold your paintbrushes because there’s more to it than simply chucking your leftover paint back into the tin. 

In this article, I will tell you whether you can and should pour your unused paint back into the can and what you can do with leftover paint instead. Also, I will look at how long you can leave paint in your paint tray before it dries out – and how you can stop this from happening. 

Let’s get to it!

Paint being poured into paint tray from a can of paint

Can I Pour Leftover Paint Back Into The Can?

The short answer is yes, you can put leftover paint back into the paint can. 

But before you start pouring your paint, you need to make sure it’s suitable to be put back in the tin. 

Here’s what you need to check before you put paint from your tray back into your tin:

  • Your leftover paint cannot have any dust, dirt, or debris inside it. If it does and you put your unused paint back in the tin, it could ruin the rest of the paint in the cans. And when you come to using the paint again, you will open your paint tin and find yourself Googling “how to tell if the paint has gone bad“.
  • You pour unused paint back straight away. If you don’t pour it back straight away, it will begin to harden and thicken. And if you put hardened paint back into the tin, it could ruin the consistency of the rest of the paint in the can.

What Can I Do With Leftover Paint In A Tray?

You have a few options with the unused paint in your paint tray.

As I mentioned, you can pour the unused paint back into the tin. Pouring unused paint back is a great way to save time and money by not purchasing paint again for minor touch-ups in the future!

But if you don’t want to keep unused paint, you have three other options.

If your paint has started to dry out or come into contact with dust or dirt, you can pour paint into a sealable container. By keeping your unused paint separate from the rest of the paint, you avoid the risk of ruining the rest of the paint in your paint cans.

Don’t want to keep your excess paint? No problem!

You can dispose of it. To dispose of the leftover paint in your trays, leave it to dry completely by leaving the tray uncovered. When the paint has fully hardened, you can dispose of it with the rest of your household waste.

But, if you’re like me and hate waste, you donate the leftover paint to a local charity. In the UK, there are various non-profit organisations that accept old paint, including Community Repaint and Paintcare. Whenever our painters and decorators in Chiswick have some leftover tins of paint, we donate them to these charities to contribute to our local communities. It’s a great way to give back!

Paintbrush resting on old paint cans stacked on top of each other

How Long Can Paint Sit Out Uncovered?

The amount of time you use leave your paint sitting out without a cover depends on various factors, including:

  • The type of paint
  • The temperature of the room you decide to put the paints in

Paint Type

Different types of paint have different amounts of open-air time. 

That’s because every type of paint contains different pigments, solvents, and binders, which dry out quicker than others. So, the amount of time you can leave paint out without a cover will depend on the paint you have.

Here is the amount of time you generally have before your paint will start to dry out:

Water-based paint: 4 – 24 hours

Water-based paints have a relatively short open-air time. That means it will harden quicker than most other types of paint. So, you should either pour it back into the paint cans or store it with an airtight lid as soon as possible.

Oil-based paint: 1-3 days

You can leave your oil-based paint in your paint tray uncovered for slightly longer than water-based paint. Even though these paints can be fine for a few days, it’s best to decide what you want to do with it as soon as possible. That’s because the longer you leave it, the more chance the paint will become contaminated by dirt or dust.

Room temperature

The temperature of the room you store your paint in will affect how long you can leave it uncovered.

As you might expect, the warmer the room’s temperature, the less time you have before it will begin to dry out.

So, the best thing to do is to either return the paint from the tray into the paints can or store it in a cool and dry place.

Empty paint cans

How To Keep Paint Tray From Drying Overnight?

The best way to keep paint from drying out in your trays is to cover it with plastic or aluminium wrap – as long as you can get it airtight it will work just fine.

Or you can transfer the paint from the tray into containers with an air-tight seal.

Also, you must take some precautions for the storage of the paint. The best way to store your paint is to keep it in a cool and dry area, away from the sun. That’s because heat and sunlight accelerate the drying process.