Puzzled about how to dispose of leftover paint? Paint can be hazardous waste -- and as such, it is not the easiest stuff to get rid off. In many states, it's even illegal to throw paint in the trash because of the damage it does to the environment. So where does that leave you? Try these efficient, responsible ways to dispose of paint.
All photos by Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services
There's a good chance you have a collection of old paint cans cluttering up your basement or garage. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
estimates that 64 million gallons of paint are left over annually in the United States. Where does all this excess paint go? Lots of hazardous paint ends up in landfills, which can contaminate the soil and groundwater.
Before you let it go to waste, determine if your leftover paint is still good. Solvent-based paint has a 15-year shelf life. If you can stir it, it's probably OK to use. Latex paint has a 10-year shelf life. However, if it has been subject to freezing, it may no longer be usable. Test by stirring and brushing paint onto a newspaper. If there are lumps, the paint is no longer good and needs to be disposed of properly.
To solidify old latex paint, pour powder into the paint using the amount specified by the manufacturer and stir. Photo: Joe Provey
When it comes to dumping paint, it's critical to do it in a way that won't cause pollution to drinking water or soil. One gallon of paint can contaminate thousands of gallons of water, harm aquatic fish and plant life, and eventually, poison the food chain. Here are some safe, effective ways to dispose of latex
, acrylic, oil-based and alkyd paints
How to Dispose of Latex and Acrylic Paints
Many municipalities will permit you to solidify
these paints and throw away with the household trash. To solidify old latex paint
, pour an absorbent powder, such as Xsorb's Rock Solid
, into the paint and stir. After an hour, a cupful of powder should turn latex paint into a thick dough that won't spill or run. In this state, you usually can legally throw away with your regular garbage. Google your local Department of Environmental Conservation and contact them to make sure this is the case in your area.
How to Dispose of Oil-based and Alkyd Paints
While you're checking with your local Department of Environmental Conservation, see if there is a scheduled Household Waste Collection Day in your community. Schedules are typically available by calling your town hall or checking your state's Department of Environmental Conservation Web site. Bring leftover paints to the specified collection site along with other toxic products you want to get rid of, such as paint removers, used solvents, pesticides, and herbicides. There's no need to solidify oil or alkyd paints because they can be recycled into new paint products
If your community does not offer this service, call your County Extension Home Economics Agent, the local waste management agency, your area's water treatment plant or the local landfill to determine the proper disposal procedure.
Here are efficient, eco-friendly ways to reuse or dispose of paint:
Other Options for Leftover Paint
After solidifying, paint will be a thick dough ready for curbside disposal. Photo: Joe Provey
If your leftover paint is still good but you want to purge it anyway, there are plenty of ways to reuse it or places to donate it. Here are some of your options:
- Store it for future use.
Leftover paint can be useful for touch-ups
and repainting when the time comes. Free up storage space and transfer paint from large cans to small airtight containers. Don't forget to label each container; note the color and the room where the paint was used, plus the manufacturer's identification number.
- Use it as a base coat.
You can mix leftovers of the same paint type (i.e. latex with latex, acrylic the acrylic, oil with oil) and use it as primer or for undercoating.
- Donate it.
Remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure
. If you have several gallons that you can't use or don't want, offer the paint to family, friends and neighbors. No takers? Call a local paint contractor; many will be happy to take the cans off your hands. Some charities may accept paint donations
too, especially those that help the elderly with home renovations.
Whatever you do, never pour paints of any type into drains
, sewers or waterways. And don't put paint that has not been solidified in the trash, where it can leak and contaminate waterways.
10 Uses for Leftover House Paint
Tips for Quality, Eco-friendly Painting
Five-Point Program for Leftover Paint (American Coatings Association)
Proper Paint Storage Tips (Apartment Therapy)