Can Paint Freeze? Here’s What to Know

Updated: Apr. 15, 2024

Left your paint in a garage or shed over winter? Here's what you need to know about why paint freezes and whether frozen paint can still be used.

Every spring, an annual ritual is re-enacted in garages and sheds all across America: the opening of old paint cans. You may have lived through this before — gingerly pulling the top off an old paint can and peering inside, hoping it’s still usable. These days, it’s often accompanied by frantic internet searches for “Can paint freeze?”

But we’ve got you covered! Here’s the lowdown on whether paint freezes, what kinds of paint are most vulnerable to freezing, and how to deal with frozen paint.

Can Paint Freeze?

The short answer is yes. The more nuanced answer is that it depends on the paint, and how cold it gets inside your garage.

Home paints can generally be divided into latex or oil-based paints. Latex paints contain water, while oil paints contain an alkyd resin and a petroleum product, such as naphtha. These two types of paint react very differently to cold weather.

“For the most part DIYers only really need to worry about water-based paint freezing,” says Brandon Walker, Superintendent with ASAP Restoration. “Oil-based paint will freeze, but only in extreme conditions like the Alaskan tundra during winter.”

At What Temperature Does Paint Freeze?

Water-based paints freeze at or below 32ºF. The specific temperature at which a given paint will freeze will depend on the ingredients of the paint. A water-based paint’s blend of ingredients can lower its freezing point in the same way salt lowers water’s freezing point. It’s not a dramatic change, but it can give you a little leeway in a mild cold snap.

Oil-based paint is extremely unlikely to freeze in your garage. Unlike oil-based craft paint (which often uses a linseed oil base, and freezes around -4ºF), oil-based house paints can withstand almost any recorded temperature in the continental US.

Does Paint Get Ruined if It Freezes?

In almost all cases, yes, paint does get ruined if it freezes.

“All paint will be denatured if it freezes,” says Walker. “When water-based paint freezes it ruins the texture and consistency of the paint. This means that even when it thaws out again, it won’t work the way it did before the freeze occurred. It’s a lot like freezing milk — when it thaws out, you have milky water, and a lot of clumps that don’t look right. Paint will do the same thing.”

Making things worse is that the paint will likely go through many freeze/thaw cycles over the course of a winter. The best way to deal with frozen paint is to keep it from freezing in the first place.

How To Keep Paint From Freezing

The easiest way to keep paint from freezing is to store your paint inside, or in a temperature-controlled garage.

The pros I spoke with suggested taking a few simple steps, such as fully closing the lid to prevent evaporation and storing paint in a temperature-controlled room such as a basement or closet, to avoid freezing.

“We always recommend inside the house and never in the garage or a storage shed unless they are heated,” says Anthony Kulikowski, Franchise Owner of Five Star Painting of South Bend Indiana.

Can You Use Paint That Has Frozen?

First and foremost, it’s important to emphasize that most paint that has frozen will be ruined. “Frozen paint will be denatured and clumpy even after it thaws,” says Walker, who compares thawed paint to “applying cottage cheese to your walls. If you don’t mind bubbles, inconsistencies, and defects, then it’ll work but not look good.”

In other words, nothing’s stopping you if you want to take the chance on frozen paint, just know that you’re risking quality. If you want to roll the dice, allow the paint to warm up to room temperature slowly, then stir it well. If it looks like cottage cheese, it’s a loss, and you should dispose of it properly. If the paint color and consistency appear normal, you can give it a try.

Even then, it may not perform as expected. “Once a paint has frozen,” cautions Kulikowski, “the color and sheen may not match any longer, and you may have issues with getting it to bond properly as well.”

In short, if you don’t want to throw away your thawed paint, it’s best to use it on projects where appearance and durability aren’t as important.


Are there any types of paint that won’t freeze?

Oil-based paints are very unlikely to freeze. However, do get thicker (more viscous) and are often unusable in freezing conditions. “When oil-based paint gets too cold,” explains Walker, “the viscosity of the paint is affected, and it starts to run more like molasses than syrup. Additionally, there are temperature ranges in which paint dries and cures.”

Does wood stain freeze, too?

Absolutely, says Scott Paul, Owner of He advises looking for the following signs that your wood stain has gone bad: “excessive thickening, jelling/clumping of the material or skinning on the top portion.”

About the Experts

Anthony Kulikowski has been a painter since high school, working as a contractor just before opening Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company, in 2017. He loves seeing his team succeed, giving back to the community, and working with his mentors, gathering knowledge he can share with future franchise owners.

Brandon Walker has been in the painting and construction industry for more than 20 years. After running his own company, he decided to advance his skills as a Superintendent with ASAP Restoration. Brandon cut his teeth as a teenage painter working for Walker Paint Masters doing commercial projects for Planet Hollywood and Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa among others.

Scott Paul has used and sold enough decking and wood stain to cover over 100 million square feet. The owner of, he started his first decking company in 1993. That business evolved into exterior wood and deck restoration, and today Scott and his companies have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area. He is an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.