I always find myself holding a pan with one inch of leftover mud when I need to stop and come back later. Once I just left my taping knives in the pan. Big mistake. When I came back 4 hours later in the afternoon, both of my new knives were rusted over. Now I try to wipe the knives clean before I call it a day, but what should I do with leftover mud? I thought I could add a bit water and mix well to make it last longer, but so far the result has been disappointing. I always come back to a pan of crusty compound. Even if I then add more water to revive the mud, I get a lumpy and unusable result.

What do people do with leftover mud when they need to call it a day? Dump it? I did that a couple of times. It takes a lot of time and paper towels to get the mud out of the pan and give the pan a rough scrub. It seems a hassle and a waste especially when I plan on coming back to the project in a couple hours.

4 Answers 4


Do not leave mud in a pan.

If it's premixed mud, just put it back in the bucket, put the lid back on, then clean your tools.

If it's powdered setting type from a bag, throw the used mud in the bin, then clean your tools.

  • I don't like to contaminate the bucket. New construction, w/e. Rehabbing old plaster with lose chunks : bin.
    – Mazura
    Feb 25, 2021 at 4:20
  • @Mazura You're not likely to contaminate a bucket on a new job. Besides the fact that there shouldn't be any "loose bits" on a resto, I rarely, if ever, use from a bucket on a remodel, except for the very last finish coats, where again, there shouldn't be any debris available to contaminate the bucket... if the place is a dump and it really doesn't matter how clean the workplace is, I suppose tossing it all, would then be the only option.
    – tahwos
    Feb 27, 2021 at 0:29

Pull your knives out of it and cover it with Saran Wrap (plastic cling wrap) right down on the mud (no air) and it will be fine when you get back.

Note- this works for premix drywall mud, I don't think it will work for "hot" mud...


The plaster dries or sets due to a chemical reaction, trying to "revive" it by adding more water leads to lumps as you say.

The only thing I find is when I am close to an enforced break then I make smaller amounts so I don't have the excess as waste, but having to make more often is the trade-off.


"It takes a lot of time and paper towels to get the mud out of the pan and give the pan a rough scrub."

Don't worry about thoroughly cleaning it. Just fill it with water and whatever is left stuck to the pan won't dry out.

Similarly, if you have a half-used bucket of pre-mix that you aren't going to be using again in the near future, you can prevent the surface from crusting over by smoothing out the top layer and then covering it with an inch of water. Avoid any stirring or shaking and the water will remain as a separate clean layer that can be poured off the next time you want to use it.

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