How Long Does Oil Paint Last?

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We all know that oil paintings can last for hundreds of years. But, what is the shelf life of the actual oil paint?

How Long Are Oil Paints Good For?

Oil paint can last up to 40 years when it is properly cared for before you need to throw it away and buy new paint. But, you need to make sure that you store it properly. If you do not, the shelf life of your paint is going to be greatly reduced.

Today we are going to talk about how to store oil paints. We will also look at how to tell if oil paint is expired, whether or not you should use old paint, and how to restore old paint. 

Let’s get started.

Preserve Oil Paints with Proper Storage

The fresher the paint, the more likely it will be that it is used before it expires. You can extend the lifespan of your oil paint by properly storing it, and it will last for many years of painting fun.

First and foremost, you need to make sure that you are sealing the lids tightly to ensure that the containers are airtight. It is a good idea to store your paint containers inside other airtight containers for added protection.

Oil paints should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark area. They should be kept in an area where the temperature is constant. Fluctuating temperatures can cause oil paint to degrade.

Make sure that you always clean the tubes to make sure there is no paint caked around the cap. This can keep the caps from closing properly, and the containers will no longer be airtight.

How to Tell if Oil Paint Has Expired

It’s not difficult to tell if oil paint has expired. All you have to do is look at the paint to see if the oil has separated from the pigment.

When this happens, it will greatly degrade the quality of the paint. You will then need to decide if you should go out and buy new paints. Depending on how dry the paint is, there is a chance that you may be able to use it again.

The problem with pigment and oil separating is that it causes the paint to harden. The pigment has no oil to keep it moist and supple.

You can use oils or paint thinners to thin oil paints to achieve the desired consistency.

Using Old Oil Paints

Thankfully, it can take a very long time for oil paints to expire. Most artists find that they can use their old oil paints as long as the oil and pigment have not completely separated. In this case, the paint can be used safely and effectively.

Be Careful About Exposure to Lead

There is one thing I would like to warn you about though. Some older paints, and even some newer paints, contain lead.

Lead is extremely dangerous and poisonous, and should never be inhaled or ingested. If your paints are very old, you will need to consider that they may contain lead, and you might just want to get rid of them anyway.

As I mentioned, some older paints do contain lead, especially certain shades of white paint, such as titanium white. Some of today’s oil paint manufacturers still use lead as an ingredient, but these paints are sold in tins for the most part, and they come with very specific usage warnings.

How to Soften Oil Paint That Has Hardened

Don’t automatically throw away old oil paint that has hardened. You may be able to restore it so you can use it again.

The best way to soften hardened oil paint is to add some turpentine. This is a paint thinner, and it is also toxic, so you need to make sure that you take all of the necessary safety precautions while using it. This includes wearing gloves, protective glasses, and a face mask.

You will also need to have a mixing container. Place the dried oil paint and some turpentine into the container and mix until the paint becomes soft again. You should be able to use it after adding the turpentine, which will soften the paint.


As long as you are properly storing your oil paint you shouldn’t have a problem with it drying out. Oil paint can last for several decades, as long as it is properly stored and cared for.

If you do end up having some oil paint dry out on you, try restoring it before throwing it away. This is going to save you a lot of money in the long run, because oil paints can be quite expensive. If you can restore them you won’t have to spend anything to replace them.

If you think you cannot save your paint, make sure you know how to dispose of oil paints properly for the environment.

Up next: How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last?

*image by Wirestock/depositphotos