Do Oil Paints Go Bad? How to Fix It?

So, you want to make an oil painting. Oil paint is a great art medium for artists, but the problem is expiration. You may wonder: how do oil paints go bad?

Oil paint is a long-time favorite choice of artists. With proper maintenance, an oil painting can last up to 40 years. This life shelf is more than acrylic paints. So, it is not only the oil paint; every paint will go bad with time.

There is a way to check the expiration of the oil paint if you are unsure how to check it. Since the oil paint life shell depends on how it builds, it is easy to get lost in the flow. In this article, you will understand what we mean.

Can Any Paint Go Bad?

It is normal for any paint to expire. Be it latex paint, oil paint or acrylic paint, it will expire. Some people often ask us about water-based paints. Do water-based paints expire? Acrylic paint expires faster than oil paint. What exactly is acrylic paint? It is a water-based paint. So, the verdict is that waste-based paints have also expired.

acrylic paint

Each painting has a specific life shell. Generally, oil paint has a shelf life of three years after opening a new paint pack. Even after three years, that paint is of no use. However, a painting you create with oil paints can last 30 to 40 years, depending on your maintenance. 

You might be wondering, “Do watercolor paints expire?” Water-based paint and watercolor paint are not the same. Watercolor paints won’t expire; you will notice only quality degradation. The quality degrades harshly if you store it badly.

Note: You have to use specific paint brushes for particular paints. Using the same brush for acrylic and watercolor is not a good decision. Click here if you want to know, “Can I use watercolor brushes for acrylic painting?”

How to Tell If Oil Paint is Bad?

You can tell the expiration date by checking the oil paint. You will notice quality degradation. The pigments will begin to separate. Generally, oil paints are oily. It hardens when it expires due to a lack of oil. Whenever it expires, it will become too dry to paint. If you have enough skills, you can paint with dry oil paints. Most people don’t have that experience, right? So, we don’t want to consider it.

Moreover, it also depends on the quality. Don’t tell us that every oil painting in the market is a high-quality product. A high-quality opened and unopened oil paint will last long obviously than other paints. If a quality, unopened paint is sealed properly inside a can will last up to 15 years. 

Here is a simple test to check whether your oil paint will go bad

  • Take a small amount of paint on a piece of paper.
  • Check thickness, smoothness and color.
  • Fresh, smooth and even color paint ensures good paint.
  • Thick, crusty and uneven paint indicates that it has expired.

Most people think that expired old paint is of no use. Try to do something creative. Then you can use that old paint. You should not throw it outside when the paint becomes old. You can rehydrate watercolor tubes.

Can I Reactivate Old Oil Paint?

You can use old paint even after it is hard. We cannot use hard oil paint on canvas. We can use it till it is soft. Now, we will explain to you how to soften old oil paint. In this way, you can fix unusable oil paint.

The easiest way to do so is using paint thinner like turpentine which is widely available. By the way, it is a toxic material. So, you have to ensure strict safety while applying turpentine in hard oil paint. 

Let’s follow the oil paint restoring process.


  • Turpentine or oil paint thinner.
  • Hand gloves.
  • A container.
  • Work-friendly environment.

Take The Old Oil Paint

Put gloves in your hand and take old paint in a container. Just take paint in the container that you need. Here, you need to choose a container carefully because you cannot keep any food or water to drink in this container again. We have said before. You have to follow strict safety rules. 

Apply Turpentine

Apply paint thinner or turpentine to the dry paint. Try to mix it with paint in the ideal form. This will soften the dry oil paint smoothly. If you have old, dried paint brushes, you can use this method to clean them out. When the paint becomes soft, you can easily fix any errors.

Wear gloves while mixing turpentine in the container. You do not touch any chemicals.

Can I Use Old Oil Paint?

You can use old oil paint if it is sealed in the can. Sealed oil paint lasts for a long time. It won’t become hard quickly. However, we have explained how to revive old oil paint if it becomes hard.

do oil paints go bad

We suggest storing oil paint properly so you can use it for a long time. Your storing manner will decide how long the paint will last. If you put them in a jar and don’t open them again, you will get around two years of life shell. Oil paint can be stored in a dry and cool place for 30-40 years.

Only oil paints can provide such a life shell. It is great for an oil paint lover like you because you can save a lot of money. Who doesn’t love to save many now? We love to consider plastic containers or jars to store oil paint. Some will tell you to use glass jars. But glass is breakable easily and also heavier.

So, we love to avoid that. 


Do oil paints expire? How can I tell if my oil paints have gone bad?

Yes, oil paints can expire over time. You can check if they have gone bad by looking for separated pigments, hardened consistency, and an overall degraded quality. Our article explains how to assess and restore them.

Can I revive old and hardened oil paint? What’s the best method to restore its usability?

You can revive old oil paint by using paint thinner or turpentine. Our article provides step-by-step instructions on how to soften and rehydrate dry oil paint, making it usable again for your artwork.

How long do oil paints last? What’s the best way to store them for longevity?

Properly stored, oil paints can last 30 to 40 years. Store them in a cool, dry place and consider using airtight plastic containers or jars. Our article offers valuable insights into maximizing the shelf life of your oil paints.

Final Verdict

We try to answer your question, “Do oil paints go bad?” Undoubtedly, oil paints have a long shell life, approximately 40 years. But it completely depends on how you store it and where you store it. However, buying high-quality, long-lasting paint always gives you more confidence. So, investing in expensive pigments is not a bad decision.

You may have other paint choices in painting, but we bet oil paints will last more than any type of paint. If you want to know more about paints, you can check our other articles. We assure you will get a lot of valuable information. 

1 thought on “Do Oil Paints Go Bad? How to Fix It?”

  1. Thanks for the tips! I mix all my leftover paint and use it as the background of the painting. I paint the background towards the end of my painting session to clean up my edges and avoid wasted paint. If the paint is the hue I need it to be, I mix some more colours in.

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