What Happens to Oil-based Finish if it Freezes?
Issue: Issue 298
Posted Date: 4/3/2012
Some of my oil-based finishes are left out in the cold during winter, reaching minus 30 F. Wonder what the effect on the quality might be? - Barry Randell
Chris Marshall: Good question, Barry. The instructions on some types of finish will recommend that they be stored in a "cool, dry place," but how cool can that really be?! Being a former Minnesotan, I forgot a can of finish now and again in my garage shop, and it plummeted to those Arctic winter temperatures right along with everything else. I don't recall having a problem using it afterward. But, when in doubt, try your finish on a wood sample and see what happens (and within the temperature range recommended by the manufacturer, of course). Proof positive will be the result you get when the finish cures. If it doesn't cure as you know it should, it's probably time for a new can of finish. As a matter of general practice, though, I'd suggest storing your finishes in a warmer place during the winter and applying them within the temperature range (if any) suggested in the instructions.
Tim Inman: Cold temperature is not an enemy of oil finishes; heat is. Air is the bigger enemy. Oxygen will cause the finish to thicken and "harden." If your containers were tightly sealed -- and not too much air space was left inside! -- then your finishes should be fine. Test a sample to know for sure. If it hardens, you're OK; if it stays sticky, you need to buy new.