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How To Dispose of Paint Responsibly

How to dispose of paint cans properly


How To Get Rid of Paint Responsibly

Getting rid of paint may seem as easy as throwing the cans in the garbage, but this is not how to properly dispose of paint. In order to get rid of paint, it's important to follow certain precautions to avoid fines from your local municipality and contaminating the environment.

Paint that is improperly thrown away can affect sanitation workers, your community, and the environment. Luckily, there are multiple ways to get rid of your extra paint, including reusing it, recycling it, or disposing of it.

Whether you have leftover water-based latex paint from your last upcycling project or unused oil-based paint from repainting your walls, this guide will help you get rid of those extra paint cans the right way.

When To Get Rid of Old Paint

Paint can last for years when properly stored, but like everything, it can't last forever. So how can you tell when to get rid of it? Here are some key ways to identify when old paint has gone bad:

1. Unusual consistency–lumps, rough texture, or dried chunks typically mean the paint has gone bad.

2. Bad smells–a sour, rancid, or foul odor is a tell-tale sign your paint has reached its expiration.

3. Mold–water-based or latex paint can grow mold if it's old or improperly stored.

Does Paint Have An Expiration Date?

Paint doesn’t have a specific expiration date, but all paint will eventually go bad. The shelf life of paint varies depending on the type and how well it was stored. Properly stored latex or water-based paint will last up to 10 years, and oil-based paints can last up to 15.

Can You Throw Away Paint?

Whether you can throw old paint away depends on the type of paint it is. Oil-based paints, also known as alkyd paint, can never be thrown into a garbage bin or dumpster. You will have to take it to a household hazardous waste facility to be properly processed.

Latex or water-based paints can be thrown out in the garbage with your other waste, but must first go through a drying process before you can toss them. When getting ready to get rid of paint, first check to see what type of paint you have, and then follow the following guidelines for your type of paint.

water based paint disposal

How To Dispose of Latex or Water-based Paints

Never dispose of paint in its liquid form, as it can contaminate the groundwater surrounding a landfill as it moves through it. Instead, latex paint should be dried and hardened before being thrown out with your regular trash and recycling.

If your paint can is almost empty:

1. Take the lid off and let it sit until the remaining paint inside dries. You can place it in the sun for quicker drying.

If your can has a lot of paint left:

1. Mix in a paint hardener and wait until it hardens.


2. Mix kitty litter, sand, or another absorbent material into the paint and wait until it absorbs and hardens.


3. Pour the paint into a cardboard box or surface covered with newspapers and wait until it dries.

Once your latex paint is dry, you should be able to toss it out with your other household garbage. Before doing so, make sure to check in with your local sanitation services to make sure they accept old paint disposal.

oil based paint disposal

How To Dispose of Oil-based Paint

Unlike latex paints, oil-based paints are considered hazardous because they are flammable and contain toxic metals. To properly dispose of oil-based paint, it must be taken to a facility that accepts hazardous waste. Some tips for oil-based paint disposal:

1. Locate the nearest hazardous waste facility near you and make sure paint is accepted at that facility.

2. Look into Household Hazardous Waste collection events near you to bring your paint to.

3. In some states like Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont, and California, Paintcare.org has take-back programs to recycle unused paint.

Make sure to also never let oil paint evaporate, as this can cause air pollution and affect wildlife and the environment.

How To Dispose of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a chemical-based paint, but you can treat it like latex paint by letting it harden before you dispose of it with your other trash.

How To Dispose of Empty Paint Cans

If paint cans are completely empty and dry, they can be disposed of in your household trash. Leave the lid off and place the empty cans with your recycling for curbside pickup.

How NOT To Dispose of Paint

Because improper paint disposal can result in air, water, and soil contamination, there are penalties for disposing of it illegally.

Consider these paint disposal “Don’t’s”:

  • Don’t dump paint on the ground.

  • Don’t flush paint.

  • Don’t pour paint down household or stormwater drains.

  • Don’t pour liquid paint into a dumpster or trash bin.

  • Don’t allow oil-based paint to evaporate.

How to Properly Store Paint

If you properly store paint, it can last for years, and you don't have to worry about disposal as often. Keep paint in a dry, dark place. The optimal temperature for storing paint is 60 to 80°F (15 to 27°C). Air circulation also ruins paint, so wipe the rim before sealing the lid tightly.

paint donation

Tips for Responsible Paint Disposal

Eco-friendly paint disposal helps save the environment. Use these tips for responsible paint disposal:

  • Choose latex paint instead of oil-based paint.

  • Plan how much paint you need before buying.

  • Store leftover paint properly or use it up.

  • See if your paint retailer has a take-back program.

  • Donate paint in good condition to local community centers, shelters, or organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Global Paint for Charity.

How Do I Get Rid of Old Paint in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, or Wherever I Live?

Before disposing of paint, contact your municipality’s waste management services to learn more about your city's rules and regulations for paint disposal. Paint disposal rules change drastically from area to area, and there might also be resources or services for you to recycle your paint offered by your local city government. There will also be different rules for recycling paint cans and varying schedules at hazardous waste facilities from city to city.

How Do I Get Rid of Old Paint Near Me?

As mentioned, donating old unused paint that is in good condition to charities or public good centers is a good way to make sure paint is reused and kept out of the waste stream. Always make sure to search for these organizations in your area so you can be eco-friendly and lend a helping hand to those who need it.

Looking for environmentally friendly waste services?

Sourgum Waste not only provides you with the best service at the best price, but we are also committed to sustainability. We divert waste from landfills whenever possible and plant a tree for every order placed through us.

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