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What Happens To Latex Paint If It Freezes? (Can You Still Use It?)

After a big paint job, you likely put the paint away to make sure it was no longer out and causing you to trip all over the home. Without thinking about it, you left the paint in a storage area or the garage. A few months later, maybe in the middle of winter, you go back out to grab the paint to do a little touch up work with that color. Once you grab the paint though, you notice it is frozen. Will you be able to still use that latex paint when it thaws?

When latex paint freezes, it is possible that the paint will become unusable. The water inside this type of paint freezes too and the emulsion will get ruined. In some cases, with careful dethawing and if the paint only froze once, it is possible that you can save the paint and still reuse it. However, if the paint froze more than once or stayed frozen for a long time, then it is likely unusable. 

can you use latex paint after it freezes

Related: How To Paint Your House Like A Professional (Tips and Techniques)

What Happens to Latex Paint If It Freezes?

All latex paints have water in them. This means that, just like any other type of water, the water inside the paint can will freeze too when it reaches 32-degrees or lower. This is different compared to oil-based paints. The oil-based paints have the ability to freeze, but their freezing point is much lower than latex-based. If you live up north, it is possible that your can of paint will freeze if you leave it outside or in an unheated garage if it is latex. 

Depending on how cold the temperatures get and how long the paint stays in the cold, these temperatures can cause permanent damage to the emulsion in the paint. This can get worse if the temperatures go up and down and the paint is frozen more than once. When the emulsion is ruined, it can make the consistency of the paint turn south. 

What Happens to Latex Paint If It Freezes?

Paint that was frozen just one time may be fine. It will depend on how long it was frozen and whether you followed the right steps to dethaw the can. However, if the paint is frozen for a long time or it is frozen and dethawed many times, it is likely that the paint will change consistencies. You may notice that the paint looks:

  • Clumpy, stringy, or ropey. 
  • Look like cottage cheese when you open the lid. 
  • Looks like sandy water

If you open up the can and notice any of these textures in the paint, it is best to throw the whole can out. The paint will not look good on the wall and it is pretty much worthless to you at this point. Proper storage so the paint will stay unfrozen is the best way to preserve it and make sure you can use it later down the road. 

Can I Still use Latex Paint When It Freezes?

Can I Still use Latex Paint When It Freezes?

When the latex paint freezes, it can affect the emulsion of that particular paint. This means that when the paint does thaw, it is possible that both the texture and the consistency could be ruined. This does not happen all the time though. It is possible for these to both be fine, especially if the paint hasn’t been frozen before. 

In some cases, the paint is fine and you are still able to use it, even after it freezes. You do need to check the paint and see how the texture and consistency are once the paint is at room temperature again. This will give you a better idea of whether you can reuse the paint or not. Once you open the lid of the paint,  you will get a better idea of whether it is usable or not. 

Whether you can use the latex paint after it freezes will just depend. You can carefully dethaw it and see what happens. But no matter what methods you use, there is a high possibility that the paint will be unusable once you open the lid. In some cases, it will be fine and you can use it for touching up any area in the home or to repaint a whole wall. Many times, though, the emulsion will be ruined and you can’t use the paint at all. 

Should I Thaw the Frozen Paint?

Before you can do anything with the paint and see if the consistency is still good, it is time to thaw the frozen paint. Do this slowly for the best results. Unthawing the paint too quickly is more likely to ruin it and prevent you from reusing it at all. Bring it inside and let the paint can dethaw at room temperature for the best results. 

It is tempting to speed this process up. You may think to grab a space heater, hairdryer, or another heating source to make the process go faster. The best chance you have to salvage the paint is to work with a gradual thaw. It will take a few hours, though can be done a little faster if there isn’t as much paint in the can. Leave an older towel or some sheets under the paint to protect the surface you leave it on. 

How to Check the Paint After It Thaws

When you are certain the paint is thawed, open the lid and stir it around. You may consider taking the whole can to the paint store and asking them to shake it for better results. Once the lid is open, you can check the consistency of the paint. If you open the lid and notice the consistency is like cottage cheese or there are big clumps or a stringy texture, then this is a sign the paint is ruined. 

However, if you open up the can and can’t see obvious signs of something wrong, look closer to see how the graininess is. If that looks fine, you can use the paint. Grab your paintbrush and make a few quick swipes on a scrap of wood or paper. See how well the paint does. Look for inconsistencies in the paint where you just used it. 

If you still can’t see a problem, then the paint is fine, and you can go ahead and use it. Any paint that has made it to this point should have a texture and color that is consistent to what you saw before it froze. If anything about the appearance is off, then you should just throw the paint out. 

Tips to Store Your Paint

Even though you can save paint when it freezes in some cases, it is always best to prevent the paint from freezing in the first place. This helps the paint to last longer and makes it easier to save money when you do not need to throw the paint away. 

Paint will freeze when it reaches 32 degrees, so the paint needs to stay in an area that never gets that cold. Since your garage and any storage sheds can fall below that point in the north, these are not good places to store the paint. A shelf in your basement can suffice, or a climate-controlled basement can do the trick too.  

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