Disposing of Leftover Paint

You may be surprised to know that you aren't allowed to just toss that leftover paint into the garbage and have it hauled off with your weekly garbage collection. Paint is considered a hazardous material and therefore must be properly disposed of. There are several guidelines you should follow when disposing of paint:

  • Don't buy more paint than you need. It is expensive and you will have to dispose of the paint in a waste site that is properly equipped to handle paint disposal. Do yourself, and the environment, a favor by buying the right amount for the job.      
  • Use all the paint that you buy -- an extra coat will give you project more protection. If you do have paint left over, share it with a neighbor or donate the paint to an organization that works to help beautify your community or to a groups that helps elderly people upkeep their homes. You need to make sure the product you donate is in its original container with the label intact.    
  • NEVER pour leftover paint down the drain. Household sinks, toilets, and storm sewers are not designed to handle paint.    
  • Latex paints can be left to dry by removing the lid and allowing the water portion to evaporate. This should be done in an area away from children and animals. Allow the remaining paint to dry completely. In most states and provinces the container can then be disposed of in your household trash, although you should check your local city ordinances before doing so. Leave the lid off the can so that your household refuse hauler can see that the paint is hardened.    
  • Solvent-based paints (a.k.a. alkyd or oil-based) require special disposal practices. Solvent-based paints are ignitable and present particular hazards. They should be disposed of as a household hazardous waste. Hold for a "household hazardous waste collection day." If your community does not have a household hazardous waste program, contact your local or state government environmental control agency for disposal guidance.    
  • Paint thinners, turpentine, mineral spirits, and solvents should not be poured down a drain or storm sewer. With a few simple steps, you can reuse these types of products. Let used turpentine or brush cleaners sit in a closed container until the paint particles settle out. Then pour off the clear liquid, which can be reused. Add an absorbent (i.e. cat litter) to the remaining residue and let it dry completely. Contact your household hazardous waste program, or local or state government environmental control agency for guidance on disposal.

Contact your state or environmental control agency or your local health department for further information on "waste disposal" and assistance in finding such programs in your area. Check for "waste disposal services" in the Yellow Pages; they also may provide you with additional guidance.

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