How Long Do Acrylic Paints Last? Before And After Opening Tube

Acrylic paint is the primary choice when we look for affordable, long-lasting, resistant, and durable paint for our artwork. When we talk about “How long do acrylic paints last? We have to consider two stages. First is when the paint is still inside the container or paint tube. The second is when the paint is applied to a surface. We will cover both stages in the post. 

I found some acrylic paint tubes in my garage, which were still usable. I can guarantee they were more than five years old, but surprisingly, I recovered them and used them in various small projects, and believe me, I was not disappointed by the results. 

So it’s not a wonder that acrylic paints survive and can be recovered if not damaged seriously. I’ll speak about all the related information in the post below. So, please read thoroughly for a satisfactory answer. 

How Long Do Acrylic Paints Last?

Acrylic paints last up to 15 to 20 years or more when placed in an optimum environment and the paint is still inside a tube or container. While the paint on a surface can last more than 100 years if protected from moisture and heat.

Longevity Of Acrylic Paint

Now we’ll consider two stages of the paint to talk about how long it can survive. 

  1. Acrylic paint inside the container or tube
  2. Acrylic paint, when applied to a surface 
Longevity Of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic Paint Inside Container

When acrylic paint is inside the tube, it remains wet, and its consistency is different compared to when applied to a surface during painting (The water evaporates and leaves hard dye behind, changing the composition). 

Most people ask, “ Does acrylic paint expire?” Generally, acrylic paint doesn’t expire if the right conditions are provided, but exposing the colour to overheating, moisture, air, and other harsh conditions can make the colour useless.  

Signs That Your Acrylic Paint Has Gone Bad

Can acrylic paint go bad? Yes, there are some indications that your acrylic paint is ruined and useless. These signs will help you decide if you can fix the paint or if you should dispose of it. Look for these features if you want to use an old acrylic paint kit.

  • Yellow appearance 

The first sign that tells that your acrylic paint has deteriorated is the physical appearance. Look for the colour tone if it’s still bright and vibrant. If it has gone pale, it’s likely degraded. You’ll see yellowish layers along the edges. 

  • Sour Smell

Small plays a significant role in deciding the consistency and composition of things. If you feel the smell of the paint has sour, the polymers in the paint are broken down and converted into smelly molecules. Moreover, smell indicates microbes’ growth as well. 

  • Lumps and Chunks

Look for lumps and chunks in the paint. If you feel there are irregular bumps, they are not a big deal, as they can be fixed in many ways (discussed later). But it’s a sign that your paint is on the way to getting out of use. 

  • Rough Texture 

Squeeze a small quantity out of the tube and see if the texture is smooth and even. Ordinary acrylic paint has a regular, smooth, and even surface. If you feel that rough spots are there, your colour is going bad. 

  • Low Dry Time

If you feel the paint has reduced its dry time and getting hard very quickly, or if it has even dried in the tube. The solvent is evaporated in this case. But no worries, it can be fixed and improved by adding water or acrylic medium.

Signs That Your Acrylic Paint Has Gone Bad

When Does Acrylic Paint Expire?

Acrylic paint is composed of resin, pigment, and solvent. The resin is a polymer and a type of plastic. These chemicals usually don’t expire unless an external force or harm affects them. The following are the factors that can cause acrylic paint to go bad.

  • Exposure To Open Air

Exposing acrylic paint to air reduces its lifespan. The reason is obvious; the air is a mixture of elements in the form of Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen. These elements can react with the paint and cause it to lose its original composition. Moreover, air dries the paint making it hard and brittle. 

  • Exposure To Continuous Light

If the paint tubes or container is exposed to light continuously, the paint consistency will change, and the pigment may get pale. Moreover, the light fades the colour making it non-compatible with your choice. 

  • High Temperature

High temperature is not suitable for acrylic paint. It can affect the polymer and solvent. The polymer may get break down, and the solvent gets dry. So how long do acrylic paints last at high temperatures? The answer varies depending on the intensity of light and time of exposure. The colour will last from a few hours to a few days. 

  • Fungal Growth

One of the main reasons why acrylic paint expires is fungal growth. Some species of fungi, like Molds and Mildew, grow in moisture, and their spores are everywhere in the air. If the spores are dropped into the paint container or tube, the water content provides the optimum medium for their growth, making the paint useless. 

  • Chemical Contamination 

Chemical contamination also plays a crucial role in expiring acrylic paint. Some chemicals like sulfates, phosphorus, acids, etc., present as contaminants or pollutants in the surroundings and can make their way to the paint tubes or containers, leading you to dispose of your paint.

 How To Recover Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint can be recovered if the damage is minor and has not gone harmful enough to be irreversible. You can also fix old acrylic paints, but it depends on the type of deterioration. Following are some ways to revive acrylic paint easily.

  • Add Water

Suppose the paint is dry and thick. It may be due to the solvent that has evaporated. To recover it, add water. Make sure you add clean water in appropriate amounts step by step. Add a small amount of water and stir with a stick. If required, add more water and keep going until the paint has achieved consistency again. 

  • Add Paint Medium

You can improve acrylic paint with mediums as well. These mediums work as thinning agents and help to thin down a dense and thick paint. You can find a range of acrylic paint mediums on Amazon. Add a small quantity of the thinner and mix well using a stirrer. It will smooth out the paint as well. 

  • Mixing With Fresh Paint

You can recover old, thickened, dry-out acrylic paint by mixing it with fresh paint. Ensure the paints you use are compatible and have the same color and composition. Mix them and then stir well.

