We're always painting something. That's often because painting is the cheapest way to give a room a new look. Sometimes you'll paint the entire room, other times an accent wall or maybe it's time to paint your kitchen cabinets. We've got lots of painting articles to help you. When a friend asked me how to safely dispose of paint, I realized this was a topic I hadn't covered before.
So here we'll cover the right and wrong ways to dispose of paint. We'll also share tips on how to store paint you decide to keep.
Several Safe Ways to Dispose of Paint
Ideally you bought the right amount of paint and don't have much left over (read Calculating How Much Paint to Buy). If however, you've got too much paint to save for touch-ups, you have two choices – recycle the paint or dispose of the paint.
Before you dispose of unwanted paint, consider ways it can be used. Can you mix the paint and use for another project? Can you give the paint away to friends, sell at a garage sale or maybe there's a community group looking for free paint? My best friend who does a lot of painting always gives her leftover paint to the local high school drama club for their sets.
You can recycle latex paint but oil based paint is considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of at your local hazardous waste facility. Learn your states rules for how to dispose of paint. Some will allow dried latex paint to be left with other trash while other states will require you to bring pain to a recycling facility.
So let's look at how you can take your liquid paint and solidify it for disposal.
- You can let the paint dry slowly by removing the lid.
- Stir in an absorbent material like sawdust, kitty litter or leftover concrete mix, to speed up the drying process.
- Use a paint hardener, like the one shown above, which will harden the paint in about 30 minutes.
If you're wondering what to do with old paint cans, check out Pinterest for lots of paint can crafts.
Resources to Help You Dispose of Paint
It's estimated that 10% of the paint sold in the US is eventually disposed of. That's why there are more and more community resources being developed to help you dispose of paint. Here are the ones we found and please share others you know of in the comments below.
- Check before you take your paint to a recycling center to make sure they accept the type of paint you're trying to dispose of.PaintCare.org is operational in 8 states and Washington DC. They also offer help finding household hazardous waste programs and other places throughout the United States that accept leftover paint from the public.
- Search for special hazardous waste disposal sites like these provided by New York City. You'll also find these sites accept a lot more than just paint.
- If your community doesn't have a paint recycling program, learn about these paint programs at Earth911.org, and start one. Not only do they reduce what we're putting in landfills, the recycled paint is free or very inexpensive.
The Wrong Way to Dispose of Paint
Throw paint away if you can't recycle it. If you don't have use for the paint and can't find a paint recycling program, dispose of the paint by placing it in a plastic container filled with kitty litter or paper scraps, letting it dry, and throwing it away with the trash. Latex paint is not considered toxic waste, so it doesn't have to be taken to a toxic waste site.
- Never pour paint into a drain, either drains inside your home or a storm drain. Paint can damage your pipes and it isn't good for the water supply.
- Don't pour paint onto the ground, as it is hazardous to the soil.
- Don't ignore manufacturer directions for disposing of paint. This is especially true for oil based paints which are considered hazardous waste.
Tips for Storing Paint You Want to Keep
Some of you will want to keep your extra paint and that's fine. Here are tips for storing paint:
- Use a paint can key to open paint cans. Avoid using a screwdriver or other tool that might bend the paint lid.
- Cover the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap before closing the lid. Numerous articles recommended storing the paint cans upside down to prevent air from drying out the paint … but I've never tried this.
- Close the lid with a mallet for a better seal.
- Store paint in a cool, dry area away from extreme heat and cold. A garage might get too cold, and if you're storing paint in the basement, don't put it on the floor where the cans can rust.
- Write the date when you first opened the can so you can tell if the paint has passed the manufacturer's expiration date.
I find it interesting that 10% of paint sold ends up being disposed of. My family did a large painting project and we aren’t sure what to do with the rest of the leftover paint. After reading this article, I think I’ll send the extra paint to a hazardous waste disposal service.
Yes, it’s hard to give away small amounts of paint. The only groups I’ve found that want this paint are local theater groups who can use the paint for props and schools committed to giving students lots of art projects.
I think these will come in handy when I have my own home. Thanks for the tips!
Such an interesting article, needed this, I am planning to make some changes in my place
Very helpful post! It is a great idea to give leftover paint to the local high school drama club.
Such great tips! Like you, it seems like we’re always touching something up around our house. We have a few older partially used gallons in the basement. I’m going to look for a paint recycling program in Iowa (I’m sure we have some)
Yes, Ali … I’m sure you’ll find a recycling program & then you can spread the word.
We’ll be painting our home next week and will be needing these tips. Thank you so much. Who knew there were rules to disposing paint.
Have fun painting & hopefully you didn’t buy more paint than you need.
This was so very helpful. I have a few cans of paint that I need to dispose of. I had not even thought about many of the things mentioned in this email.