How to Effectively Dispose of Leftover Paint


There are two main categories of paint, latex and oil-based. They contain chemicals that can endanger human health and the environment. Leftover paint is especially hazardous if it is not disposed of properly. Proper paint disposal contributes to having safer groundwater, soil and to more efficient use of our landfills.

A majority of people are surprised to learn that paints can cause harm. For which, most of us throw away leftover paint without realizing the damage we are doing to our surrounding environment. For example, it can leak into the ground causing physical injuries to sanitation workers, or contaminate septic tanks.

Here’s what you need to know before disposing of both latex and oil-based paints safely and responsibly.

Disposal of latex paint

The leftover paint can be disposed of through donating, recycling them, or by drying it up, we have mentioned the ways and methods below.

Donate or recycle

A fresh coat of paint works as a catalyst in creating a pleasant atmosphere; it helps protect surfaces from mold, rust and other potential hazards. Before throwing away your leftover paint, you can instead donate it to organizations such as:

  • Local community – Search for organizations in your locality who collects and distributes paint to struggling households, schools, foster-care facilities etc.
  • Children’s charities – Non-profits can provide your leftover paint to children. They would be happy to use the paint for craft projects.
  • Homeless shelters – There’s always a scarcity of resources in shelters, many of the residents living there would make the most out of your donated paint.
  • Scout troops – Scout troops often have to pay for materials out of their own pockets. The donated paint can help ease their tight budget.

Try to see if there are any recycling programs around as well. Donating or recycling is an easy way of getting rid of leftover paint.

For smaller quantities

If there are no available options to recycle or donate and you want to dispose of the paint, you have to do so correctly. The steps are given below:

  • Place either cat litter or shredded paper inside the paint can and seal it
  • Shake the contents properly then let it dry
  • After the paint is absorbed into the shredded paper or cat litter, dispose of it in a sealed container

As latex paint is technically not considered as a “toxic waste”, it is not required for it to be taken to a toxic waste site.

For larger quantities

If there is a large quantity of leftover paint which needs to be disposed of, the cat litter and shredded paper method won’t work. However, you can divide the paint into smaller portions and use the technique mentioned above to dry them up; clearly a very time-consuming process. The faster way would be to buy a waste paint hardener, usually found in powder form, this can harden the remnant paint within a few hours. Then you can place it in a sealed container and dispose of it properly through a waste bin hire service.

Disposal of oil-based paint

Step 1:

Firstly, you will have to read the label of the oil-based paint for its lead content to identify the level of hazard it is capable of inflicting, handle it accordingly.

Step 2:

Use concrete mix, sawdust or cat litter to speed up the drying process before disposal. It is advisable to keep the lid off for a couple of days. Keep in mind, never dispose of oil-based paint by pouring it on the ground or down the drain.

Step 3:

The last step would be to take the paint cans containing the dried paint to a hazardous waste facility close to you.

Paint disposal regulations

Remember, the rules concerning the disposal of leftover paint vary from one location to another, but most states and local governing bodies prohibit you from pouring leftover paint into the drain. While some jurisdictions allow residents to discard water-based paint with household trash. Nonetheless, you should still first check with your local government officials as well as the bin hire service provider to find out the exact process.

Save it for later

Lastly, if the can of paint is sealed correctly, latex paint can last up to ten years and oil-based paint up to fifteen years! Place a plastic wrap over the lid of the paint and hammer it down to seal the can. Store it in a dry, cool place away from sunlight, in the attic or storage room. If the leftover paint smells bad or becomes hard and lumpy, chances are it has probably expired and should be disposed of immediately.

Buying the right amount of paint for your needs is a tricky task. If you’re like most people who paint themselves, there’s a good probability that you’ve got a growing number of partially used paint cans gathering dust in your storage space. Now you know the right way to get rid of leftover paint safely and effectively. More importantly, doing so would also benefit the environment around you from being exposed to this hazardous waste.

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