Do You Really Need to Shake or Stir Paint?

So you picked up a can of paint at the hardware store, and they helpfully handed you a little metal thing and a foot long stick.

Does that mean… you’re supposed to stir the paint?

Paint should always be stirred before use. This recombines any components that have separated, and ensures the coloring is evenly distributed throughout the paint. It should also be professionally shaken at the store, but you do not need to re-shake the paint directly before use.

This is the official answer. But in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t always follow this advice. Plus, I’ve got some great tips to make the stirring a little easier (and less messy,) so keep reading!

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When You Need to Stir Paint

So take a look at this paint:

Unstirred paint

It’s been sitting in my basement for almost two years. You can see that the color has started to separate a bit. Those brown swirls on top of the paint need to be stirred into the paint.

But what about paint without visible color swirls? My general rule is that if the paint has been sitting for more than 24 hours, it should be stirred.

While you might not be able to see the swirls, the separation has started and stirring is beneficial.

And if at any time you see color differences, you should absolutely stir.

But sometimes if I just brought home the paint, and it was shaken directly in front of me at the store, I wont stir.

Stirring isn’t actually that hard or time consuming. But it wastes a bit of paint, and it’s kind of messy to clean up the stir stick. First world problems, I know, but if the can of paint was literally just shaken, I’d just rather not.

Because, lets be real, that thing was just mixed at a high speed for five minutes straight by a strong machine. Me spinning a wooden stick through it for 20 seconds isn’t going to do squat.

Your mileage may vary, and the official advice is to always stir. But that’s my take.

The Easy Way to Stir Paint

All that said, I do end up stirring paint quite frequently. And there is a trick, people.

The stick is handy, and I use it all the time to mix primer.

But when my paint has been sitting awhile, and I want to make sure the color gets fully distributed throughout the paint, I pull out an egg beater.

Yes, an egg beater. And then I stick it into the chuck of my drill:

Egg beater in drill

And then I use the drill/egg beater combo to mix the paint.

It’s fast, effective, and easy to clean. Easier than the stick, in fact. Paint doesn’t stick to metal, so I can just quickly rinse the beater and pop it in the dishwasher. And then it goes back in the kitchen.

This works best when you’ve got about half a gallon of paint, or you’re working with a pint not a gallon container. That way, the beater reaches all the way to the bottom, and can thoroughly stir all of the paint.

That said, they do sell giant mixer things for mixing paint, resin, concrete, and all sorts of other home improvement things that need to be mixed.

I own one of those too, and they’re under $20. But I rarely use it to mix paint, because it’s big and unwieldy for partial gallons, and for full gallons of paint you really need to pour the paint into a bigger container first, and that’s a hassle. I mostly use it to mix resin.

Should You Shake Paint?

I get a lot of questions about whether you should shake paint in addition to stirring it.

Paint should be shaken when color is added at the home improvement store. You do not need to shake it at home.

More critically, you are not going to be able to effectively shake it at home. Paint is heavy. It’s not whipped cream.

If you’ve got a full gallon of paint that you think you need to shake, your best bet is put one hand on each end, and flip it over and back repeatedly.

But this is A) tiring, B) going to take forever, C) likely to make a mess, and D) not that effective anyway.

You’re better off pouring the paint into a larger bucket, and mixing with a giant mixer thing like I talked about above.

Smaller paint sizes and gallons that are half used are a little bit easier to shake. But I still think stirring with a drill is easier and more effective.

Stirring and shaking accomplish the same end result – recombining any paint separation. As long as one is done effectively, you don’t need to do both.

Shaking is just easier for machines to do than stirring, so stores “stir” paint with a shake machine. Stirring is easier for humans to do than shaking, so we manually stir the paint.

Both stirring and shaking accomplish the same thing.

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