How to safely dispose of paint

Whether you’re updating your walls with a fresh color or revamping an old piece of furniture, it can be difficult to know exactly how much paint you’ll need. And even if you calculated carefully to try to purchase precisely the right amount, there’s a good chance you’ll still have some leftover paint after finishing your project. Those partially empty paint cans can’t simply be tossed into the garbage, so it’s important to learn how to properly dispose of paint. The key is to make sure you’re not throwing away liquid paint, which could potentially allow toxic chemicals to contaminate the environment. It’s also important to note that some states and municipalities have specific rules about paint disposal, so check first before you begin. If you have paint leftover from past projects, some of which might have been sitting around for a long time, follow these guidelines on how to dispose of unused latex and oil-base paints.

When to Get Rid of Old Paint

The good news is that paint lasts a long time when it’s properly stored indoors, away from temperature extremes, and with the lid securely in place. In fact, latex paint can last up to 10 years when stored properly, and oil-base (or alkyd) paint can remain usable for up to 15 years.

So before you get rid of old paint, pop the lid and take a whiff. If it just smells like paint, it’s likely still useable. If it smells rotten, then it’s best to dispose of the paint. Another way to tell if the paint is still usable is to check whether there are dried chunks or layers at the bottom or on the sides of the can. Remove any skin that formed on the top and give the paint a stir. Brush out a sample onto a scrap piece of cardboard and see if the color’s right and glides on smoothly.

If everything looks (and smells) good, then consider donating the paint to an organization that can use it or resell it. Some options include schools, community theaters, shelters, or Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Always call ahead and check to make sure it’s needed before dropping it off. If you have large quantities of useable paint, consider posting on sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to see if someone in your community is interested. There are tons of creative ways to use leftover paint for new projects that you might want to consider, too.

There’s one thing you absolutely need to do before you toss that can.

How to safely dispose of paint

How to safely dispose of paint

Painting is an easy way to update a room, but more often then not, afterwards you end up with half of an unused can. Since leftover paint can be hazardous, as it contains materials that can leak into the ground, cause physical injury to sanitation workers, or contaminate septic tanks, you have to be careful when throwing it away. Here’s what you need to know, and to think about, before disposing of paint.

If you want to throw it out, you’ll want to dry it out first.

Wet latex paint can be hazardous, so dry it up. If there’s only a small amount of paint in the bottom of your can, leaving it out in the sun should do the trick. If there’s a bit more than the sun can handle, try adding kitty litter or newspaper to help soak up the paint and speed the drying process. For larger amounts of paint, purchase a paint hardener, like Homax 3535 3 Pack Waste-Away Paint Hardener ($5, at a home improvement store for just a few dollars. Check your local laws, but in many locations, you can throw away dried-out paint with the rest of your household trash.

If you can’t properly dispose of the paint curbside, let the professionals handle it.

Companies like Habitat for Humanity and PaintCare accept leftover paint in order to recycle it. You can also search for a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area at

If you feel bad just tossing it, try to donate it .

If you know you won’t use the paint for your walls again, try to recycle it or use it up. Ask a friend if they need some paint or use the leftovers to dress up an old stool or bookshelf. Call your local elementary school to see if they have any big art projects coming up, or search for green building companies that might accept extra paint. Habitat for Humanities ReStores, for example, takes latex paint. Or list it on a site like to see if anyone wants to take it off your hands.

.. or save it for later.

If sealed correctly, latex paint can last up to 10 years and oil-based paint up to 15 years. Next time your child turns the living room wall into a canvas or a piece of furniture scrapes the paint, you’ll be glad you saved the leftovers. The EPA recommends keeping paint in its original container (never in food containers) with the original label, adding the date you opened it and room it corresponds to for good measure.

To seal the can, place plastic wrap over the paint lid and hammer it down. Store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and out of reach of children and pets. Once your paint is hard and lumpy, or if it has a particularly foul smell, it has probably gone bad and should be disposed.

The next time you do a makeover, get a good estimate of how much to buy ahead of time.

You can use Benjamin Moore’s Paint Calculator so you don’t end up with much left over.

By Budget Dumpster Staff on November 21, 2017

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 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.

How to safely dispose of paint

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.

