In our quest to become green we sometimes find ourselves caught between conscience and convenience. Some things, like bottles and cans, are easy to recycle. Others, like house paint, pose a bit more of a challenge.
Here’s a handy reference guide for disposing of your unused paint.

Storing Leftover Paint

When you are ready to store paint:

  1. Clean any dried or moist paint from the threads of the can and lid.
  2. Cover the opening of the can with plastic wrap or wax paper for oil-based paints. The wrap seals the can and makes it easier to remove the film that forms after it has been sitting around for a while.
  3. Fit the lid securely on the can and gently tap it with a hammer until it is com­pletely sealed.
  4. Turn the paint can upside down. The paint will natural­ly form a skin to help seal the paint and keep it fresh.
  5. Paint is flammable. Store it away from heat sources. Cans exposed to extreme heat can expand causing the paint to leak. Also, keep water-based paint from freezing. Water-based paint can survive a couple of freeze-thaws, but the paint will degrade over time.

Disposing of Water-Based Paint

Liquid paint should not be taken to a landfill or poured down a sink. Use the following method when dis­posing of water-based paints:

  1. Fill a plastic or paper bag or cardboard box with kitty litter, sand or saw dust.
  2. Slowly pour the left-over paint into the absorbent material. Make sure there is enough material so that the paint is totally absorbed.
  3. Allow to dry completely in a well-ventilated area away from chil­dren, pets, and direct heat.
  4. Dispose of the solid in the regu­lar trash.
  5. For paint residue in the can, remove the lid and allow to dry com­pletely. Remove the skin and dispose of it in the regular trash. Leave the label on the can and recycle if a pro­gram is available in your area.

Disposing of Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint and solvents, including mineral spirits, are con­sidered hazardous waste materials. Special precautions and steps must be taken for proper disposal.

Never dispose of liquid oil-based paint or solvents in the regular trash or pour them down the sink. Most cities have special hazardous waste collection programs for liquid paint. Check with the city to ensure proper handling.

Of course, the best medicine is al­ways preventive. Next time you have a paint job, be accurate in estimat­ing the amount of paint you’ll need. Buying a gallon when a quart will do is expensive and wasteful. You can also put your excess paints in a garage sale. Your refuse might be someone else’s home beautification project.

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