Finally it’s starting to feel like spring. The weather is heating up, the sun is out and hopefully you are making the conscious effort to clean up your house. 

habitat for humanity

This week we want to talk about paint disposal. You may not even realize that you have  half-empty paint cans in your garage or basement. Remember you started repainting your house but then “something came up.” Just accept that it’s probably time to get rid of these paints and start fresh.

Before we get into details about paints, remember that you might be able to donate the leftovers. Contact some local programs like, Keep America Beautiful or Habitat for Humanity,  to determine if your paints can be used for a project. 

Types of Paint

Before we get into details about the hazards of paints, you must first determine what kind of paint you have. Oil-based paints are considered Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) and are not suitable for reuse after storage. However, you may have latex or water-based paints that are not considered harmful.

To determine what kind of paint you are dealing with, read the labels. An oil-based paint could be labeled “oil based” or “alkyd.” The instructions may also suggest that you clean brushes with turpentine or mineral spirits. These paints can be harmful to your health and the environment. The EPA states the following: 

Improper disposal of HHW can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash. The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately obvious, but improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health.

On the other hand, latex paints do not post the safe risk. These paints can often be washed off with soap and water. 


Handling paint disposal varies for the two types, and it’s always a good idea to determine if any local laws govern the disposal of paint. Never EVER pour paint down a storm drain, into a body of water or on the ground. Just keep it in the can. You also should not put your liquid paint out for trash collection or try to burn it.


Because these paints pose some potential harm, you’ll need to take them to a recycling center. Visit Earth911 and input “oil-based paint” with your zip code to determine where you can take your paints. You can also contact your local City Hall for more information. 


If you need to get rid of your latex paints, you’ll first want to turn it into a solid. If you only have about a quarter of a can left, leave the lid off and keep the can outside (out of the way of animals and children) until it dries up. Then you can safely disposed of this solid waste with the rest of your trash. Just make sure to keep the lid off, otherwise trash collectors may not pick it up.

If your paint cans are a little bit fuller, use the paint on scrap newspaper and then dispose of your painted paper. You can also add kitty litter or some clay-based material to the paint, mix it in and let it sit until it becomes solid.

Visit the EPA’s website for more information about disposing of harmful waste.

Don’t miss out on our previous spring cleaning posts about throwing out medication and disposing of electronics.

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