Can you use separated paint?

by Sam Wood | Last Updated: 26/07/2021

When left too long oil-based paints can separate out, leaving the oil and paint separate. Once this has happened can the paint be used? Can you mix them back together and use the separated paint? Well, we had an old oil-based paint tin lying around that will have undoubtedly separated. So we decided to test it out and let you know the results.

Can You Use Separated Paint

Yes, you can! Oil-based paints can be mixed back together and used as normal.  A paint stirrer or even just a stick will do the trick. Give the paint a really good mix until the oil is fully mixed back into the paint. We have a full step by step guide with photos below.

How to re-use separated paint

Well, the first thing you need is to mix the paint. It is at this point that you will know whether your paint is useable or not. if it starts to mix together well and isn’t full of lumps and bumps then you have a really good chance that this paint can be saved.

Separated paint in tin

Separated paint in the tin

Step 1 Mix The Paint

Use a paint stirrer, stick or anything you have lying around that will mix the paint. Get stuck in there and give it a good, vigorous stir. You want to keep mixing until it looks like paint again.

Mixed and looking like a regular paint again

Mixed and looking like a regular paint again

Step 2 – Keep Mixing

Your paint will begin to look more and more like regular paint but if it looks anything like the picture below then it just needs a little more stirring, so keep going!

Only partially mixed

Only partially mixed

Step 3 – Paint a test area

Now use your paint to just test a small area, a scrap piece of wood works well for this.

Paint a test area

Paint a test area

Potential Issues

Not all paints will mix back together this well, some may just be a little too far gone. What you want to look out for is the paint being lumpy or hard, this is a good indicator that it is too far gone.

If you have also been mixing for a good while, think 5 minutes to more, and it is still not combining well then again it may be too far gone.

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Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!