My Paint Looks Like Cottage Cheese – Is it Frozen?

can paint freeze

If you have leftover paint, it is quite tempting to store it given the expense of having to purchase new paint.

However, the location of where you store it is important because water-based paint can freeze and may look as thick as cottage cheese.

Even after thawing, you may notice some clumps or ropey texture in the paint.

At What Temperature will the Paint Freeze?

Basically, if the temperature reaches 32 degrees F, then the water inside the paint will freeze.

For oil-based paints, that temperature is much lower.

Normally, the freezing point of oil-based paints is around – 74 degrees F.

However, it will affect the consistency of the paint itself.

So, you will need to check if the paint you are storing is subject to freezing.

If so, then you will want to take steps to ensure that you store it in a warmer or insulated area.

And if you find usable paint that is frozen, what to do in such a circumstance.

Let’s, dive in and get the answers…


Is Frozen Paint Still Usable?


The emulsion of the paint can be affected in terms of its texture and consistency when the water freezes.

However, you may find that paint that has frozen is not ruined completely because if it is thawed there are chances that it is still okay to use.

If the paint has not frozen before, then it may not be affected at least the first time.

If the paint has frozen multiple times, then you might be facing some consistency and texture issues.

There is a way to check to ensure that the paint is still usable, even if the texture and color have been affected.

So, before you toss out the paint, you can try the following steps to see if it is still good.

STEP 1 – Let It, Thaw, Naturally

Bring the latex/acrylic paint can inside the home and let it thaw out at room temperature.

Do not try to speed up the process by adding heat or placing it in hot water.

STEP 2 – Check Consistency

Once it has fully thawed, if the paint is still smooth and silky, then it should be okay to use.

However, if it is lumpy and looks like cottage cheese, then you may have some issues.

Fortunately, there are still some steps to fix the frozen paint.

And I recommended you should try them first before tossing the paint out.

STEP 3 – Mix It Up

To restore the paint that is frozen, use a paint stirring tool and thoroughly mix the paint.

You can use a mixing attachment to your drill to speed up the process.

Once it appears that the cottage cheese effect is gone, dip a piece of scrap wood into the paint and pull it out above the can.

If the paint runs back into the can smoothly, then it is probably good.

You will only need to check the color at that point to see if it is still usable for you.

STEP 4 – Strain

However, if the paint does not run freely off the wood and hangs or looks stringy, then you have some issues.

You can make one last attempt by straining the paint will hold out the lumps and lets the rest flow back into the can.

Use the dip test on the paint in the can to see if that works.

If so, keep the paint.

If not, then dispose of all the paint in the appropriate manner.

how to fix and restore frozen paint

How to Keep the Paint from Freezing?


Most paint manufacturers will recommend that you store the paint in a cool, dry place.

This normally means storing it at room temperature.

In other words, to prevent the paint from freezing you need to find a place inside your house that is both heated and air-conditioned just like all the other rooms.

The closet or utility rooms are normally the best places to store paints inside.

You may want to store them inside boxes with lids to avoid any issues with spilled paint.

If that is not practical, then an integral garage can be a good option. Set it on a shelf against the wall next to the rest of the home is a good place.

This may keep the paint from freezing if the heat can come through the wall.

Also, you’ll want to keep the paint off the floor and instead store it as high as possible.

This will keep the paint away from the children and pets.

Plus, the temperatures are usually a little warmer higher up compared to the cold, hard floor.

If the garage is not practical, then the shed is the next best option.

Store it as high as possible to avoid freezing.

While you might wrap the cans in insulation, that is no guarantee that they will not freeze.

Keep in mind that insulation only works with a heat source and paint does not generate heat.

Additional Tips

Before a freezing event, move the paint inside and store it temporarily until the temperatures rise again.

Or you can simply try to use up the water-based paint and instead only store oil-based paint which is not subject to freezing in most parts of the world.

Follow the instructions by the manufacturer.

They may have guidelines that are different than how you can normally store the paint to avoid freezing.

Basically, if you can keep the paint off the floor, especially a cold, concrete, or tile floor, and keep it near room temperatures, then you should not face any real issues.

The Bottom Line

Water-based paints will freeze up when the temperature reaches 32 degrees F.

For oil-based paints, freezing temperatures are not as big an issue as they will not freeze at the same temperature as the water.

So, unless you live in an area that is subject to temperatures that reach – 74 degrees F, you should not have to worry much about your oil-based paints freezing.

But for water-based paints, make sure that you keep them in the right conditions to avoid getting them frozen and unusable.

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