How To Dispose Of Paint Legally And Safely

Da'Vonne Duncan3-Minute Read
July 24, 2021

Painting your walls or decor is an affordable and simple method to transform your space, but you’re destined to have leftover paint. If you think you can dispose of paint like your everyday waste, think twice! Your excess paint can be harmful to the environment, depending on the type. Elements of paint can seep into the soil and pollute sewage lines.

Read on to learn how to dispose of paint safely and ethically.

How To Dispose Of Old Paints

Sometimes DIY projects can leave you with leftover paint that you can’t reuse. How do you free yourself from surplus paint? Proper paint disposal depends on the type of paint in question. Always consult the directions and warning labels on the original paint can before disposing of it.

Latex And Water-Based Paints

Latex paints, also referred to as water-based paints, contain a pigment and binder that has a water carrier. This type of paint is the most used and eco-friendly paint option. Dried latex and water paints are generally safe enough to throw out in a regular landfill. However, these are steps homeowners should take to properly get rid of latex and water-based paints:

  1. Mix in cat litter. Try filling the can with equal parts cat litter and wet paint. The cat litter will absorb the paint and reduce drying time. If you don't have a cat, shredded newspaper is a great alternative. The EPA recommends mixing the paint with shredded newspaper to create a solid.
  2. Pour it into a box. Line a cardboard box with plastic and pour paint into thin layers. Allow each layer of pigment to dry completely before pouring the next layer. Place the paint in a garbage bag and throw it away with your weekly trash after it's completely dried.
  3. Wait for the mixture to dry completely. Latex paint can be hazardous when wet. Before disposing of the paint, it’s best to wait until it’s completely dry before tossing it out. If there's only a little amount of paint, you can set the paint can out in the sun with the lid off. However, larger amounts of paint will call for a paint hardener.
  4. Toss the paint out with your weekly waste. Leave the dried paint for garbage pickup. Note that not all municipal waste removers will accept old paints at the curbside, so homeowners should check their local area’s guidelines.
  5. Keep the paint lid separate. Discarding the lid separately from the can help sanitation workers determine if the paint is dry. If the paint is not dry, they may not be able to accept it.  

Oil-Based Paints

Homeowners should avoid throwing any oil paints in their regular garbage since they contain organic solvents that make them a household hazard. Incorrect disposal of oil paints is illegal in several states. If you have trouble disposing of oil paints, reach out to professionals at certified hazardous waste treatment plants. Consider the following recommendations of other places to deliver your paint.

Let a pro do it for you.

Find a top-rated pro to help on HomeAdvisor.

Where To Dispose Of Paint

  • A Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility
  • A local hazardous waste drop-off event
  • A nearby Habitat for Humanity

Read more eco-friendly tips on paint disposal at Home Advisor.

Alternatives To Paint Disposal

For homeowners who would prefer to recycle their unused paint, below are other options.

Post A Free Listing

Donating unused paint to friends or family can help you reduce waste. However, if you don’t have family or friends in your area to give your paint to, utilize social media to spread the word about your free paint.

Store It Away

Storing your unused paints for future projects can help homeowners cut back on costs. Oil-based paints are durable and can last for 15 years, opened or unopened. Goodell David, the founder of Woodworking Clarity, suggests that “even if the paint is hardening, fix it by adding turpentine.”

Best practices for proper storage include keeping paint cans sealed in a cool, dark space away from the ground.

Find Places To Donate

Whether it’s a struggling family or a community organization trying to expand their budget, there’s someone in search of inexpensive paint.

Eric Regan, CEO of Mission Painting & Home Improvements in Overland Park, Kansas, says, “Instead of disposing paint, use it for those in need. We use the extra paint from our business for our 'paint it forward' program. Giving to an organization in your community that is volunteering painting time to help families or nonprofits will make a difference in the lives of others.”

Here’s a list of eligible organizations that may accept paint donations:

  • Local drama clubs
  • Temporary housing shelters
  • Fire departments
  • Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and PaintCare
  • Construction sites

It’s best practice to call the location ahead of time to assure they can accept paint donations. Keep in mind that many non-profits, such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army, will not accept oil-based paint donations because they contain toxic materials.

The Bottom Line: Proper Paint Disposal Keeps Your Community Healthy

Safely disposing of paints will prevent hazardous materials from entering your soil and contaminating the water. From adding paint hardener to recycling your paint, there are several options to properly handle unwanted paint.

Read through other homeowner tips from Rocket Homes® today.

Let a pro do it for you.

Find a top-rated pro to help on HomeAdvisor.

Da'Vonne Duncan

Da’Vonne Duncan is a Blog Writing Intern, covering lifestyle topics for the Publishing House. She has a passion for words and enjoys writing scripts, blogs, narratives, and poetry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in digital video production, from Delaware State University.