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Don't let extra paint go to waste. Instead, try one of these 10 clever ways to put old paint to new use.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leftover paint is the largest volume material collected by hazardous materials collection sites and costs local governments a lot of money to deal with. The EPA estimates that 10 percent of the house paint purchased each year ends up discarded. There's got to be a better way.

In a perfect world, you would know exact how much paint you're going to need for a particular space, buy that precise amount, and use up every last drop. In the real world, you're often left with extra paint and a dilemma: what to do with it? Should you let it sit in the attic, basement or garage for the next 5 years until it dries up? Take it to your region's hazardous materials collection area? Well, these are the two most common scenarios.

Photo: Sharon Cavanagh (courtesy of Kathy Price-Robinson and Kitty Bartholomew)

Here are at 10 uses for leftover paint. How many of your own ideas can you add to this list?

1. Recycle.
Check Earth 911 for a recycling center in your town that accepts leftover paint, which is then mixed together and resold. The recycling center in my town sells most recycled paint in 5 gallon pails for a fraction of the cost of new paint. If you buy your house paint from such a center, you help the cycle continue.

2. Mix New Paint
You could blend your leftover paint to create a unique color. Make sure they are similar in composition: only mix water-based paint with water-based paint, for instance.

3. Get It Retinted.
If you have a good amount of light-colored paint leftover, you can take it to the paint store and have it retinted to another color that you desire for your house.

Photo: Sharon Cavanagh (courtesy of Kathy Price-Robinson and Kitty Bartholomew)

4. Paint a Floor Cloth.
This project allows you to use several colors that have been used in your house. You start with a length from a roll of painter's canvas from the art store, fold and glue down a hem, strengthen it with several coats of gesso (canvas primer), add your colors in stripes, highlight with paint pens, top with several coats of urethane and you've got your floor cloth. Refresh urethane when it wears off. One bit of trivia: These were once made from old sail cloths. See more instructions here.

5. Use for Base Coat.
If the leftover water-based paint is lighter than the top coat you need for a project, you can use your leftover paint as a base coat -- especially if the existing wall color is dark. (This won't work if the leftover paint is a dark color and the new top coat is a lighter color.)

6. Facebook It.

Let your friends and family know you have leftover paint and see if someone needs it for a project.

7. Freecycle It
Likewise, let your community know you have leftover paint by posting it on a site like Freecycle. Here's how it works: You join a local Freecycle group, then post what you want to get rid of. You'll often get a series of replies and you respond to the one you like and give instructions on how to pick up the paint. You might indicate that you'll leave it on the porch or by the side of the house. Watch an instructional video.

Garden Web

8. Paint Small Projects
You can experiment with painting flower pots or a mailbox with your leftovers. One idea is to mix sand with the paint for a textured look. This is purely experimental, so proceed with caution. But have some fun and get creative! See instructions on painting cheap plastic pots.

Photo: Sharon Cavanagh (courtesy of Kathy Price-Robinson and Kitty Bartholomew)

9. Make Your Own Artwork
By using colors already in your house (the yellow from the kitchen, for instance, and the green from the window trim), your new artwork will already be color-matched just for you. The paintings you see here were made from blank canvases from the art store that got texture from thick gesso and then top coated. You can buy paint tints at the art store to make your own colors.

10. Save It for Touch-Ups
This may be an obvious one, but If you have just a bit of paint left in a large paint can, you can transfer it to a tight-sealing glass jar and save it for touch ups later on. Latex paint is good for 10 years if stored properly in a cool dry place. Earth 911 explains how to store leftover paint properly.

If all these strategies fail, make sure to dispose of the paint safely. Check out the 5-Point Program of the American Coatings Association for dealing with excess paint.

Now, tell us: What are your bright ideas for using leftover paint?

  • John K

    Easiest way to get rid of excess paint ? Mix it 50/50 with cheap cat litter and let it sit for a few days. When dry it is legal to dispose of in regular trash.

  • Trevor

    This is a great idea! Http://

  • King David

    Black is the mixture of all colors; white is the absense of color. I have just mixed a large amount of ALL excess paints that have been taking up space for waaaaay tooooo long, making one large container of black paint, which I am now going to use as a base for a large sign that I need a black background. Then I'm going to use the "new" light color I've created, doing the same as mentioned above, and put that on the sign as letters. Result: a lot of empty paint cans that will be crushed and put into recycle pick-up and more room in the garage.

  • Renee

    The idea is to keep a toxic substance out of a landfill.
    Better to recycle it.!

  • John

    Once the paint is dry it is non toxic. If that were not the case ........ what do you have on the walls of your home ?

  • jackie

    You can buy a bag of Paint Hardner at your local home center . Add to paint and leave lid off . In a matter of hours paint is hard and can be put in curbside trash. Also this way is enviromentally safe.

  • Goat6841

    I have a lot of left over paint in my house. I am going to be completely honest, the first thing that came into my head was to just splash it all over my husband! The look on his face would be priceless.

  • Tess

    Good ideas! I'll use them when doing my up-coming remodeling project! Http://

  • Terry

    Check with your local high school art department. My local high school was thrilled to get free paint.

  • lee

    If mixing, remember to check whether different sheens will mix w/out co-agulating and lumping. Also, mixing too many shades will always make an ugly brown/ beige clour.

  • mutzali

    Donate it to a local high school drama department. They always need paint for sets.

  • Suzy R

    We had many cans of light colored left-over paint the new owner did not want us to leave behind. So, we moved it all to the new place, mixed it together, and "hired" my young nieces to paint the interior of our VERY dark garage. They had a blast! And, we got a lighter interior without having to have muliple lighting fixtures installed. As a "treat" they each were allowed to decorate one of the 3 doors to the garage's storage shelves, with brighter left-over paint.

  • Renee

    Dry paint is still toxic and will not bio-degrade into something healthy for the environment.

  • nyMom

    can use it to make some awesome colors of chalkboard paint. Mix 1 cup paint to 2 TBSP unsanded grout. Make a slurry with the grout first with a little water, before adding to the paint. Anything you can paint you can make a chalkboard...need good coverage, one or two coats....Once thoroughly dry, take a stick of chalk and rub over the whole surface, then clean, to prep for writing on.

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