How to safely dispose of paint

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.

How to safely dispose of paint

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!

Jan. 18 2021, Published 12:32 p.m. ET

There are a number of household items that many Americans just don’t seem to know how to dispose of properly — for instance, many folks are unsure of the best way to dispose of paint. They think that putting it in the bottom of a black garbage bag is the easiest way to surreptitiously get sanitation to take it off their hands. Such behavior isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s also unnecessary, especially when disposing of paint the proper way is so easy.

How to safely dispose of paint

Can you throw away paint?

The term “throw away” carries a number of different meanings in this context. Essentially, the ability to throw paint in the garbage like so much other trash depends entirely on the type of paint in question. After reviewing several studies, TIME concluded that all paint is potentially toxic — especially oil-based paints, and especially to vulnerable groups of people, like babies, young children, pregnant people, and the elderly.

Not only are the chemicals and metals in certain paints potentially harmful to the environment, but these compounds can also contaminate soil and water. These paints should never be thrown in the garbage and to do so, in most states, is considered illegal.

Latex-based paints are a bit different. According to Hunker, latex-based paints are generally considered a less toxic option than oil-based paint, though they still can contain some toxic compounds.

Because of that, latex paints are not considered hazardous and can be thrown away in the trash, provided that you follow the guidelines for their disposal. That said, throwing away paint cans isn’t always the most eco-friendly way to get rid of them. There are other options, after all.

How to dispose of paint:

How to safely dispose of paint

Paint disposal techniques vary depending on the type of paint being thrown away. Here are our recommendations for disposing of both oil- and latex-based paints.

How to dispose of oil-based paints:

If you have oil-based paints lying around, you’re not going to be able to just toss them in the bin. You’ll need to take them down to your city or county’s household hazardous waste facility. These facilities might only accept specific items on specific days and times, so you’ll need to contact your local municipality to find out when and where this might be happening.

How to Safely and Properly Get Rid of Leftover Paint

How to safely dispose of paint

How to safely dispose of paint

Deane Biermeier is an expert contractor with nearly 30 years of experience in all types of home repair, maintenance, and remodeling. He is a certified lead carpenter and also holds a certification from the EPA. Deane is a member of The Spruce’s Home Improvement Review Board.

How to safely dispose of paint

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How to safely dispose of paint

Paint (and learning how to paint walls) is an inexpensive and easy way to update and add color to your home. Paint is such a versatile tool that it’s easy to inadvertently accumulate extra cans of it over the years. Unfortunately, paint isn’t easy to recycle, and you shouldn’t just throw it in the garbage for environmental reasons. The good news is, you can get rid of your growing collection of partially used paint cans and old paint safely and responsibly in just a few steps.

Can You Throw Away Paint?

No—improperly disposing of paint can be problematic and, in many cases, illegal. Some paint, like oil-based paints, is considered a household hazardous waste. Dumping any type of paint down the drain causes groundwater, lake, or stream pollution, and it can cause problems in your plumbing system, especially if you have a septic tank. Moreover, many garbage collection services do not allow wet paint in trash collection cans.

How to Dispose of Paint

The proper way to dispose of unwanted paint depends on the type of paint. There are three paint types used in household DIY projects: oil, latex, or spray paint. Before you toss out your paint, it’s important to know what type of paint it is.

How to Determine Paint Type

An obvious way to determine the type is from the paint label. However, if the label is missing or you have a can from a previous homeowner and the label on the can does not clearly identify the paint type, here’s an easy test you can do. Dip a paint brush into the paint, then try rinsing it in a cup of water. If the paint comes off the brush, it’s latex. If it doesn’t, it’s oil-based. Spray paint will be in an aerosol can.

How to Dispose of Latex Paint

Water-based latex paint is the most popular paint used in homes because it’s relatively inexpensive and very versatile. Since it’s water-based, it dries quickly, and clean-up is simple. Thankfully, latex paints are not considered hazardous and can be thrown away in the trash if you follow a few guidelines. It’s a good idea to do this in a well ventilated area and wear a pair of disposable gloves to protect your skin.

