Can Paint Freeze? Can You Use Frozen Paint?

As we’re all prone to doing, you overestimated the amount of paint you needed, and now you have to store the excess. Your garage or shed might be the first place you think of. But you’re wondering when the temperature drops, can paint freeze?

Paint can freeze, depending on the type of paint. If it is water-based, it will be prone to freezing. That’s because the water content has a freezing point at around 32°F (0°C). Freezing temperatures might affect the consistency of oil-based paint, but less likely to freeze as it isn’t water.

So, if you need to store paint, you’ll have to find out if it is the type that’s liable to freeze. If you’re wondering how you do that, there’s an explanation below. Additionally, there’s a potentially money-saving guide on what to do if your paint does freeze, so reading it will be time well-spent.

Can Paint Freeze

What Does Paint Contain?

The essential components in paint are:

  • A binder. This is the main ingredient in paints and holds the color-giving pigment together. It also ensures the paint adheres to the surface to which you apply it.
  • Pigment. The pigment is what gives paint color.
  • Liquid. This is the liquid element in paint that contains the other solid components. It also facilitates the application of the paint by brush, spray, or other means. Additionally, it’s through the evaporation of this liquid element that the paint dries.
  • Additives. These make up the smallest proportion in a paint mixture. Their role is to alter some property of the paint. For example, to allow it to dry quicker or to make it more resistant to damp conditions.

Essentially, there are two types of paint, namely, water-based or oil-based.

Water-based paint uses water as the liquid component. In contrast, in oil-based paint, the liquid is usually a mineral spirit.

How Can I Tell if My Paint Is Water or Oil-Based?

A quick test to tell which type of paint you have is to take a clean cloth or a cotton bud and dampen it in denatured alcohol.

If you don’t have denatured alcohol handy, use, rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover. Otherwise, you can use alcohol wipes like these 70% Alcohol Pads, which are inexpensive and come individually wrapped.

Wipe the painted surface on which you used the paint with the dampened cloth or wipe. If paint transfers onto the cloth or wipe, your paint is water-based. Otherwise, it’s oil-based.

That’s because alcohol will remove the color of the water-based paint. In contrast, it won’t affect the oil-based paint.

It’s really as simple as that, and you can see a demonstration of the test in this video:

Is My Paint Liable to Freeze?

If you’ve determined that your paint is water-based, it can freeze if it gets cold enough. That’s due to its water content.

Generally, it’ll be prone to freezing once the freezing point of its water content is reached, namely around 32°F (0°C).

Oil-based paint is less liable to freezing, as its liquid content has a freezing point of around -74°F (-60°C).

Where Can I Store My Paint to Avoid Freezing?

This is a question of the conditions under which you should store your paint.

The first thing to do is to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Generally, you need a cool, dry place away from heat sources that you can keep frost-free.

Now, that’s likely to mean storing your paint in the house. Closets or utility rooms are the most obvious places.

But, if that’s not practical, the next best place is an integral garage where temperatures may not drop to freezing.

If you have a detached garage, you’ll know how cold they can get in frigid winters. So, unless you live in a mild climate or heat the garage, it’s not a good place to store your paint if you don’t want to risk freezing it.

A shed is also a bad idea if you’re in an area where winters bring freezing temperatures.

If you have to store your water-based paint in an environment where the temperature may fall below freezing, try to store it on a high shelf. Storing it on a cold hard floor will make it more susceptible to freezing.

As you know, heat rises, so the higher up you store it, the warmer it’ll be, even if that’s only relative.

Additionally, wrapping it in insulation and putting it in a box might help, but it’s no guarantee.

There’s a lot more to storing paint properly apart from where to store it and the temperature conditions. For example, you should make sure the container seal is airtight. If you want more handy tips on storing paint, you’ll find some in this video:

Can I Use Paint Once It’s Frozen?

If your water-based paint has done the dirty on you and frozen, don’t panic. Well, not yet. Freezing may have changed the paint’s texture and color, but it might still be usable.

So don’t give up on it without first trying the following steps:

  1. Open it up and let it thaw out completely at room temperature. Make sure to leave it alone and don’t try to speed up the process by heating it or putting the tin in hot water.
  2. Once it’s thawed, check the consistency. If it looks smooth and silky, as paint should, it’s probably good to use. If you see a not very pleasant coagulated lumpy mess, that isn’t a good sign. But keep going.
  3. Give the paint a thorough mix. Preferably do this with a paint stirring tool like the Goplus Electric 1600W Handheld Stirring Tool, a compact mixing tool that will give an even mix all the way through. Unless you do a lot of painting, a mixing attachment on your drill will do. These are relatively inexpensive, like this Edward Tools Mixer Drill Attachment, which you can use in buckets up to 5 gallons.
  4. Do the dip test. Once you’ve mixed thoroughly, dip a piece of wood into the paint and lift it out. Watch how the paint runs back into the tin. If it flows well, you’re probably OK to use the paint. But, it’s worth checking the color is still consistent with what you need before using it.
  5. The paint doesn’t flow off your stick. If the paint doesn’t run freely off your stick, so it looks stringy or elastic and hangs off the wood, that’s no good. You’ll probably have difficulty applying paint in that state. If the paint has large lumps or looks like runny cottage cheese, you won’t be able to use it in that state either. Unless you want a textured finish.
  6. Try a last-ditch method to salvage lumpy paint. One last thing to try is straining lumpy paint to get rid of the lumps. A strainer like the CDF 5HD-400 5 Gallon EZ-Strainer is designed for filtering paint and isn’t too expensive. Once you’ve strained the paint, do the dip test again. If the paint runs back into the container freely, it’s probably good to use.

You can see from this video what a usable and unusable texture looks like:


Your water-based paint can freeze when the temperature where it’s stored drops to freezing.

In contrast, oil-based paints are less susceptible to freezing.

You may be able to use previously frozen water-based paint, as discussed above. But the best policy is prevention rather than cure.

So, follow any instructions provided by the manufacturer. Or, store the paint where you can keep the temperature above freezing.