Properly Disposing of Leftover Household Paints

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The disposal of leftover paint depends on the type of paint. For example, natural paints are made from clay, minerals, milk and/or plant-based ingredients. One of the many benefits of using natural paint is that its cleanup and disposal are fast and easy.

Oil-based paints, on the other hand, are considered a hazardous household material and have to be disposed of accordingly. Latex (water-based) paints aren’t hazardous, but they can’t just be rinsed down a sink. Rinsing oil or latex paints down the drain or throwing them into the regular trash can harm the local water supply, animals and plant life.

Here’s how to dispose of each type of paint.

Disposing of natural paint

Check the label to ensure the paint does not contain any chemical ingredients. If the disposal instructions tell you the paint is biodegradable and can be safely poured down the drain, then go ahead and do so. Be sure to use plenty of soap and water to avoid clogs.

As an alternative, the paint can also be dried out and simply put in the garbage.

Disposing of oil-based paint

Discard oil-based paints at the local household hazardous waste facility or store them until your community’s next household hazardous waste collection day. Earth911 maintains a searchable list of paint recycling centers that may be helpful.

Disposing of latex paint

Never pour latex paint onto the ground or into the sewer or a storm drain. The untreated water can find its way into waterways after a rain, harming plants, animals and your local water supply.

Some states require latex paint to be dropped at a recycling center. Others allow the paint to be dried out and put in the regular garbage or recycling bin with the lid off.

You can also scrape out the dried paint and throw it in the garbage, then clean the paint can to recycle or reuse it.

To dry the paint, put it outdoors away from children and pets with the lid off until it hardens. Small amounts of latex paint will dry quickly on its own. Adding sand, sawdust, kitty litter or other absorbent material can help to dry larger amounts.

Donate leftover paints

If enough paint is leftover for a small project, consider donating it to an art teacher, theater group or Girl Scout troupe. Alternatively, post it for free on Craigslist to help out someone in the community, or on social media to see if a friend could use it.

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