  1. Remove the lid and allow the paint to dry, then discard the lid separately in the trash. If you want to recycle the lid, rinse the paint off the lid first, let it dry, then put it into your recycle bin.
  2. Allow the remaining paint in the can to dry out, then place the can in your garbage. Paint cans less than 1/3 full can take several days to dry out. If the paint can is more than 1/3 of the way full, try pouring some of the paint into a cardboard box or in another small container such as a coffee can or ice cream bucket and let it dry. If you have a mostly full can of paint, consider donating it.
  3. Paint cans are recyclable. If you want to recycle the metal can, pour the remaining paint into a cardboard box and let it dry completely. Once dried, place the empty can in the recycling bin and toss the cardboard box in the trash. The cardboard cannot be recycled once it has paint on it.

Mixing kitty litter or another absorbent material into the paint can absorb the leftover paint, helping it dry more quickly. Latex paint hardening products are also sold at your local home center or hardware store for this purpose.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints and stains are considered hazardous because they contain chemicals that can contaminate soil and water. They should never be thrown in the trash. In many states, it’s illegal to do so. These paints must always be disposed of at a local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection site or hazardous waste collection events. If these paints are not correctly disposed of, they can leak into the ground or contaminate septic tanks. You can find a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area at or check with your local county or city waste management department.

How to Dispose of Spray Paint

Like latex paint, you can dispose of spray paint cans once they are empty. There are no federal regulations concerning how aerosol can waste generated in homes can be disposed of, but there are a few things you can do to keep them from ending up in landfills. Wear a respirator or work in a well ventilated area while performing this task. Additionally, it’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves to protect your skin.

  1. Empty the cans. If you have leftover paint you do not plan to use, spray the excess on a piece of cardboard until the product stops coming out and the can stops making a hissing noise.
  2. Let the paint on the cardboard dry, then discard in the trash.
  3. Remove the plastic nozzle and recycle it, along with the plastic lid.
  4. The metal can is also recyclable if your curbside or local recycling center accepts empty aerosol cans. Check with your municipal’s website to learn about what’s accepted for recycling.

How to safely dispose of paint

Alternative Paint Disposal Options

Tossing paint in the garbage or recycling is not the only solution for disposing of paint. Here are some environmentally friendly alternatives for using up the excess paint.

Donate the Paint

Ask friends, family, or even local community centers if they need paint. If not, organizations like Habitat for Humanity accept leftover paint to sell at one of their stores.

Recycle Paint

There are companies that accept leftover paint and recycle it. The International Paint Recycle Association lists multiple companies that will take paint for recycling. There may be shipping and other processing fees involved.

Buy less paint! If you do not want to deal with unwanted paint at the end of a project, buy less. Buy the paint in smaller containers to ensure you do not have extra when the project is complete.

You have to do it at some point.

How to safely dispose of paint

The transformative quality of painting a room or the exterior of a home is immediate. All at once, a fresh coat can make a surface look new, and a space feel different. Getting rid of paint, on the other hand, is a slog—that is, if it happens at all. It’s common for half-empty cans of paint to sit in sheds and garages for ages, slowly collecting dust as the rooms they helped change collect compliments.

We all know not to pour paint down drains or into the ground, since its harsh chemicals can pollute the environment and endanger our health. And that’s why it’s so easy to store used cans rather than figure out how to responsibly throw them away. But here’s the thing: Disposing of paint properly is much simpler than you think, and doing so will keep your home safe. And not to mention, free of this unnecessary clutter.

Joey Corona, a senior merchant of paint at The Home Depot, describes what to know about getting rid of paint correctly, from how to notice when it’s no longer fresh to how to clean the area where it was stored. Follow this guide, and never worry about old paint again.

How to Notice When Paint Has Gone Bad

It’s been around longer than a decade. “Paint can typically be stored for more than a decade before it goes bad, depending on its composition,” Corona says. “Water-based (latex) paints last approximately 10 years, while oil-based (solvent) paints last longer at around 15 years if kept in cool, dry conditions with proper can sealing.”

It smells more pungent than paint normally smells, and is hard after stirring. “In order to tell that latex paint has gone bad, first smell it to see if it has a strong, offensive odor that is more pungent than the typical paint smell,” he adds. “Another way to tell is by looking to see if the paint is hard on the bottom or the sides of the can after stirring. If you’re unsure, try painting on a small sample surface. If the paint looks visibly rough or begins to peel quickly, that’s a sure sign that it’s ready for disposal.”

