How to Dispose of Paint Safely

Open paint cans of different colors

Flushing paint down the drain is a no-go, so it’s important to find alternative methods for disposing of paint safely. The right way to do it depends on the type of paint you’re using. Here are the best ways to dispose of paint safely.

How to Dispose of Oil Paint

Buckets of hazardous waste
Photo Credit: Alachua County / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED

Oil-based paint is a hazardous waste that always needs proper disposal. Never throw it away in regular trash or pour it down the drain. It can contaminate water sources and harm the environment. 

Look for a household hazardous waste (HHW) facility site or a hazardous waste collection event. In some cases, you may need to contact your local government or waste management facility to find out the proper procedures for disposing of oil paint. You may need to put the paint in its original container with a label and make sure that there are no leaks.

How to Dispose of Water-Based Paint

Acrylic and latex paints are water-based. They’re not as hazardous to the environment as oil-based paints. But there are still some rules to stick to when it comes to their disposal.

In some states, you can dispose of latex paint yourself. In others, you have to take it to a designated location. Always check your local regulations before you pick a disposal method.

Your disposal method may also depend on the amount of paint you have left over. If you have less than a quarter of a can of latex paint, you can let it air dry in the sun outside. Once it’s completely dry, you can dispose of it with your regular household trash. If you have more than a quarter of a can, consider donating it to a local community center or recycling facility that accepts latex paint. Or, take it to a household hazardous waste facility.

Alternatively, you can solidify your paint. One option is to use paint hardener, a chemical product that you can mix into the paint to solidify it. Once solidified, you can dispose of it with your regular household trash.

Maybe you’d never think that kitty litter has much to do with your home improvement projects. But you’d be wrong. In fact, cat litter can be used as a substitute for paint hardener. You can also use sand or sawdust as alternatives. These materials help absorb the liquid in the paint, causing it to solidify over time.

Remember to remove the lid and leave it open for the paint to dry completely before disposal. 


How can I recycle paint without a car?

If you live in a metropolitan zone, check your city’s sanitation department website. There may be pick-up possibilities and drop-off sites.

How long before I need to dispose of paint?

You may be able to use open paint to touch up your project. Leftover paint may last up to two years if it’s resealed and not exposed to air. However, each paint product may have different expiration dates. It’s best to check the label or contact the manufacturer for specific guidelines. Don’t store paint for too long.

If you reuse paint that’s expired, it probably won’t provide the desired results. It could even potentially cause damage to the surface you are painting. So dispose of your old paint properly.

How much paint do I need?

One gallon of paint is usually enough to cover 400 square feet. Take note that you’ll probably need multiple coats. Also, textured walls may need more paint. Check out our paint calculation formula to help you estimate how much paint you need. 

Where can I dispose of paint thinner?

Paint thinner should never be disposed of in household waste or poured down the drain. It’s considered hazardous waste and should be taken to a local household hazardous waste center for free disposal. 

Can I put empty paint cans in the recycle bin?

You should be able to recycle empty paint cans at most recycling centers. However, it’s important to check with your local recycling guidelines to ensure proper disposal. Never throw away or recycle cans of paint that still have liquid paint in them.

How should I clean old paint?

If you’ve spilled or dripped paint on a surface, it’s best to clean it up immediately while the paint is still wet. And make sure that you clean your paint brushes, too. 

Conclusion and When to Contact a Pro

Although we should calculate how much paint we need for our DIY project, it’s not unusual to be left with some excess paint. How you dispose of it depends on your local municipality and how much paint you have left over. You can throw away hardened paint if local law permits. If your paint hasn’t been hardened, you should hazardous waste collection site or a hazardous waste collection event.

However, take note that if you need any help whatsoever with your painting projects, there are pros in your area at your disposal.

Main Photo Credit: YinYang / Canva Pro / License

Judith Gallova

Judith Gallova is a freelance writer living in Slovakia. She found her passion for writing when she created her first blog at the age of 10. Later on, she started working in marketing, and eventually combined her writing and marketing skills to become a freelance writer. In her free time, she often studies the Bible, goes to the gym, spends time with loved ones, and enjoys all things art and design.