Does Old Paint Need to be Shaken? Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you planning a DIY paint job for your home but have some cans of old paint that have been stored for quite some time? You might be wondering if your old paint needs to be shaken before use. It’s a common question, and one that can affect the overall quality of your painting project. Depending on how long the paint has been sitting, whether it’s oil-based or latex, and how well it was originally mixed, the paint may have separated and settled at the bottom of the can.

When it comes to shaking old paint, the answer isn’t as simple as a one-size-fits-all solution. The age and type of paint as well as the storage conditions are all factors that can impact whether or not shaking your paint is necessary. There’s a chance that the pigments may have settled, causing an uneven color or texture. In cases like these shaking the can might help the paint mix together better. But it’s also important to note that if paint has been sitting around for a long time, it may have separated to the point where it is no longer useable.

For those who want to be sure of the consistency of their paint it’s worth investing in some equipment to help blend it properly. When used correctly, a paint shaker can mix the contents of a can with ease, without the user having to manually do the work themselves. Ultimately, whether you choose to shake your old paint or not depends on your personal preference and the condition of the paint. By following a few simple tips you can breathe new life and vibrancy into paint that has been sitting around for ages.

The Importance of Preparing Old Paint

When it comes to using old paint, preparation is key. Failure to properly prepare old paint prior to use can result in a variety of issues, including uneven coverage, chipping, peeling, and cracking. To avoid these problems, it is essential to take the time to prepare any old paint you plan to use.

  • Remove debris: Before using old paint, it is important to remove any debris or contaminants that may have accumulated over time. This can be done by straining the paint through a mesh filter or using a paint strainer bag to remove any lumps or impurities.
  • Thoroughly mix: Old paint can often separate over time, with the pigments settling at the bottom of the can. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly mix the paint before use. This can be done using a stirrer or mixer attached to a drill, or by simply using a paint stirrer by hand.
  • Check consistency: Once the paint has been mixed, it is important to check the consistency. If the paint is too thick, it may need to be thinned with a small amount of water. Alternatively, if the paint is too thin, it may require the addition of a paint thickener to achieve the desired consistency.

It is also worth noting that you should only ever use old paint that has been stored correctly. Paint that has been exposed to extreme temperatures or moisture can become compromised, and may not have the same properties as fresh paint. Always ensure that old paint has been stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Alternative methods of mixing old paint

While shaking old paint cans is the standard way of mixing the contents, there are a few other methods you can try if shaking isn’t doing the trick.

  • Stirring: Using a stir stick or drill attachment, gently stir the contents of the can. Be sure not to stir too vigorously as this could introduce air bubbles into the paint.
  • Sieving: Pour the contents of the can through a paint strainer or sieve to remove any clumps or debris that could be affecting the paint’s consistency.
  • Rolling: Place the tightly sealed can of paint between two rollers and using a back-and-forth motion, roll the can for a few minutes to thoroughly mix the contents.

It’s important to note that these methods may not be as effective as shaking the can, but they can be worth a try if shaking isn’t producing the desired consistency.

Using a Paint Shaker Machine

If you have a large quantity of old paint cans that need mixing, investing in a paint shaker machine may be worth considering. These machines use a series of oscillating motions to thoroughly mix the paint in a fraction of the time it would take to shake by hand.

Advantages Disadvantages
Efficient mixing process Expensive initial investment
Reduces paint waste by thoroughly mixing contents May take up significant space in a workshop or garage
Cuts down on labor time and effort Requires electricity to operate

If you are frequently mixing old paint cans, a paint shaker machine may be a worthwhile investment to consider.

How to determine if old paint needs to be shaken

As a homeowner or a DIY enthusiast, you might have old paint stored in your garage or shed that you plan to use in future projects. But before you start painting, it is important to determine if the old paint needs to be shaken or not. Below are three ways to determine if old paint needs to be shaken:

  • Visual inspection – Take a closer look at the paint and check for any visible inconsistencies such as separation of paint components, clumps, color changes, or a thick layer formed at the top of the can. If you notice any of these inconsistencies, it’s a clear indication that the paint needs to be shaken.
  • Stirring – Use a stir stick to mix the paint. If it’s easy to mix or feels smooth, then the paint is good to use. However, if the stick goes through a thick layer or the paint doesn’t mix properly, then the paint needs to be shaken to re-emulsify the components.
  • Shake test – Hold the can firmly and shake it for at least a minute. If you hear a rattling sound, then the paint needs to be shaken. The rattling sound is an indication that the components have separated and need to be blended together.


Determining if old paint needs to be shaken is crucial to achieving a good finish in your painting project. By using visual inspection, stirring, and shake test, you can determine the condition of your old paint. Remember, shaking the paint thoroughly will ensure that the components are evenly blended together and will provide the desired results.

