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How to Properly Dispose of Paint

Updated on February 14, 2012

Why Bother Properly Disposing of Paint? How to Dispose of Paint the Right Way

The correct way of how to dispose of household paint hasn't been widely advertised. Household paint can cause huge hazards. If simply left inside of a garbage dumpster or truck, there is a huge chance that the paint can leak onto the trash and eventually the roadway. Household paint is also very hard for landfills to dispose of. In actuality, it is the consumers responsibility to safely use leftovers or properly dispose.

To learn how to dispose of paint the right way without negative impacts on the environment, read below for some simple suggestions.

Disposing of Paint

(Click a section to jump to that spot on this page)

Disposing of Latex Paint

Using Paint Hardener

Disposing of Oil Based Paints

Using Leftover Paint

Hazards of Paint

How to Buy Just Enough Paint

Non Toxic Paints

Latex Paint

Dipose of latex paint the right way!

To properly dispose of latex paint, the container needs to be completely emptied. To safely do this, you can purchase paint hardener to solidify the paint, or you can even use kitty litter, mulch or shredded paper from your paper shredder. Once the paint has dried, you can easily scoop the paint out. Dried latex paint can be disposed of in the rubbish. Metal paint cans can be disposed of as well, and recycled if empty. Consider using all of the paint before disposing of it, whether it be by touching up or adding an extra coat of paint to your wall. It's easier, more practical, safer, and economical...not to mention you'll be saving space, and yourself the trouble of having to dry the paint!

Intro photo of paint bucket spill art by Photocapy.

Picture of paint bucket House of Sims.

Easy to Use Paint Hardener - Dry it up and harden paint quickly

Homax 3535 Waste-Away Paint Hardener, 3.5-Ounce
Homax 3535 Waste-Away Paint Hardener, 3.5-Ounce

Paint hardener can come in very handy when disposing of your paint is the only option. Hardening the paint will make it much safer to dispose, and will prevent any toxic spillage onto wildlife, soil, or your home.

 

Oil-Based Paint

Important instructions to dispose of oil based paints

For disposal of oil-based paint, you should bring the paint to a local recycling station. You may want to call before visiting, since they all have different policies on what they do with oil based paint. Oil-based paint is either incinerated or recycled by actually using the paint, or repackaging the paint to give back to customers. All labels must be intact for disposal instructions. Read this to see the required techniques of disposal. Ultimately, it is best for the consumer to use the entire can of paint.

Picture of paint roller by Photocapy.

Low VOC Paint: Benjamin Moore's Aura Line - A healthier alternative to regular high VOC paint

What's VOC? You can read all about the negative effects of VOC here. VOC are volatile organic compounds found in paint, plastics, and other man-made things. When painting your home, using a paint with low VOC is a great idea--it's much healthier, and it's a good selling point of your home.


Benjamin Moore's Aura Line has been certified under the GREENGUARD Standard for Low Emitting Products and the GREENGUARD for Children & SchoolsSM product certification programs.

More about Low Voc Paints.

Using the Leftovers

The best way to dispose of your extra paint!

So you have plenty of leftover paint from your paint project? The first thing you should do is think of other things that may need to be painted. Maybe your garage interior could use a new coat, or your closets? How about an old piece of furniture down in the cellar? You could breathe new life into it with a quick coat of paint! How about the dog house or the tool shed? Since there is no easy way to dispose of paint, it is best to use it up. Here's another idea: donations. Your local school, church, town office, or shelter may be able to use that paint. Ask friends, they may need a fresh coat of paint for something and you could help!

Picture of used paint roller brush Kasia/Flickr.

Hazards of Paint

Why you should take extra care with your paint disposal

Acrylic paint for the most part, is considered not as harmful to the environment. However, animals can ingest acrylic paint causing harm. Therefore, it is very important to dispose of any paint properly. Paint produced before 1992 may contain mercury, and paint from the 1970s or earlier may contain lead. Be extra cautious with these paints.

Picture of used paint cans by Rsgranne.

What Do you Do with your Paint? - Take our poll!

What Would you Do with Leftover Paint?

See results

Buy Just Enough!

The best way to ensure you have absolutely no leftover paint!

A good estimate of how much paint you will need is to measure the square footage of the area. Tape measure the entire area, and multiply the two lengths together to find the square footage. One gallon will roughly cover 400-450 square feet in one coat. By using this estimate, you can purchase paint based on how many coats and walls you need to cover. This should cut down on leftovers. Plan ahead, and have other things in mind to paint if you do have small amounts of leftovers.

Picture of paint can by eMaringolo.

