It happens all the time: You run out and stock up on craft supplies to keep kids busy on a rainy day, the activity lasts a few hours, then said supplies sit on a shelf collecting dust. A few months later, you go to dig them out, and wonder: Are they still usable or have they expired? The answer isn't a simple one. Although most standard craft supplies—glue, markers, and even paint—don't have expiration dates printed on them, they won't last forever. In general, the typical lifespan of most wet craft supplies—think liquid glue, spray adhesives, paper-backed adhesives, paint, or markers—is approximately one to two years after opening. In rare cases—spray paint, for instance—the shelf life is two to three years.
The exception? When these items are still sealed, they will last exponentially longer because they haven't come into contact with oxygen, which causes degradation, says Michael's spokesperson Mallory Smith. Dry craft supplies—like gold foil, confetti, or pipe cleaners—have much longer lifespans, in some cases indefinitely, for the same reason. Although not necessarily dangerous to use, expired craft supplies are not as effective. With a lack of expiration date on the item, you may suspect your materials have gone bad if they don't function the way they should—adhesive is no longer sticky, markers are dry, clay is hard, or watercolors have separated and cracked. When paint, glues, and sealants are past their prime, you'll notice separation and yellowing, as well as an unpleasant or sour odor. If not properly sealed, paint, glue, and sealants may also become thick and rubbery or dry out entirely, rendering them unusable.
To ensure your craft supplies go the distance, the number one rule is to make sure your materials are properly sealed and stored at the correct temperature, says Smith. Store craft supplies in a dry location out of direct sunlight with a room temperature between approximately 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. For added protection, store items in airtight containers. Here, more specific guidelines for storing all of your common crafting materials.
Paint, Liquid Glue, and Decoupage Medium
Before storing, clean any residue from the rim of the product and ensure caps are tightly sealed. Store upside down.
Replace caps tightly and store in an airtight container or plastic bag.
Store product upright at room temperature.
Wipe any paint from the spray nozzle, fasten cap, and store upright away from heat sources and any highly flammable materials.
If possible, store product in original packaging to protect them from humidity and moisture. (If you live near salt water, it's particularly important to keep product in an airtight container.) Keep away from light, particularly sunlight, and store upside down on a flat surface to prevent curling.
Chalk, Charcoal, and Graphite
Store in an airtight container to keep these materials cool and dry.
Wrap clay tightly in plastic wrap, then store in an airtight container.
Keep all markers tightly capped. Regular and washable markers should be stored vertically; glitter, metallic, dry erase, and other specialty markers should be stored horizontally.
Keep lids on stamp pads securely closed and store upside down to keep ink pads well saturated.