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How to Dispose of Paint

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Paint (and learning how to paint walls) is a cheap and simple way to change the look of your home and add color. Paint can be used for so many different things that it’s easy to end up with too much over time. Paint isn’t easy to recycle, but you shouldn’t just throw it away because it’s bad for the environment. 1 The good news is that you can safely and responsibly get rid of your growing pile of half-used paint cans and old paint in just a few steps.

How to Dispose of Paint

How you get rid of paint depends on what kind it is:

  • If you follow a few rules, you can throw latex paint away in the trash.
  • You have to take oil-based paint to a place for hazardous waste.
  • For spray paint, you have to empty the can, recycle the nozzle and lid, and then, if your area allows it, recycle the metal can.

Can Paint Go in the Trash?

No, throwing away paint the wrong way can be hard and is often against the law. Some kinds of paint, like oil-based paints, are considered dangerous household waste. If you pour any kind of paint down the drain, it pollutes the groundwater, lake, or stream. It can also cause problems with your plumbing, especially if you have a septic tank. Also, many services that pick up trash don’t let you put wet paint in trash cans.

Latex paint that is made with water can be dried out and thrown away as trash since most waste collection companies only let latex paint that has hardened into the landfill. If you have a lot of latex paint, take the lid off and soak it up with kitty litter, newspaper, or something else absorbent.

Liquid and spray paints made with oil or alkyd must be thrown away in a safe way by taking them to places that collect hazardous waste. For more information, talk to your local waste management department.

How to Throw Away Paint

How to get rid of old paint depends on what kind of paint it is. Oil, latex, and spray paint are the three types of paint used for home projects. Before you throw away your paint, you should know what kind it is.

How to Tell What Kind of Paint It Is

The paint label is a clear way to tell what kind it is. But if the label is missing or if you bought a can of paint from a previous owner and the label doesn’t say what kind of paint it is, here’s a simple test you can do. Dip a paintbrush into the paint, and then try rinsing it in a cup of water. It’s latex if the paint comes off the brush. If it doesn’t, it is made from oil. An aerosol can will hold spray paint.

How to Throw Latex Paint Away

Most homes use latex paint made with water because it is cheap and can be used for many different things. Since it is made of water, it dries quickly and is easy to clean up. Latex paints aren’t dangerous, so you can throw them away in the trash as long as you follow a few rules. 2 It’s best to do this in a well-ventilated area and protect your skin by putting on a pair of disposable gloves.

Take off the lid and let the paint dry, then put the lid in the trash by itself. If you want to recycle the lid, wash the paint off first, let it dry, and then put it in your recycle bin.

Let the paint in the can dry out, and then put the can in the trash. It can take a few days for paint cans that are less than 1/3 full to dry out. If the paint can is more than 1/3 full, pour some paint into a cardboard box or a small container like a coffee can or ice cream bucket and let it dry. If you have a can of paint that is mostly full, you might want to give it away.

Paint cans are recyclable. If you want to recycle the metal can, pour the leftover paint into a cardboard box and let it dry completely. Once the paint is dry, put the empty can in the recycling bin and throw away the cardboard box. Once the paint is on the cardboard, it can’t be reused.


If you add kitty litter or another absorbent material to the paint, it will soak up the extra paint and help it dry faster. At your local home center or hardware store, you can also buy things that make latex paint harder.

How to Get Rid of Paint Made with Oil

Paints and stains that are made with oil are dangerous because they contain chemicals that can make the soil and water dirty.

You shouldn’t ever throw them away. It’s against the law in many states. These paints must always be thrown away at a local site for collecting Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) or at an event for collecting hazardous waste. If these paints are not thrown away properly, they can leak into the ground or make septic tanks dirty. or your county or city’s waste management department can help you find a place to drop off the hazardous waste in your area.

How to Throw Spray Paint Away

Spray paint cans can be thrown away when they are empty, just like latex paint cans. There are no federal rules about how to get rid of aerosol cans at home, but there are a few things you can do to keep them from going to landfills. When doing this job, you should wear a respirator or work in a room with good airflow. Also, to protect your skin, it’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves.

Fill up the cans. If you have extra paint that you don’t plan to use, spray it on a piece of cardboard until the paint stops coming out and the can stop hissing.

Let the paint dry on the cardboard before throwing it away.

Take off the plastic nozzle and put it in with the plastic lid to be recycled.

You can also recycle the metal can if your curbside or local recycling center takes empty aerosol cans. Check the website of your city or town to find out what can be recycled.

Other Ways to Get Rid of Paint

You don’t have to throw paint away in the trash or recycle it to get rid of it. Here are some ways to use up the extra paint that is good for the environment.

Give away the paint

Ask your friends, family, and even community centers in your area if they need paint. If not, groups like Habitat for Humanity will take your leftover paint to sell in one of their stores.

Recycle Paint

There are companies that will take old paint and turn it into something new. The International Paint Recycle Association has a list of many businesses that will recycle paint. There may be fees for shipping and other types of processing.