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How to keep paint from drying out

Paint is expensive. And no matter how well you plan, it always seems like you have a significant part of a gallon left over at the end of a project. How do you keep paint from drying out so you’ll have it for touch-ups, or your next project? Here’s a trick an old-timer taught me.

One weird trick to keep paint from drying out

how to keep paint from drying out

This paint dried out because there was too much paint on the rim, and that kept the lid from getting a good seal. About 25% of the paint in the can went to waste.

An old-time train hobbyist, of all people, told me the trick to keep cans of paint from drying out. Keep the rim as clean from paint as possible, then put the lid back on and seal it down as tightly as possible. He swore he had cans of paint that were decades old and hadn’t dried out. He just had to mix them back up again and they’d be ready to use.

I believe him. I sometimes find ancient cans of paint that bear the names of stores that have been out of business for years. Names like HQ, or even Central Hardware. As long as the rim is clean, the paint inside is almost always usable. If the rim isn’t clean, there’ll be a big rubbery cylinder inside. The paint on the rim dries and keeps the lid from getting a good seal.

Clean off the rim, or find a way to keep the paint from getting on the rim in the first place, and the paint can last a very long time, saving you a bundle in the process. Then you can pay extra for really good paint without feeling guilty about it and worrying about wasting half the can.

Tips for keeping the paint rim clean

how to keep paint from drying out

The red spout on this paint can cost about $3.50 and I’ve had it for 5-7 years. The yellow spout next to the can only costs $1. They’ve saved me a lot of paint.

The main reason paint gets on the rim of your can is from pouring paint from thecan into a paint tray. You pour it into the tray, and a little bit of paint seeps onto the rim when you tilt the can back upward and set it down.

Hardware stores sell tools to help you pour paint out of cans without getting it on the rim. The cheapest one is just a plastic piece that clips onto the rim of a one-gallon can. It costs about one dollar. Snap the spout on the rim, pour out your paint, and virtually none of it will get onto the rim.

You can also get a silicone rubber spout that snaps onto the can like a lid. I like those even better, but admittedly they’re more expensive. There’s also a plastic spout for 5-gallon buckets, but I prefer to just use a paint tray inside 5-gallon buckets so I don’t even pour from them.

If you don’t want to buy tools, just remember to wipe down the rim promptly with a paper towel before you replace the lid. And if some paint does get on the rim and dries before you can wipe it off, chip it out with a cheap flat-bladed screwdriver.

But I think the $1 snap-on spout is well worth it. I’ve bought two or three spouts for 1-gallon cans over the years and they’ve probably saved me $50-$75 worth of paint.

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