How To Dispose Of Paint (3-Step Guide)

Last Updated On August 20, 2021


Are you wondering how to dispose of excess paint that has been sitting around for too long? We've got all the answers.

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about disposing of paint
  • Supplies you'll need to disposing of paint
  • The step-by-step process for disposing of paint properly
How To Dispose Of Paint?

So, before you do dispose of your paint products, I recommend you read this quick guide that contains everything you need to know.

What Do You Need To Know About Disposing Of Paint?

Disposing of paint correctly depends on what the paint is made of. Your local government may also have take-back facilities where you can return your excess paint, so be sure to do a quick Google search of something like 'disposing paint in [your city]'.

Paint is considered HHW, or household waste

Did you know that paint is grouped with other toxic household items like batteries, oils, pesticides and cleaners?

What Supplies Will You Need For Disposing Of Paint?

Here are some supplies that you can use to dry out or harden latex paints to make them suitable for throwing in the trash. Remember, oil-based paints, stains, and lacquers should be disposed of properly as hazardous waste at your local landfill or waste facility.

In any case, here's a pro list of supplies you might need:

Cat litter

Kitty litter can be used to dry out large amounts of latex/water-based paints. After the water-based paint is dry and solid, you can simply throw it in the garbage.

Saw dust

Saw dust can also be used to dry out water-based paints.

Paint hardener

Paint hardener is a product that hardens paint to a solid material making it suitable for curbside disposal. Be sure to check on the amount of paint each paint hardener unit will harden before buying.

Plastic wrap

You might want to use plastic wrap to pour out the paint onto when using any of the supplies above.

Read More >> How Do You Dispose of Paint Stripper?

How To Dispose Of Paint (3-Step Guide)

Now that you know what you'll need to get the job done, let's walk through the 3 steps you'll need to take to dispose of your paint.

(Psst! You can click on any of the links below to jump directly to that step.)

  1. Determine what type of paint you are disposing of
  2. Find other uses for the paint to avoid disposing
  3. Perform the correct paint disposal procedures for the specific paint type

Step 1 - Determine what type of paint you are disposing of

You'll need to read the label on your paint product to determine what it's made of. The most important part when disposing of paint is not to flush it down the drain or toilet. Paintcare.org is another useful tool to help you dispose of your paint properly.

Step 2 - Find other uses for the paint to avoid disposing

Before you dispose of your leftover paint, you may want to consider finding another use for it. For example, lighter latex paint colors can always be used as a primer on other paint projects. 

Really the only reason why you should dispose of paint is because it's too old to be used. Here is a quick mention of shelf life for each paint product:

Latex paint typically lasts 2 years
Oil paint typically lasts 15 years
Lacquer typically lasts 3-10 years
Oil-based stains last 1-3 years
Water-based stains last 1-2 years
Latex paint is a fairly new invention. It didn't exist until the 1940's! Unlike it's oil-based counterpart which has been around for hundreds of years.

Step 3 - Perform the correct paint disposal procedures for the specific paint type

For water-based(latex paint)

Latex paint can be dried up into a solid form by using either cat litter or sawdust. Simply pour an ample amount of either litter or sawdust into the paint, let it dry, and then throw it in the trash.

For oil-based paint 

Oil-based paint is toxic waste, so you'll most likely need to take it local government facility or wait for your household hazardous waste collection to come to take it from you. Some hardware stores may also be able to take your excess oil-based paint off your hands for you.

For stains and varnishes

Stains and varnishes are either water-based or oil-based. You'll need to read the label of the specific stain or varnish and determine whether it is oil-based or water-based. For water-based stains, you can use sawdust or cat litter to dry it up, and throw it in the trash after letting the paint dry.

For oil-based stains, you'll want to dispose of them at your local paint recycling facility.

For Lacquers

Lacquers are considered hazardous waste and should be treated like it. Take your leftover lacquers to your local paint recycle/disposal location.

For Empty Cans

Empty paint cans that don't have any paint can be recycled at your local metal recycle business as steel, or simply thrown in the garbage. We recommend you recycle as many things as you can!

For Aerosol Spray Paint Cans

Aerosol cans can be either thrown in the trash or recycled as scrap metal. Puncturing the spray can may or may not be a step in the process, but it's not your responsibility to perform that step--let the metal recycling facility do it.

For Solvents

Solvents should be properly disposed of at a hazardous waste facility.

Read More >> How Do You Clean A Paint Roller?

Other Valuable Resources on How To Dispose Of Paint

Sell your paint on the Facebook marketplace or your local classifieds

Disposing of paint isn't always the best solution. Chances are, there is someone looking for old paint for random projects, so you should consider posting your extra paint on the web to see if someone in your area wants to buy and reuse it.

Find painters in your area

Use our tool to find the best painters in your area. We have a smart tool that will help you get the right painter for the job.

Are you looking to buy a paint sprayer?

We know which paint sprayers are the best. Check out our page to find a perfect paint sprayer specific to your next job.

Ask us questions

Do you have more questions concerning paint disposal? We can help. Shoot us a message on our Pro Paint Corner homepage, and we'll get back to you fast.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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