It looks rubbery. “To tell if solvent paints like enamels, varnishes, and sealants are ready for disposal, look for finishes that have become very thick or rubbery in appearance,” Corona says. “You can also brush the substance on a piece of glass.”

How to Dispose of Paint

Let it dry out completely. “Before doing so, assess how much paint you have left in the can so you can dry it out appropriately,” Corona continues. “If there’s less than a quarter of a can left, it is safe to let the paint sit in the sun—in an area away from kids and pets—until the remaining liquid dries out.”

Call a recycling center, or contact your local waste management authority. “If you have a half-can or more remaining, you can either take the paint to a recycling center (latex, not oil) or add a hardener or cat litter to solidify the paint. Then your local waste management authority can collect it—check the rules and recommendations for disposal, too,” he says. “Leftover, fresh paint is almost always welcome at nonprofit organizations or charities, and alternatively, you can call 1-800-CLEANUP for information on disposal regulations.”

What to Do to the Area Where the Paint Was Stored

Check the space for proper ventilation. “After your paint has been properly disposed of, be sure to check that the storage area where the paint was sitting is well ventilated and dry,” Corona says.

Double-check the area for paint chips. “Clean all excess paint and paint chips from the surrounding area and the corresponding paint brushes,” he adds.

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You can recycle it too!

You’ve painted a space you love, and we couldn’t be happier. There’s just one more thing to remember before you settle into your newly-revamped room: how to store the paint you may need for touch-ups down the road, and how to dispose of paint you no longer need, safely.

Storing Extra Paint

Leftover paint can be kept and reused for quite a long time if stored properly. It’s best to store leftover paint in a cool, dark location free from moisture and extreme temperatures. Moisture can cause your paint can to rust, and extreme heat or cold can ruin your paint. So think twice if you were planning on storing your paint in your oven-hot Florida garage or your icy basement up in Chicago.

Before storing, cover the opening of the can with plastic wrap, and seal the lid tightly using a rubber mallet. Avoid using a hammer, which can leave dents in the can that may allow air to seep in and shorten the paint’s shelf life.

For ease of access later on, there’s a number of things you should mark on the outside of the paint can. Our paints come with a handy color name sticker. Where there’s room, jot down how much paint is left inside, the date, and what room you painted.

Unopened paint has quite a long shelf life but it’s optimal to use up your paint within two to three years. Opened cans that have been exposed to the air will have a shorter shelf life which can vary depending on conditions such as temperature and whether the lid was properly sealed. Plan on disposing of those after one to two years.

How to safely dispose of paint

Recycling Extra Paint

If you have extra paint that can still be used, we always recommend recycling it. It’s the least wasteful option and the paint can be used to make new water-based paints or mixed together for reuse in community projects like graffiti removal.

If you live in one of the the states with paint stewardship programs operated by PaintCare, an organization that manages local paint recycling programs. So if you’re wondering where to dispose of paint for recycling, take your leftover paint to a drop-off site, where it is sorted for reuse, recycling, energy recovery, or safe disposal.

For those living in non-PaintCare states, you can donate unused and unopened water-based paint at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells gently-used and discounted furniture, appliances and building materials, like paint, from Habitat projects across the country.

You can also drop off leftover paint at household hazardous waste collection sites and events nationwide. Household paint is NOT considered hazardous waste, but lots of hazardous waste sites will take it off your hands and ensure proper disposal. Find a list of sites by inputting your zip code in this recycling search tool from Earth911.

How to safely dispose of paint

How to Dispose of Paint, Safely

Latex paint such as ours can be thrown into the trash only after it has been fully dried out. If you have a small amount of paint left in your can, remove the lid and allow it to dry out and solidify, then you can toss it in with your regular household trash.

If you have a larger amount of paint to dispose of, our favorite hack is kitty litter which helps dry your paint out faster. Stir in equal parts kitty litter into your paint can (or a larger, leakproof container if needed) until it starts to thicken. Then let it sit until it’s fully dried out, usually about 24 hours. Once it’s dry, you can throw the dried paint bits in the garbage and recycle the empty paint can.

