Mailbag: What’s the Best Way to Clean & Store Spray Paint Cans for Next Use?

(Image/Summit Racing)

Q. I have a lot of old, used spray paint cans on the shelf in my garage. And it seems like every time I grab one to paint with, it’s clogged and ruined from storage. What’s the best way to store spray paint cans so that this doesn’t happen?

A. Proper storage is critically important to a rattle can’s shelf life. In fact, most used aerosol cans will remain fine for a considerable amount of time, if you simply take a moment to prep the can for storage by following these easy steps.

After each use, turn the can upside down and spray for several seconds. You’ll see the pigment fade away when the drip tube and nozzle are cleared. Since the tube extends to the bottom of most aerosol cans, inverting them exposes the dip tube’s inlet to just the propellant only. Spraying a can upside down like this purges the remaining paint from the tube and the nozzle.

Note: Some aerosol cans, like those used for marking paint, are designed to be used while inverted. To clean these cans, you simply spray them the traditional way (right-side up) to purge the dip tube and nozzle.

It’s also helpful to keep a can of SEM XXX Universal Gun Cleaner handy. Spraying this through the nozzle adds an additional cleaning measure that removes any leftover paint residue. This process is also helpful for flushing the aerosol tip if it begins to clog or spit while you’re in the middle of a project. SEM XXX Universal Gun Cleaner is also mighty effective for cleaning out undercoating guns and spray wands. And yeah, it works really well on regular old paint guns too.

Keep lids on when not in use not only prevents you from accidentally painting your sleeve, it protects the nozzle from damage if the can gets knocked off the shelf.

Never store spray paint in freezing temperatures, because this will rapidly degrade the paint. Worse yet, freezing could cause the contents to expand, which may lead to a burst can. Don’t store spray cans in direct sunlight, near ignition sources, or above 120 degrees F either, as extreme heat can also rupture the can.

Spray paint cans should be stored in a climate between 60 to 80 degrees F, and in a locked cabinet to keep them safe and away from children.

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  1. Whats better,storing the cans upright or laying them down?

  2. By inverting the spray cans and only spraying propellant until they quit spraying paint, does work, but it’s possible to deplete the propellant before the paint. I always removed the nozzle and stored it in a small container of acetone. When you get ready to spray again, simply remove the nozzle and replace it on the can, and you’re ready to spray.

  3. the nozzle is the only thing discussed here, i keep my old ones and rarely find this to be the problem, seems the propellent leaks out, or the paint dries around the dip tube (isnt it dip tube not drip tube?) so nothing can get sucked out (as i have broke open the cans to see whats up and also just use the paint in a gun or brush on.)

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