Between the exterior, the bathroom remodels and the secondhand dresser, you end up with cans all over the place and no idea what to do with them. Sometimes it’s A LOT of leftover paint, with big buckets taking up valuable floor space. It’s important to know the difference between the paints and what to do to properly dispose of them.

First Things First

Is the paint still good? Solvent-based paints like latex and acrylic, have a shelf life of 15 years. If you can stir it, it’s probably good, although there may be a film you need to skim off the surface. Oil-based paints will last for 10 years, but if it’s been subjected to freezing temperatures, it may have gone bad. Stir and brush onto a newspaper. If it’s lumpy, it’s not good and needs to go.

Storing What You Keep

If it colors you still use, you might consider finding a space for them. It will come in handy for touchups or repainting. If you plan to do some painting in the future, you can mix any color of like paints (latex to latex, etc.) and use it as a primer.

Make sure the lid is sealed. According to the National Paint and Coatings Association, you should:

  • Cover the opening of the can with plastic wrap.
  • Put the lid on securely and make sure it doesn’t leak.
  • Turn the can upside down to allow the paint to create its own seal.
  • Store the paint upside down and in a place not likely to freeze, out of reach of children and pets.

Exercising Creative License

If it’s just a little bit of paint, put it in a smaller container for storage, but make sure you label it with the color name, number, and date of purchase. Smaller containers will also come in handy when using them for craft projects, like painting picture frames, outlet covers, or planters.

Help Yourself While Helping Others

If you have good paint that needs disposal, consider donating. Family, friends, churches, and charities are good places to start. If you hired someone to paint, they legally cannot take the paint from your residence due to the Department of Transportation regulations, but you are allowed to transport the paint to a different location.

Environmental Awareness

You should never pour any kind of paint into storm drains, on the ground or into creeks, streams, or rivers or try to burn it. Latex paint can usually be thrown in the trash as long as it’s not in a liquid state; oil-based paints should never be thrown out with the trash. Improper disposal introduces contaminants into the air, soil and groundwater that eventually work their way into the food chain.

You can help prevent pollution by following the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines. These include calculating in advance how much paint you’re going to use, using non-hazardous solvents and cleaning materials, minimizing any spills and leaks, and keeping a good inventory of your supplies in order to use them before they become outdated.


Now you’re left with actually getting rid of the paint that’s not usable. Before discussing paint disposal, we need to cover the types of paint. The type of paint you have determines the method of disposal.

Latex or Acrylic– If there is just a little in the can, set it out in the sun to harden. If there is more than one inch of liquid, add kitty litter to the can and stir until it’s absorbed. There are also hardeners you can buy if the kitty litter is not enough. Most counties allow the can, devoid of any liquid, to be included with the regular garbage pick-up.

Oil-Based– Paints of this type are flammable, toxic and contain harmful solvents and resins. Very old paint may also contain lead. Many communities hold an annual or semi-annual recycling day. You can also take it to your local Lowes, Sherwin Williams, or Kelly Moore (and many other) disposal sites. Paint cans must be in their original buckets and have their label intact.

Let the Professionals Handle It All

Limit the amount of leftover paint you have by having the professionals take care of the painting, and cleaning up. Trained to calculate how much (or little) you need, they can help you save time and money. Schedule your paint job online with The Painting Company, notorious for their customer service and attention to detail. They will get the job taken care of for you. They’re accredited by the Better Business Bureau and the owners come from a background of winning Angie’s List Super Service Awards for 11 years straight! The Nevada Painting Company is reliable and professional. Read more about how they can serve you or call us at (702) 844-1700.

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