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How to Safely Dispose of Old Paint: What You Need to Know!

old paint

Painting is a fun and rewarding way of transforming the look of your home. But what are you supposed to do with all that leftover paint?

Safely disposing of old paint is harder than you might think. And disposing of it the wrong way can damage the environment and even open you up to some legal challenges.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure this all out on your own. Our guide will help you learn everything you need to know about safely disposing of old paint!

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Organize It All

The first step to disposing of all your paint is simple enough. You need to figure out what all you are getting rid of!

Take the time now to organize all of your remaining paint. And make note of how much oil-based paint you have and how much latex-based paint you have.

This step may sound simple enough, but you’d be amazed at how cans of paint sneak into the different corners and crevices of your home. Organizing everything into one place helps make sure that you aren’t overlooking anything.

Next, we need to figure out which paint can still be used and which cannot.

Figure Out What Can Still Be Used

Paint-cans-by-Free-Photos
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

The term “old paint” is very relative. To some people, that may refer to leftover paint from the weekend. To other people, it may refer to paint cans that are older than their children.

If something is past its shelf life (more on this soon), you can mark it for instant disposal. For everything else, though, you’ll need to test the paint and see if it can be re-used.

If a paint can has never been opened, keep it closed. Otherwise, open the can in question and stir it with a paint stirrer. Afterward, try to brush some of the paint onto an old newspaper or magazine.

If the paint goes on like normal, then this paint is still good to go. But if the paint looks really thick and/or clumpy, then it’s time to get rid of it.

When this process is over, you should have some paint that must be disposed of and some paint that can still be used.

At this point, you may be wondering: why is it so important to determine which paint can still be used and which cannot?

There is always a chance you’ll need to re-use some of that paint in the future. For example, many homeowners like to hang onto extra paint for when they inevitably have to touch up the kitchen or the living room.

Otherwise, you can simply donate the paint. It’s easier than actually disposing of it and provides you a chance to do some real good in the world.

Who actually needs your paint, though? Schools, youth clubs, and scout troops often need extra paint. Alternatively, churches and charities are usually eager to take unwanted paint off your hands.

Dealing with Oil-Based Paint

On paper, your oil-based paint has a shelf life of 15 years. That’s one of the reasons to test paint before disposing of it: you might be able to get many more years of use out of this paint can.

But how do you actually dispose of oil-based paint? That answer is pretty simple: by law, you must take your oil-based paint to a local disposal or drop-off site. That is because oil-based paint is actually considered a hazardous material and must be disposed of very carefully.

When in doubt, local government and law enforcement can tell you where to go. And once you have the location, disposing of your old oil-based paint is as easy as dropping off a package!

Dealing with Latex-Based Paint

old paint cans
Image Credit: hannah balloo, Flickr

With about 10 years of shelf life, latex-based paint doesn’t last as long as oil-based paint. On top of that, it’s more of a headache to get rid of it.

That’s because while you can simply throw latex-based paint cans in the trash, the paint inside must be fully dried first. That’s easy enough when all you have to do is leave a mostly empty can out to dry. But it’s more annoying when you have an old can full of paint.

With cans that have a lot of paint left in them, you must get creative. Some handymen add cat litter to the can in a 1:1 ratio with the paint.

After it sits for one hour, the paint should be dry and you can toss it in the trash. If you don’t want to deal with kitty litter, you can also buy paint hardener over the counter and achieve the same effect.

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Featured Image: Brad Greenlee, Flickr

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