Reference Table: Paint Shelf Life

Type of Paint Shelf Life (unopened) Shelf Life (opened)
Latex Paint 2 years 1 year
Oil-based paint 15 years 5-10 years

Keep in mind that the shelf life of paint can vary depending on the storage conditions such as temperature, humidity, and exposure to light. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations on the label and store the paint in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

The Risks of Not Shaking Old Paint Properly

Most people tend to overlook the importance of shaking old paint properly before using it. However, failing to shake paint that has been sitting for a while can lead to a host of problems, some of which can be costly to fix. Here are some of the risks of not shaking old paint properly:

  • Uneven coverage: When the components in paint settle, it can lead to separation of the liquid and solid pigments, making it difficult for them to blend properly. As a result, the paint might not mix correctly, leading to an uneven finish.
  • Color variations: Another issue caused by separation is that the pigments can settle at different rates, leading to color inconsistencies. Without proper mixing, some areas can end up being darker or lighter than others, leading to an unprofessional and shoddy-looking paint job.
  • Poor adhesion: Old paint that has sat for a while tends to get thick and gooey, making it tough to apply on surfaces. Additionally, the paint might not adhere well to the surface, leading to peeling and flaking.

The Importance of Using the Right Equipment

Shaking old paint requires the use of specialized equipment. While it might be tempting to mix the paint using a wooden stick or a plastic spoon, these tools are not ideal. Wooden sticks might introduce contaminants into the paint, while plastic spoons might not be strong enough to agitate the paint properly.

Instead, it is crucial to invest in a high-quality paint shaker that can effectively mix the paint without introducing contaminants. Additionally, the paint shaker should be cleaned and maintained regularly to ensure that it performs optimally during each use.

How to Shake Old Paint Properly

The process of shaking old paint might seem straightforward, but it requires a bit of finesse. Here are some steps to follow when shaking old paint:

  • Inspect the paint can: Before shaking the paint, it is crucial to inspect the can to see if it has been damaged. Dents or rust on the can might indicate poor storage, which can contaminate the paint.
  • Prepare the equipment: Once you have inspected the can and determined that the paint is still usable, you need to prepare the equipment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you are using the paint shaker correctly.
  • Shake the paint: With the equipment ready, it is time to shake the paint. Ensure that the paint can is securely fastened to the shaker, and that all the components are in place. Before turning on the shaker, ensure that all loose material is cleared from the area to prevent accidents.
  • Test the paint: After shaking the paint, you need to test it before using it on a surface. Apply a small amount onto a test surface to see if the color is consistent and if it adheres well to the surface.

The Bottom Line

Shaking old paint is a crucial step that should not be overlooked when planning to repaint or touch up a surface. Failure to shake old paint properly can lead to a host of issues, including uneven coverage, color variations, and poor adhesion. By investing in the right equipment and following a few simple steps, you can ensure that your old paint is mixed correctly, leading to a professional-looking finish that will last for years to come.

Risks of not shaking old paint: Solutions:
Uneven coverage Mixing the paint with a high-quality paint shaker
Color variations Using the right equipment and shaking the paint thoroughly
Poor adhesion Investing in a high-quality paint shaker, as well as preparing the equipment properly and maintaining it regularly for optimal performance

Recommended tools for shaking old paint

Shaking old paint cans before painting is crucial to achieving optimal results. However, shaking the cans manually can be a tiring and daunting task. Thankfully, there are various tools available in the market that can make shaking old paint a breeze. Here are some of the recommended tools for shaking old paint:

  • Paint shaker machines: These machines use a motor to vibrate the old paint can, thoroughly mixing the paint without leaving any sediment at the bottom. They are available in various sizes to accommodate different paint can sizes. While these machines can be expensive, they are a worthwhile investment for professional painters who have to mix large volumes of paint regularly.
  • Cordless drills with paint mixer attachments: A cordless drill with a paint mixer attachment can be used to agitate old paint cans easily. The mixer attachment fits onto the drill, and when turned on, provides enough agitation to mix even the thickest paint evenly.
  • Paint stir sticks: Simple yet effective, paint stir sticks are an easy way to mix small paint cans. Ensure the stick is clean, fits into the can comfortably, and mix the paint thoroughly before starting your painting project.

How to shake old paint using a paint shaker machine:

Paint shaker machines are the most effective way of mixing old paint. Here’s how to shake old paint using a paint shaker machine:

Step Action
Step 1 Ensure the can lid is securely fastened.
Step 2 Place the old paint can on the machine securely.
Step 3 Switch on the machine and run it for the recommended time or until the paint is thoroughly mixed.
Step 4 Switch off the machine and remove the can from the machine.
Step 5 Allow the paint a few minutes to settle before using it for painting.

Invest in a good quality paint shaker machine for the best mixing results that save time and effort.

How to Properly Shake Old Paint Cans

Shaking old paint cans is important to ensure that the paint is thoroughly mixed before use. Here are some guidelines on how to properly shake old paint cans:

  • Read the Label: Before shaking the can, it is essential to check the paint label to see whether the paint needs to be shaken or stirred.
  • Choose the Right Shaking Method: The shaking method you use will depend on the type of paint you are dealing with. For latex paint, you can use a simple up and down motion, while oil-based paint requires a more vigorous back and forth motion.
  • Use a Paint Shaker: Paint shakers are equipment designed explicitly for shaking paint cans. Using a paint shaker is the easiest and most effective way to ensure that the paint is thoroughly mixed. Paint shakers are available for rent or purchase.