Very old paint may contain lead and mercury which should be disposed of correctly

Very old paint may contain lead and mercury which should be disposed of correctly
Very old paint may contain lead and mercury which should be disposed of correctly

Non-Toxic Paints

Paint that's more earth friendly

Buying the right type of paint in the first place may have a number of benefits. For instance, painted walls may have low level emissions years after application. Paint fumes have been linked to headaches and migraines in some cases. Earth-friendly, low emission paints are now available. Not only is it better for humans, but it's better for the outdoors as well! You can try a company that can ship directly to you, like realmilkpaint.com or americanpridepaint.com Check your local paint store to see what variety they may have. Larger stores like Home Depot and Lowe's may not offer the organic variety, so you may want to call your local paint store first.

Remember to buy just enough, use the most you can, donate leftovers, or if absolutely necessary, bring the remainder of your oil-based paint to the recycling station. Acrylic paint can be disposed of through the methods above.

Photo right by fab4chiky.

Green Living - More ways to be kinder to our environment

If you have acrylic paint that needs to be disposed of and you absolutely can't reuse it, dry it in the warm sun outside in safe spot. In warm weather, it will dry within hours.

Also, you can sign up for my online newsletter here to stay in touch with TheGreenerMe, stay updated on sales notifications, and receive green tips in every newsletter!

Also check out:

Have Another Tip for Disposing of Paint? You Can Leave it Here!

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    • profile image

      silverraine 5 years ago

      wonderful lens my father was a painter in the 70's i worked with him often I'm not sure you could say he was environmentally conscious but he sure was conservative when it can to paint

      because he implemented most of these methods he never wasted any paint or through an uncleaned cans in the rubbish

      I can remember him often grumbling about others who did.... thanks for the memories

    • profile image

      sheezie77 5 years ago

      Very nice lens! Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      leeleon 5 years ago

      nice lens. i like it.

    • profile image

      RachelMTurner 6 years ago

      Great lens. I'm learning about going green and these tips are invaluable

    • Didijudy profile image

      Didijudy 6 years ago from Canada

      Great lens. Very informative. My brother is a firefighter and lots of people bring them paint. They know how to dispose of it. Let's all do our part in helping our environment.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 6 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Great tips. I'm trying to dejunk and need to get rid of old paint. Thanks for describing the various paints as they are all so different.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Well, here's a great chance for someone to start a business! I would gladly pay someone to take all of my leftover paint and cans for me

    • profile image

      oldflip 6 years ago

      A lot of local communities have building material recycling centers that accept donations like old paint and other materials. The stuff is remixed in the case of useable paint, though the colors may be a bit odd sometimes and sold to fund rehab projects, or some give it away to people who will use it, for free. Nice Lens!!

    • profile image

      grifith 6 years ago

      Great Lens, Good Info

    • Sequoia Technol profile image

      Sequoia Technol 6 years ago

      Great lens highlighting a worthy cause!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 6 years ago

      Beautifully done. Blessed! :)

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 6 years ago

      Great info. The previous owner of our house left a lot of paint cans in our garage and I always seem to miss the free hazardous waste drop-off days to get rid of them. I've marked the next one on my calendar so I can finally clear them out.

    • Jimformation LM profile image

      Jimformation LM 6 years ago

      Thanks! I have some paint that I need to dispose of and now I can do so responsibly.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @MargoPArrowsmith: Yeah, right. It's really important to dispose paint properly for environmental purposes.

    • xcellen lm profile image

      xcellen lm 6 years ago

      Very informative, thanks for sharing it with us :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow This is a really a great lens. I myself can't figure out how to get rid of old paints, Now I know better. thank you for sharing this great lens of yours, I really learned a lot and it really is helpful to the environment. You are doing an amazing job!

    • pimbels lm profile image

      pimbels lm 6 years ago

      I have not tip but you did a great job Thank you for sharing.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Very helpful lens. Blessed by a squid angel and featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute page to bless-worthy lenses. (You can see it at http://www.squidoo.com/lenses-blessed-by-this-squi...

    • profile image

      LensSeller 6 years ago

      Very helpful information, much of which I didn't know - thank you!

    • stargazer90 profile image

      stargazer90 6 years ago

      wow, really great info (=

    • profile image

      Wilkes-Barre_Painter 6 years ago

      GREAT tips and info, thank you!

    • profile image

      ezpostcard 6 years ago

      Very helpful info, it's a must read!

    • artgoodman lm profile image

      artgoodman lm 7 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing this great info. I reuse all the paint I don't use. When my colored paint is used and very little is left, I mix it into other buckets of the same quantity. So I have a "muck" colored pain that works great for basement walls and foundations. It may not be pretty, but it works. Great lens

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      What should you do if you accidentally drop your paint on the ground?

