Properly Disposing of Leftover Household Paints

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Congrats on finishing your paint project! If you’re ready to clean things up, but you’re not sure whether you can dump the leftovers down the sink or not, you’ve come to the right place.

As you’re probably aware, the type of paint you chose will determine how you should dispose of the leftovers. For example, if your paint is made from all-natural, biodegradable ingredients, it’s beyond easy — down the sink it goes. However, rinsing oil or latex paints down the drain can harm the local water supply, animals, and plant life.

Even so, it’s still not difficult to clean up either latex or oil paints. Here’s all you need to do.

Also read: Choosing Natural Paints For Your Home

In this article

Disposing of natural paint

Natural paints are made from clay, minerals, milk and/or plant-based ingredients. So long as the manufacturer didn’t add any chemicals to these natural ingredients, you’re safe to pour any leftovers down the drain and rinse the paint can directly in the sink. Just be sure to use plenty of soap and water to avoid clogs.

Note: The label will typically say that the paint is biodegradable.

As an alternative, you can also let the paint can sit for a couple of days until it dries out and then toss it into the trash. You may want to choose this option if you have sensitive pipes or a septic system.

Disposing of oil-based paint

Oil-based paints and stains are considered hazardous household materials, so they need to be disposed of with care.  If you have leftover oil-based paints, you’ll want to drop them at a household hazardous waste facility. Search Earth911’s list of paint recycling centers for a hazardous waste drop-off near you.

Alternatively, store the paints until your community’s next household hazardous waste collection day.

For paint brushes and rollers, please read: Clean Paint Brushes and Rollers Without Harming The Environment

Disposing of latex paint

Latex (water-based) paints aren’t hazardous, but they can’t just be rinsed down a sink. You also can’t rinse them outside with a hose, because you don’t want it seeping into the ground or a nearby the sewer or storm drain. This is because the untreated water can find its way into waterways after a rain and the chemicals can harm plants, animals, and your local water supply.

Disposing of latex paint isn’t always straightforward and you’ll have to give your local waste facility a quick call or check their website. This is because some states require latex paint to be dropped at a recycling center. Others ask you to dry out the leftover paint and then drop it with the regular garbage (not the recycling). Either way, most waste facilities will ask you to remove the lid before throwing it in the bin.

If you’re going to recycle the can, then you’ll need to dry the paint first:

  • Leave the paint can outdoors — away from children and pets — with the lid off until it hardens.
  • If there is only a small amount of latex paint left, it will quickly on its own.
  • To dry larger amounts of paint, simply add a bit of sand, sawdust, or kitty litter to absorb the excess.
  • Once the paint is dry, scrape it out and throw it in the garbage.
  • Clean the paint can and then reuse it or toss it into the recycling bin.

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 someone in the community… or on social media to see if a friend could use it.

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