When using a paint shaker, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • Secure the Can: Before placing the can in the paint shaker, make sure it is securely fastened in place.
  • Set the Timer: Paint shakers come with a timer that determines the length of time the can will be shaken. Make sure to set the timer accordingly.
  • Don’t Overdo It: It is important not to overdo the shaking process. Over-agitating old paint can result in air bubbles, as well as separating the pigments, making the paint less effective.

Common Mistakes when Shaking Old Paint Cans

While shaking most old paint cans is easy, it’s important to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Shaking the can too vigorously can cause air bubbles or foam that can affect the paint’s smoothness.
  • Shaking a can that has been sitting for too long can cause the paint to separate, making it less effective.


Properly shaking old paint cans is essential to ensure that the paint is smoothly and thoroughly mixed. By following these guidelines, you can prepare your old paint for use and avoid common mistakes while shaking.

Proper Shaking Avoid Shaking
Read the label Shaking too vigorously
Choose the right method Shaking old paint for too long
Use a paint shaker Shaking a can that has been sitting for a long time

Common mistakes to avoid when shaking old paint cans

Shaking old paint cans is necessary if you want to revive the old, separated paint in them. However, there are some common mistakes that people make when shaking old paint cans that can ruin your paint and waste your time. Here are some of the mistakes that you should avoid:

  • Not shaking enough
  • Shaking too vigorously
  • Not using the right tools
  • Not preparing the paint
  • Not storing the paint correctly
  • Not cleaning the can properly
  • Not checking the shelf life

Let’s take a closer look at each of these mistakes:

  • Not shaking enough: Shaking the can for a few seconds won’t do the trick. You need to shake the can for at least five minutes. If you don’t shake it enough, the paint won’t be properly mixed, and you’ll end up with lumpy, rough paint.
  • Shaking too vigorously: While shaking the can is important, you shouldn’t shake it too vigorously. It can cause air bubbles to form in the paint, which can lead to uneven application and a rough finish.
  • Not using the right tools: You must use the right tools to shake the can properly. A paint mixer or power drill with a mixing attachment is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have these tools, you can use a wooden stick or a paint stirrer, but it won’t be as effective.
  • Not preparing the paint: Before shaking the old paint can, you need to prepare the paint. Remove the hardened film on top of the paint using a small wooden stick or spoon. Once the film is removed, add a paint conditioner to the paint. It helps to smooth it out and makes the paint easier to mix.
  • Not storing the paint correctly: If you store paint cans in the wrong location, the paint can dry out or separate. Store the paint in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Not cleaning the can properly: Before shaking the can, make sure you clean the can’s rim and lid of any remaining paint. This prevents any dried paint from falling into the newly mixed paint, leading to lumps.
  • Not checking the shelf life: Old paint cans can be tempting to reuse, but you must check the paint’s shelf life before shaking it. If the paint is too old, it might have lost its properties, resulting in a bad finish. Old paint can also contain hazardous chemicals that can be dangerous to your health.

To avoid these mistakes, you need to carefully follow the instructions on the paint can and use the right tools for the job. Remember, shaking old paint cans requires patience and determination to revive the old paint without ruining it.

FAQs: Does Old Paint Need to be Shaken?

1. Can old paint be used without shaking?

It is recommended to shake old paint before using it to ensure that the pigment is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. If the paint has been stored for a long time, there is a chance that the pigment has settled and needs to be mixed well before use.

2. How long can old paint be stored?

The shelf life of paint varies depending on the type of paint and how it has been stored. Generally, oil-based paints can be stored for up to 15 years, while latex paints have a shelf life of up to 10 years. However, paint that has been exposed to extreme temperatures or has not been stored properly may not last as long.

3. How do you know if old paint needs to be shaken?

If old paint appears separated or lumpy, it needs to be shaken. The texture of the paint should be smooth and consistent throughout the can. If the paint looks discolored or has an unusual odor, it may not be suitable for use and should be discarded.

4. Is it necessary to shake paint that has been stored for a short period of time?

Even if paint has only been stored for a short period of time, it is still recommended to shake it before use to ensure that the pigment is evenly distributed. This is particularly important if the paint has not been disturbed during storage.

5. Can you shake old paint by hand?

Old paint can be shaken by hand, but it is more effective to use a power drill with a paint mixing attachment. This will ensure that the pigment is thoroughly mixed and the texture is consistent throughout the can.

6. What happens if you use old paint without shaking it first?

If old paint is used without being shaken first, the pigment may not be evenly distributed throughout the mixture. This can result in a patchy or streaky finish, making the paint job look unprofessional.

7. Can you add anything to old paint to make it easier to shake?

There are products available on the market that can be added to old paint to make it easier to shake, such as paint stirring balls or additives that improve flow and leveling. However, it is generally recommended to simply use a power drill with a paint mixing attachment to ensure that the pigment is evenly distributed.


Thanks for taking the time to read our FAQs about shaking old paint. It’s important to make sure your old paint is properly mixed before use to ensure the best possible outcome. If you have any further questions or need advice on painting projects, don’t hesitate to come back and visit us again!

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