How to dispose of leftover paint

Paint can

If you are like most homeowners and DIYers, a quick look in the garage or basements shows stacks of half-empty paint cans. What should you do with leftover paint? It is a question that plagues many of us. Some states, in connection with paint manufacturers, have started to offer paint drop off collection sights. Though Maryland and Virginia are not one of those at the moment, the District of Columbia has begun one of these programs.

For most of us, properly disposing of unused paint presents the same challenge it always has. Like most household waste, it comes down to the type of paint that you need to eliminate. Here are a few ways to properly dispose of that leftover paint.

1. Buy the right amount of paint 

Sure it sounds simple, but if you buy the right amount of paint, to begin with, you would not have any leftover. Now let’s go back to that math you learned in school and figure out the square footage of the walls you want to paint. Step one is to measure your walls and multiply the length of the height. Step two is to subtract the windows and doors that are on the walls you are painting.  Now to figure out how many gallons of paint you will need. As a reference, a gallon of paint will cover about 350 square feet with a single coat of paint. If you think you will need more than one layer, then double the numbers you came up with after step 2.

2. Store unused paint

If you end up with leftover paint, another option is to make sure you store it properly. Paint Care recommends covering the opening of the can with plastic wrap before closing the lid. The plastic wrap acts as a gasket to give a tighter seal. If you do decide to store your paint, make sure it is out of the reach of children and pets.

3. Mix and reuse latex paints

Water-based or latex paints can be mixed and used as base coats or for jobs where the color does not matter. This solution is a great way to reuse old paint and while being both economical and environmentally friendly. It is inexpensive because it saves you from having to buy extra paint that you know will only be used for the first coat. As a bonus, it helps clean out your storage area.

4. Recycle empty paint cansWhy it is Important to Clean Recyclables

When that paint can is finally empty, let it dry out then recycle the can with other metals. Check with your local waste hauler or us if you have any questions.

5. Dispose of oil paints as hazardous waste

Oil-based paints present more of a challenge, and the best option for disposal is to treat it as household hazardous waste. To dispose of this, contact your local municipality and see if they offer year-round access to these services or if they have an upcoming community collection scheduled.

6. Toss empty spray paint cans as well as latex paint in the trash

If you are getting rid of spray paint cans, make sure they are empty and then throw them away. If you have leftover latex paints that you can not reuse or store and need to be discarded, pour the remaining paint into a box filled with shredded paper or kitty litter and allow it to become solid, then toss it in the trash. As mentioned above, recycle empty paint cans with other metals.

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