  • Fix Lumps

How to fix lumpy acrylic paint? You can do it by pressing the lumps and stirring the paint in a circular motion. Moreover, you can strain the paint to separate the lumps from the paint. 

How To Extend Acrylic Paint Shelf Life?

Now let’s look at how to make acrylic paint last longer. As we know, paint is made of synthetic resin, which can have a longer lifespan if put under strict and optimum conditions. 

Here is how to increase the shelf life of acrylic paint by putting it in a favorable environment.

  • Low Temperature 

Acrylic paint lasts longer under low temperate. The reason is the chemistry of the paint, which can be disturbed by higher temperatures, which means that in high heat, the polymer bonding can be weakened. 

So what is the best temperature to store acrylic paint? The best temperature to keep acrylic paint is 20-25 Degrees Celsius. 

  • Dry Environmental 

Put acrylic paint in a dry location because moisture and dampness can promote fungal growth. In addition, it can disturb the paint composition. Never store the colour near a damp wall or cupboard. 

Pro Tip: Wrap the container into a waterproof sheet or put it inside a metal box. 

  • Dark Location

Acrylic paint should be avoided from direct light because the rays of sunlight are deadly for the colour. These rays, especially ultraviolet, can damage the pigment and binder present in the paint. 

  • Airtight Container 

The container should be airtight and not allow even a small quantity of air to enter the paint. As discussed above, air can react with the pigment and consume the solvent. So how long do acrylic paints last if the container is still sealed? It can survive as long as the container or tube doesn’t decompose. 

How To Extend Acrylic Paint Shelf Life

Best Acrylic Brands That Last Longer

Some of the well-known acrylic brands are mentioned below with their long-lasting duration. Please note this data is based on a survey that was carried out by our team of professionals. The lifespan of acrylic paint may differ depending on various factors. 

Sr.noBrandLong Lasting
1Winsor and Newton 10+ years
3Pebeo3-5 years
4Atelier2-3 years
5Arteza5-6 years 
6M. Graham2-4 years

Acrylic Paint When Applied To a Surface

Let’s move on to the second part of our discussion, which is “How long does acrylic paint last once opened?” Once the paint is opened and applied to a surface, the painting can survive for decades if it stays away from Sunlight, moisture and heat. 

Acrylic Paint When Applied To a Surface

How To Protect Acrylic Paintings From Going Bad?

It is vital to protect and store your acrylic paint tubes, but it is more crucial to make the paintings or artwork done with the paint survive and last for a long time. You can do it by varnishing or sealing the painted surface. I’ve given complete procedures on how to varnish acrylic paintings to protect them from fading and deterioration. 

Procedure To Varnish Acrylic Painting

  • Once the painting is thoroughly dried, clean the surface with a piece of cloth and put it over the newspaper to protect the floor from staining. 
  • Put on gloves and take spray varnish. Hold it a few inches away from the painting and begin spraying over the surface by moving it evenly. I prefer Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic coating spray. 
  • Add an additional layer once the previous one is dried. It will make sure the surface is entirely covered. 
  • I recommend putting the painting inside a glass frame to protect it from light. It helps the paint to avoid getting pale or fading. 
Procedure To Varnish Acrylic Painting

How Long Do Acrylic Paints Last On Clothes?

Acrylic paint can last for years on clothes if you have applied good quality paint like Winsor and Newton or Liquitex. Moreover, you have to let the paint get fully cured before washing. It may take up to 72 hours. 

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last On Canvas?  

Canvas is specially designed to be painted with acrylic paint. So the paint can be permanent on canvas. It will survive as long as the canvas remains intact and doesn’t decompose. Moreover, if you prime the surface and apply a top coat, the acrylic paint lifespan will be extended.

How Long Acrylic Paint Last On Plastic?

Plastic is a bit different surface, and acrylic paint may stay for years on plastic. Plastic can’t be decomposed, which makes the surface remain for centuries. The colour will peel if exposed to continuous moisture and light. 

How Long Do Acrylic Paintings Last On Wood?

Acrylic paint on wood lasts more than ten years if the colour is varnished with polyurethane or acrylic sealer. Wood is susceptible to getting wet, which can crack the paint and peel it. So better to put the wood material inside a waterproof environment. 

How Long Does Acrylic Painting Last On Metal?

Acrylic paint can remain intact to metal for 5-7 years, depending on the quality of the colour and external conditions. Metal has a smooth surface, so priming it before painting is crucial for better stickiness. 

Read: How long do posca pens last?


How long does craft paint last?

Acrylic craft paints last 5-10 years or more. But it is greatly concerned with several factors like the quality, external conditions, sealing, priming, and protecting the paint over time. 

How long does acrylic house paint last?

Acrylic house paint can last for ten years, according to a calculation, if protected from humidity because moisture can affect the lifespan of the colour.

How long does acrylic car paint last?

Acrylic car paint can last for years, depending on how the painted surface is handled. Metal is usually waterproof, making it ideal for the paint to stick and survive. But still, the paint is susceptible to physical damage. 

How to reactivate acrylic paint?

You can reactive old acrylic paint by adding a solvent that is water or paint medium. Moreover, you can strain the paint to separate the lumps and stir it vigorously to make it consistent.

How durable is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is durable and doesn’t chip or peel for longer. It is also heat and water-resistant. It can sustain for years if you put it in a favorable environment.

Final Verdict

So how long do acrylic paints last? I hope you got answered well in the post. It is the situation, composition, and environment which decide the lifespan of a paint. Care and protection are crucial to getting your painting as fresh as new, even after years. 

Please comment below for queries, suggestions, and appreciation. Thank you! 

Jose Scott

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