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’ve got a growing collection of partially used paint cans gathering dust in your garage. Getting rid of them doesn’t have to be a headache. We’ve laid out all your options to dispose of old paint safely and responsibly.

Can You Throw Away Paint?

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. Whether or not you can throw away old paint depends on what kind of paint you’re talking about.

Oil-based paints contain chemicals that can contaminate soil and water. They should NEVER be thrown in the trash. In fact, in most states, it’s illegal.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint Safely:

  • Take your old oil-based paints to your city or county’s household hazardous waste facility.
  • Stop by a local household hazardous waste drop-off event. Many cities hold these events at least once a year.
  • Visit PaintCare.org to find take-back programs if you live in one of these states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington D.C.
Man Disposing of Paint at a Household Hazardous Waste Facility

Household hazardous waste facilities will make sure your old paint is handled properly.

Latex paints are not considered hazardous and can be thrown away in the trash if you follow a few guidelines.

What’s the Proper Way to Dispose of Latex Paint?

  1. Remove the lid and discard separately.
  2. Allow the remaining paint to thoroughly dry out before placing the can in your trash. Pro tip: mixing cat litter into the paint can help it dry quicker.
  3. If you participate in curbside recycling, pour the remaining paint into a cardboard box and place the empty can in your recycling bin. Allow the paint to dry, then toss the box in the trash.

*Not all municipalities accept dried latex paint for curbside pickup. Check your local regulations.

**Not all curbside recycling programs accept paint cans. Check with your recycler.

However, just because latex paint can be thrown away, it doesn’t mean that’s the best choice. There are plenty of other options that will allow you to get rid of your old paint while helping those in need.

A Group Donating Paint to Charity

Where to Donate Paint to Do the Most Good

Your used paint can be useful again to families or charities who need a helping hand. A fresh coat of paint doesn’t just create a pleasant atmosphere—it helps protect surfaces from rust, mold and other potential hazards. So instead of getting rid of it, donate your old paint to organizations such as:

  • Habitat for Humanity Restores. Paint will be sold at low rates so even those on a tight budget can do some sprucing up.
  • Global Paint for Charity. This nonprofit collects used paints and distributes them to struggling homes, schools, hospitals and other organizations around the world.
  • Homeless or Domestic Violence Shelters. Shelters are nearly always strapped for resources and most could make good use of your donated paint.
  • Drama Clubs. Most amateur theater groups operate on a shoestring budget and would be thrilled to get a little free set dressing.
  • Children’s Charities. Many nonprofits that work with children would be happy to use your old paint for craft projects.
  • Scout Troops. Scout troops often buy materials for community service projects out of their own pockets. Your donated paint could help their budget go further.

Jars of Old Paint Lined Up on a Counter

Wherever you decide to donate your old paint, always contact the organization first to make sure they can currently use it. Otherwise, you might be saddling them with a problem rather than offering them a helping hand.

See, Disposing of Old Paint Isn’t So Hard!

Now that you know the right way to get rid of old paint, check out our other guides to disposing of difficult items. Know of any other organizations that would appreciate some donated paint? Speak up in the comments!