Proper & Safe Disposing of Leftover Paints

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Last article was about proper way of storing the leftover paint. This article, let’s discuss about the disposing of the leftover paint in a safer and proper way.

Painting is hailed as an easy, economical way to update a room; change the feel of a room, but more often than not, you would wind up with leftover paint. The leftover paint that is too little to reuse are most often thrown in with normal waste. If there are large amounts of unused paint, it only seems sensible to store the paint. And you take great pains to store those leftover paints from your previous paint projects in the garage or basement. While storing is a great practice, at some point, you may need to dispose of leftover paint properly.

Paint can be toxic and dangerous to the environment if not disposed of properly. How you will dispose of old paint will depend on what type of paint you have; you may be able to reuse or recycle it. If not, you’ll likely need to take it a hazardous waste.

Regulations on disposal of leftover paint vary by location. Read on to learn more about how to safely get rid of that extra paint that you no longer need.

Disposing Latex paints

Dry your latex paint before you throw it out. If there’s only a small amount of paint left in your paint can, open the lid and letting it air dry should do the trick. After few weeks the paint would have dried up. If you have large amount of paint left, add cat litter, leftover concrete mix, sawdust or newspaper in equal amounts of paint left to your latex paint can to soak up the paint and speed up drying process. Stir it up until it thickens into one mixture and let it sit for one hour. You can also use commercial paint hardeners instead of cat litter. Once the paint solidifies, where the local government allows, you can throw away solid paint with the rest of the household trash.

When leaving paint out to dry, make sure that it’s in a location away from children, pets and open flames.

If your stored leftover paint is more than 20 years old, it may contain lead so best to dispose at hazardous waste disposal sites.

Disposing Oil-based or Alkyd paints

Oil-based paints, along with paint thinners and other paint solvents are considered hazardous household waste and cannot be poured down the drains or solidified and placed out with the trash. You must take them to a recycling center designed to take on hazardous waste products. Look for a recycling center in your area to safely dispose of your latex and oil-based paints. Companies like Lowe’s, Habitat for Humanity and PaintCare accept leftover paint in order to recycle it.

Alternative uses for left over paint

The best way to avoid having leftover paint is to buy only as much paint as your project requires. The next time you do a makeover, get a good estimate of how much to buy ahead of time. Measure your walls, and multiply length x height to estimate the square footage (don’t forget to subtract for doors and windows).

Reuse it

Latex paint can be stored for up to a year and then mixed and reused for a later project. It may not be the exact hue, but still good for base coats and functional paint jobs.  If sealed and stored correctly, both latex and oil-based paints generally have a 10- to 15-year shelf life. You’ll be glad to have the leftover paint when your beautiful walls get dented, or your child turns the living room into a canvas.

  • Store the paint in the original container, with date it was opened, which room surface it was used and its finish. To save space, store small amounts of left over paint in jars or smaller containers. Paint lasts longer in full containers where it gets in contact with less air. Dab the paint can on the lid and side with the paint to know the color and finish.
  • Clean the sealing rim and cover the can with plastic wrap before hammer the lid down with rubber mallet to seal it tight.
  • Store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, pets and children and food.

Donate the paint

If you can’t find another use for the leftover paint, consider donating it to someone who can use it. Consider donating your paint to a community center, charity, place of worship, local theater or Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They’re often working on projects with a limited budget and could use the extra supplies.

You can call the manufacturer whether they have any recycling programs for the leftover paints.

Recycle empty paint cans. Even if you have used all the paint from a can, always allow the empty containers to dry-out completely with the lid off before discarding or recycling them with other metal. Or use these cans for mixing new paints or for simple storage of random household items.


Paint can be toxic and dangerous. When it comes to safe paint disposal, it is critical that it is done in a way that won’t cause pollution to drinking water or soil. Paint should never be poured down the drain or disposed of in your recycling, composting or landfill bins.

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