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Old Paint Disposal: The Complete How-To Guide

Old Empty Paint Cans Ready to be Thrown Away
By:Dana Shugrue| Last Updated:03/28/2024
Time to Read: 4 min
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How to Properly Dispose of Old Paint

A fresh coat of paint is an easy, inexpensive way to transform a room. But buying just the right amount of paint for the job? That’s a trickier task. If you’re like most DIYers, you have a growing collection of partially used paint cans gathering dust in your garage. Getting rid of them doesn’t have to be a headache. Keep reading to learn how to dispose of paint properly.


Should I Dispose of My Old Paint?

If your paint is less than five years old and properly stored, you can probably still use it. Not sure how long those half-filled paint cans have been sitting around? Use the following tips to determine whether you should keep the paint or get rid of it.

  1. Smell it. If your paint has gone bad, it will have a distinct sour smell.
  2. Stir it. If your paint has a lumpy consistency and won’t stick to your wall, you can’t use it.
  3. Look closely. Check the bottom of the paint can for mold. If you see any black and blue specks, get rid of it.

Can You Throw Away Paint?

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. Whether you can throw away paint depends on the type you’re getting rid of.

  • Oil-based paint contains chemicals that contaminate soil and water. You can never throw it in the trash, and it’s illegal to do so in most states.
  • Latex paint isn’t hazardous. You can throw it away if you follow a few guidelines.

Whether you’re throwing away paint or want to recycle it, we have you covered. Check out our easy disposal options for both types of paint, below. You’ll also learn what to do with paint cans once they’re empty.

Man Disposing of Paint at a Household Hazardous Waste Facility

How to Dispose of Latex Paint

You can throw away latex paint, but make sure to do it properly. Follow these three easy steps to safely get rid of latex paint.

  1. Remove the lid and toss it. Then, dispose of the can separately.
  2. If you’re planning to throw the paint can away, let the remaining paint dry out first. To accelerate the drying process, mix cat litter into the paint.
  3. If you participate in curbside recycling, pour the remaining paint into a carboard box and place the empty can in your recycling bin. Let the paint dry, then toss the box in your trash can.

If you’re disposing of latex paint and want to go the curbside route, make sure your municipality accepts it. Local regulations vary from city to city, and yours may prohibit old paint disposal. Planning to recycle your old paint? Recycling rules also vary, so double-check those as well.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint

While you can’t throw it away, there are several ways to dispose of oil-based paint safely. Consider these three simple options:

  • Take the oil-based paint to your city or county’s hazardous waste facility.
  • Stop by a local hazardous waste drop-off event. Many cities host these events at least once a year.
  • If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington D.C., check out PaintCare.Org to find take-back programs near you.

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A Group Donating Paint to Charity

Can You Donate Old Paint?

Many charities and nonprofits need paint for community projects. In addition to creating a pleasant atmosphere, paint protects surfaces from rust, mold and other potential hazards. Consider donating old paint to the following organizations:

  • Habitat for Humanity Restores. Operated by Habitat for Humanity, these local reuse stores sell used paint at discounted rates. This way, people working on a tight budget can tackle home improvement projects.
  • Global Paint for Charity. This nonprofit collects used paint and distributes it to struggling homes, schools, hospitals and other organizations around the world.
  • Homeless or Domestic Violence Shelters. Local shelters are always looking for resources and can use your old paint for a décor refresh.
  • Drama Clubs. Most high school drama programs and amateur theater groups need paint to make sets for their productions.
  • Children’s Charities. Many nonprofits work with children’s charities, and can use paint to beautify community spaces.
  • Scout Troops. Scout troops need paint to complete different community projects. Donating your old paint helps their budget go further.

Before donating your old paint, make sure the charity or nonprofit in question can actually use it. Remember — you want to lend them a helping hand, not saddle them with a problem.

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