How Long Does Glow in the Dark Paint Last: Complete Guide

There is something very dazzling and captivating about luminescence. When the surrounding suddenly becomes dark, and you set your eyes upon the glowing paint for the first time in hours, it leaves you completely bewitched.

And boy, oh boy! Doesn’t it look good? It’s always aesthetically pleasing to see vibrant chroma glowing out of the darkness.

How Long Does Glow in the Dark Paint Last

But the question that continues to lurk inside your mind is: How long does it last? Or should I say more precisely, how long does Glow in the Dark Paint last?  

In this article, you’ll be getting a comprehensive idea of phosphorescent paint’s longevity, also the science behind it.

Along with that, we’ll be giving you tips for choosing the best possible option among many glow-in-the-dark paints that you’ll notice in the market.

What Is Phosphorescence

It is always hard to think about something such beautiful as glow-in-the-dark paint slowly glowing less and less with each passing day.

But nothing beautiful lasts forever. Phosphorescent paint is popularly known as glow-in-the-dark paint, derives its glow from phosphors.

It’s a type of compound that can absorb high-energy light and release it in low energy. When the absorbed light is released immediately, it is called fluorescence.

On the other hand, if the light is absorbed and stored for a period instead of releasing it straight away, it’s called phosphorescence. In this case, the light is released gradually over a long period; that is how phosphorescent light works.

How Glow-in-the-Dark Works

Phosphors are found and extracted from rare earth materials. Zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate are the most popular of them. They absorb ultraviolet rays or electromagnetic radiation.

The atoms inside these phosphors get excited and reserve energy. When the atoms try to return to their original energy state, the reserved energy is emitted as the beautiful neon lights you see in the dark.

As the atoms lose more and more energy, the light becomes dimmer. That’s why you see the light slowly fading away.

Now you might be wondering that if it is all about charging and storing energy, why would its luminosity wear out over time? Here’s the catch. It’s not the phosphors but the paint that wears out due to continuous exposure to light.

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How Long Fully Intact Glow in the Dark Paint Lasts

Glow-in-the-dark paints that are sealed inside packets or containers should last more than three years.

Nowadays, manufacturers have put extra attention to preserving these paints. If unopened, some paints can last up to more than 5 years before diminishing in quality.

If you plan on buying one, any intact paint less than two and a half years old would be a safe bet.

After Application Durability

After application, the paint can illuminate for more than a decade. But of course, longevity depends on various factors. The surface you use it on has a significant impact on the paint’s durability.

You have to choose the perfect paint for your target surface to make it long-lasting. And sealing off the paint never hurts. It will help the phosphors from deteriorating quickly.

Moreover, when it starts to fade, no longer recharge or glow, the paint can be renewed or touched up.  

Glowing Time

If the paint is charged under direct sunlight, it will glow for more than 4 hours. In terms of glowing time, you can consider the charging duration and quality of the charging light as variables.

The quality of the paint base, paint pigments, and the ratio of phosphors also affect its brightness. It’ll also determine how long the glow will remain. Paint thickness can be a crucial factor here.

However, two or three layers of thin coating usually produce better results than one thick coating.

Recharge Variables   

You cannot change the quality of your paint after you already applied it. But still, you can control the charging time and the quality of the charge. For outdoor paint, good exposure to sunlight for some hours will bring about equal hours of glowing time.

As for indoor paints on walls, most artificial lightning will not give off enough UVs for proper recharge. You will have to use a UV black light bar or any other similar UV light source.

Bear in mind that, when it comes to glow-in-the-dark paint, one hour of proper UV light charging can be better than a whole day of regular light charging.

Things to Look Out for When Buying

There are tons of options available in the market. Which one is fit for you? Make sure that the one you buy is a phosphorescent paint and not only fluorescence. This is a mistake many tend to make.

If you want your paint to glow with more vibrance and color, make sure that the paint has a high particle count of light-emitting rare materials such as strontium aluminate or zinc sulfide. This amount is per ounce.

The aluminate is a better option because of its capability to glow for a longer duration. For a long-lasting and permanent glow, try to get any waterproof acrylic paint.

Things to Consider When Applying

Glowing time and longevity will largely depend upon how you’re applying the paint, the size, complexity, and the surface of what you want to illuminate.

One of the things to keep in mind is that light-colored or white backgrounds will produce more glow than black or dark-colored backgrounds.

Try to give two or three coats instead of one. It will increase the density of phosphor particles. Make sure that your paint will be able to get at least 4 hours of sunlight exposure.

If it is not possible, then you will have to afford a suitable UV light source to charge your paint.

Color Variations

Phosphors usually produce shades of blue, green, and yellow light. For other colors, fluorescent pigments are used.

You may ask, how will fluorescent pigments produce colors in the dark if they cannot function without direct exposure to UV light?

Well, the light that phosphors will emit works as UV for the fluorescent pigments. That’s how you get this rich combination of colors. On a side note, the fluorescent pigments will also glow when the paint is charging, unlike the phosphors.

Common Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for glow-in-the-dark paint to get charged?

It’ll vary from product to product and the method of charging. Continuous exposure to sunlight for about 4 hours will give you 4 hours of glowing time.

If you use a black light source or a UV bulb, the charging time can be significantly shorter.

Are artificial lights sufficient for charging?

High-quality glow-in-the-dark paint may absorb some energy from artificial lights but generally speaking, artificial lights will not cut it.

For most paints, you would have to wait for hours before the paint charges up. But it will only glow a little. Better to opt for any UV light.

Is glow-in-the-dark paint radioactive?

In the early 1900s, glow-in-the-dark stuff, especially watches, was made using radium’s glowing properties. Thus, they had some radioactivity. But nowadays, manufacturers use phosphors that are not radioactive at all and entirely safe for use.

Is glow-in-the-dark paint safe for kids?

There is nothing harmful within glow-in-the-dark paints in general. It is as safe as any other regular paint.

But still, it’s always wise to read the instructions manual from the manufacturer to be sure before allowing your kids to have all the fun.

Can I paint over another paint?

Of course, you can. But there is a chance that if the new paint is not thick enough, then the phosphors of the older paint may still receive enough light to get charged and glow behind the fresh paint.

So, you have to add extra layers of coats to make sure the older phosphors are entirely covered.

Can I make glow-in-the-dark paint at home?

Yes, you can make it yourself. You need to buy phosphorescent powder and acrylic paint that is compatible.

Mix those two up in proper ratios, and there you go. You now have your own glow-in-the-dark paint. You can also use highlighters instead of phosphorescent powder, but the former method is the best way to do it.

The Bottom Line

There is no definitive answer for how long glow-in-the-dark paint lasts. If the painting surface is good and the paint was intact before application, it should last around 10-12 years.

There are various qualities of glow-in-the-dark paint. High-quality ones will glow for 10 hours or more if they get charged properly. Average ones should at least radiate light for 4 to 5 hours.

If you plan to paint a mural or decorate your kid’s bedroom ceiling, buying glow-in-the-dark paint is undoubtedly a good choice.

It applies even if you are just simply a fan of luminescence. The aesthetics with the modification features that come with it make it a worthy option to go for.

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