Spray paint always seems to last forever. I don’t know how many times I’ve found an old can in the garage, that fell behind something, that miraculously still seems to work. So, does spray paint get old? While it seems eternal, spray paint really only has a recommended shelf life of approximately 2 to 3 years. Some of the higher-end paints are even rated with a shelf life of up to 10 years from the production date. It all depends on the type that you by and whether or not it was properly stored.
In this article we’ll talk about the amazing longevity of spray paint, as well as how to properly decipher the expiration information on the can, and a few things that you can try to get some old spray paint to do one last job for you.
Does spray paints get old? Let’s take a closer look.
Does spray paint last forever?
While you’ve got an expiration date, in many cases that’s just a general protection for the company in case some really old paint isn’t up for the job. Aerosol cans can last a really, really long time, with their colorful contents intact. You might need a bit of shaking to get them to go, but I’ve run into paints spray paints that are 20 years or older and which still work just fine.
If you can shake it without any hearing anything ‘weird’ inside and it sprays out after that, oddly enough your spray paint should be just fine. It’s a durable product and it’s nice to know that with spray paint, you really get your money’s worth.
How do you read the expiration date on spray paint?
When you are looking for the expiration date on the label, sometimes it is clear as day, but other times it’s a little coded. For instance, you might see something rather like this:
Wait, what?!! The EXP is fairly self-explanatory, as it’s obviously indicating expiration, but how does that relate to 22/25?
You’ll see expiration dates like these but they are actually not so complicated. Let’s break down the sections of the example and you’ll see what I mean:
- P – The ‘P’ that you see is just short for ‘Production date’, so these numbers indicate when the paint was actually produced.
- EXP – EXP is, of course, your expiration date.
- Xx/15 – The first number here where I’ve putt ‘xx’ is not going to relate to months, but calendar weeks. With the exception of special leap-year considerations, you’ve got 52 weeks in a year. So, a calendar week of 5 puts you in the beginning of February. It seems a little sneaky, but calendar week systems are quite common across the world.
- 22/xx – The latter-half xx is where you’ll see the expiration year or more specifically, the last 2 digits.
So, ‘P22/15 EXP22/25’ on a can means that it was produced on the 22-calendar week, which is May, in 2015. It is set to expire in May of 2025. Why they don’t just put 5/25 universally, I couldn’t say, but if you see a can with date information like this then you should now know exactly what they mean!
How do you get old spray paint to work?
If your old can of spray paint is not working but the contents sound like they’re intact, then 9 out of 10 times this just means that your spray nozzle is well and truly clogged. Don’t worry, I’ve got a tip that will clean that right out and get you painting in no time.
Simple pop off the spray nozzle and then give it a soak overnight in some paint thinner or some mineral spirits. You can also poke in the bottom with a pin to get out some of that old, crusty paint, just be careful that you don’t damage the nozzle or it’s not going to work right.
After this soaking, put the nozzle in place on a can of aerosol lubricant, and give it a few squirts. This should completely clear up the clogs and you can put it back on your spray paint can and get to work! Your paint should function as-normal, but if it’s been awhile since you last spray painted and you’d like a quick primer on expected drying times, then be sure to check out our guide on the subject https://paintingbuzz.com/how-long-does-it-take-spray-paint-to-dry-complete-guide/) here.
Some final comments
In this article we’ve answered the question ‘does spray paint get old’ and the answer is ‘yes, but it still works most of the time’. Spray paint, especially the higher-end paints, can last for decades and when you are in doubt, you can also check the expiration date on your label… just watch for calendar week listings from time to time.
Finally, if it still doesn’t work, some mineral spirits and aerosol lubricant can unclog the nozzle and the odds are that your paint is still going to work. It’s well-worth repeating, with spray paints, you really get your money’s worth!