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      Waay too many people don't know that you aren't supposed to throw paint away. Even with the no lead anymore, its bad stuff.

    • Asinka profile image

      Asinka Fields 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Very very helpful. Thanks for opening my eyes to this green issue :).

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

      This is wonderful information. Nice to see you protecting the environment.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 7 years ago from West Virginia

      Good tips. Lensrolled to Acrylic Painting Techniques.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      great info everyone needs :)

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 7 years ago from London

      I didn't know you could buy paint hardener - thanks for the tip. I'm good about buying just enough paint - I've just got get better at finishing the decorating! ;)

      Thumbs up!

    • Amelia77 profile image

      Amelia77 7 years ago

      I usually use old paint either as a base layer when painting, or strictly for functional uses. For example, my outdoor shed and potting table get a coat of whatever leftover color paint I have, because they do not really have to look great, but they do need to be protected from the elements. So right now my shed is 'swiss coffee' and my potting table is pale pink. Not bad, and it kills two birds with one stone! Thanks for the great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Another very effective way to get rid of both latex and oil paints is to use a mineral called Zeolite- Unfortunately there are very few manufactures selling this amazing product.

      To dispose of old paint simply pour the zeoilte -approx the same volume as the paint into a plastic bag.

      Then pour the pint into the bag- leave overnight to dry and in the morning it is ready for the dump.

      Most interesting thing about Zeoilte is it naturally captures all types of toxic chemicals and heavy metals which get trapped inside the rock and cannot be relaesed making it very safe for disposal in landfills..

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 7 years ago from Burbank, CA

      wow you can really find anything here!! I just found a bucket of paint that is all dried up so now I know I can just throw it out.

      Thank you for this great information!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done, helpful lens.

    • davis66 profile image

      davis66 7 years ago

      I have just started looking for the zero VOC paints. Nice lens!

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Really super lens about an important topic and well presented. Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

    • profile image

      totalhealth 8 years ago

      thanks for the tips, but at home, we transfer the left over paints into empty glass food containers and seal it properly, in case we need it in the future for retouching of the painted things.

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 8 years ago

      Thanks for all this valuable information about paint!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great environmental lens! You have given some very good advice for people to follow.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Thanks for educating the world and contributing to environmental awareness and changing lifestyle. This lens is featured on my Environment lensography - perhaps you want to sport the badge?

      http://www.squidoo.com/environment-lensography#mod...

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Good information! I often have an old bucket of latex paint sitting around, now I at least know how to dry it up to properly dsipose of it.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Wow -- how timely that I found this lens -- we have a rusty can of paint sitting in our garage -- I keep moving it from one side to the other and then my husband moves it back. Yikes! Time to dispose of it properly. ;)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Very informative!

      Thanks for sharing

      Lizzy

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Great timing on this one. I am about to paint my new store. :)

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 8 years ago

      I always wondered, thanks for the info! 5 stars!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Our local garbage company picks up items such as paint and recycles it also I use Freecycle and if any is in need of paint, they come and pick it up, I don't want to see paint in our landfills

    • profile image

      marsha32 8 years ago

      Nice to meet you through twitter. This is a very informative lens that all need to read.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 8 years ago from California

      Great lens with very valuable info. 1 Day a month, our local waste management company, collects all hazard materials including paint. They take the paint and mix it and anyone can get paint for free from them. It's usually white, off-white or gray, but still a very cool deed. It probably goes on in lots of communities. Bear hugs, Frankster aka Bearmeister aka Cat-Woman

    • profile image

      real_estate_hawaii 9 years ago

      Thanks for sharing a very informative lens! Let's go for green!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      We've been using lime paint on our house exterior. It only requires touch-ups, so we'll never have to repaint again. I try to use up all of our latex paint, but occasionally take leftovers to a disposal site in our community. Great information! Squid Angel Blessed.

    • profile image

      beachbum_gabby 9 years ago

      Proper disposal is green living! Great lens!

    • profile image

      youhavegottobekidding 9 years ago

      What a Great Lens, it is really nice to see a Lens like this one that is helping the Environment.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 9 years ago

      great lens. I'm featuring it on my environment lensography . Feel free to link back :)

    • sisterra profile image

      sisterra 9 years ago

      great lens - saw you on the stores board. Interesting!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 9 years ago

      I love this lens Thank You!!

    • profile image

      mndheather 9 years ago

      right topic for me, im supposed to paint my room this morning, very informative.

      GoingGreen

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Very informative! Thank you.

    • profile image

      bookcat 9 years ago

      Important topic! Good job!

    • profile image

      beesknees-23 9 years ago

      Five paws up from the Feline Citizens at Beesknees-23!!