5 Painter's Tricks to Deal With Stuck Paint Tube Caps

Can't Open Your Paint? Try One of These Tricks

Tube of paint with crusted on cap

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The cap is stuck on that tube of paint that you desperately need right now, what can you do? It's a very frustrating situation and it happens to everyone. However, painters are a creative group and there are some tried and true tricks that you can use to get to your paint.

Simple Tools Give You Grip

A small pair of pliers is one of the first things many painters turn to when they need to loosen up a cap. It is effective and often does the trick. It works so well that quite a few painters keep pliers in their paint box just for this purpose. Yet, it does come with some issues.

Chief among those problems is how you hold the tube while trying to unscrew the cap. If you are also twisting the tube, you can easily split the tube which exposes the paint to air and will eventually cause it to dry out.

To prevent this, watch where your secondary hand is placed, keep a gentle grip and do most of the work with the pliers.

  • You can also push all the paint to the top of the tube, roll it up, and use the roll for extra grip (just like getting to that last bit of toothpaste).
  • You might have to employ one of the next few tips - water or solvent - to loosen up the paint inside the cap first.

No pliers? No problem (they're easy to lose, trust us!). Try a clothespin, a nut or crab leg cracker, or a similar tool to give you extra grip. Some artists also turn to fabrics with grip, either shelf liners from the kitchen, a rag with some texture, or even the inside cuff of the jeans you're wearing.

Hot Water Does the Trick

The problem with a tool like pliers is that they can damage the cap. After a few times of the same cap getting stuck, it may become difficult to unscrew even when it's not stuck. To prevent this problem, take a moment to loosen up the paint that's causing the issue.

The caps on paint tubes become stuck because wet paint has dried between the cap and the threads of the tube. You can apply a bit of heat to the cap to reliquify the paint just enough so the pliers have an easier time during the twist.

To do this, simply heat some water until it's very hot or boiling. Stick the problem tube upside down in the water so it's submerged and wait a minute or two. Give your pliers another try and repeat this process until the cap twists off.

Turn to a Solvent

Quite often, paints can be abandoned for years and this makes opening them back up a very big challenge. Water and pliers won't do, so it's time to turn to something a little stronger.

Some artists have had success with turpentine and other solvents. To do this, submerge the cap in the solvent and wait about a week before trying to twist it off.

As a Last Resort

If all else has failed and you really cannot get the cap off your paint, you might need to cut it open. This is a big risk, but it's better than rendering the paint completely useless.

Push all of the paint to the top of the tube and snip off the very bottom. You will need to make sure you have a very strong clip to keep it sealed when not in use and the old-fashioned bulldog clips are the best option.

Prevent the Problem

It is possible to prevent a cap from getting stuck in the first place. Painters have used a simple trick for years to combat the problem and it's time to let you in on the secret... petroleum jelly.

Before you close up your tube of paint, wipe the threads clean to remove any paint. Then, simply rub a little Vaseline (or another petroleum jelly product) around the grooves inside the cap before twisting it back on.

It works wonders and is a good habit to get into. You can also use glycerin or a very light amount of olive oil or another cooking oil in a pinch.