Remember, when getting rid of paint, never pour leftovers down the drain or into the ground.

Responsible Paint Can Disposal

Our paint cans are made of 100% recycled high-density polyethylene resin and are 100% recyclable! However, they can only be recycled once all paint has been removed. So while you can throw your paint in the trash once the paint inside has dried out, the most responsible thing to do is to thoroughly clean your paint (the kitty litter trick is the best hack!) and recycle the can with your regular household recycling.

Check your local regulations and visit these sites for more helpful resources on paint recycling:

  • For customers in CA, CO, CT, DC, ME, MN, OR, RI, VT, WA & DC:Paint Product Stewardship
  • For customers everywhere else:How to Recycle Paint

Need to give your walls a touch up? Read: The Right Way to Touch Up Paint

We make paint shopping simple with curated colors, zero VOC paint and everything you need to create a home you love, delivered.

Whether you have extra paint left over from a project or have old paint sitting around that’s gone bad, it’s important to properly dispose of paint.

Oil paints are hazardous materials, and improper disposal could introduce those toxins to your water sources. Additionally, states and towns have differing regulations about how to dispose of latex paint that you need to be aware of.

Paul Stein, a professional painter of more than 20 years and CEO of Trusted House Painter, shares the proper methods for disposing of oil and latex house paint.

When to dispose of paint

While paint can last for years when stored properly, it can also go bad. Latex paint lasts for about 10 years, while oil paint lasts for about 15 years. After that, you may start to notice signs that your paint has expired. Common signs include:

  • A strong, noxious odor
  • Lumps in the paint
  • A skin on the paint’s surface
  • Separated paint that won’t blend back together after five minutes of mixing

If you have paint that you no longer need, but that paint hasn’t gone bad, it can serve other purposes. Check for operations in your community that accept paint donations:

  • Nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity ReStore centers
  • High school drama clubs or other kids’ groups looking to paint sets or do arts and crafts projects

Leftover paint can also be recycled into new paint. Recycling minimizes the amount of paint that’s discarded and gives your old paint a new life.

Quick tip: When you store paint, wipe any excess paint away from the can’s lid to ensure a good seal. Store your paint cans upside-down so the paint also acts as an interior seal. Keep paint in a cool, dark place where temperatures don’t drop below freezing.

How to dispose of latex paint

If you need to dispose of latex paint, start by checking your town’s regulations about paint disposal. Some towns and states allow you to dispose of latex paint on your own, while others require that you take the paint to a specific recycling or paint collection facility. For example, Vermont has banned paint from all landfills, but in Massachusetts, you can throw out paint with your regular trash.

If you’re able to throw out paint in your state and town, you can dry out smaller amounts of latex paint. If you have less than half a gallon of paint, add cat litter or sawdust to the can. Leave the can open and let the paint dry until it’s solid.

If you have larger quantities of paint, pour the paint into several heavy garbage bags, then add in cat litter or sawdust until the paint dries. You can then throw out the paint can or garbage bags with the paint.

How to dispose of oil-based paint

Oil-based paint is household hazardous waste — meaning it contains chemicals that can pollute water sources or otherwise cause harm if disposed of improperly. Never pour it into the trash or down the drain.

Instead, look for a hazardous waste collection site or a hazardous waste collection event in your community. Refer to these sites or collection events for specific disposal directions. Some sites may have very specific requirements that paint be in its original container, be clearly labeled, and not be leaking.

Quick tip: If you’ve fully used a can of paint, you can leave the can open to let it air dry. (Be sure to keep kids and pets away from the can during this time.) Many towns will let you recycle the paint can, but check with your municipality just in case.

How to find local paint disposal solutions

Your town’s website and your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation may have information about local paint disposal resources.

Earth911 maintains a database of recycling stations throughout North America, and you can filter results for locations that accept paint. PaintCare also operates paint recycling programs in 11 states.

Insider’s takeaway

Whether your paint has gone bad or you have extra that you no longer need, you can donate, recycle, or dispose of the paint. Depending on your town and state’s regulations, you may be able to dry out latex paint and just throw it away with your household trash.

Oil paint is hazardous, though, so you’ll need to bring it to a hazardous waste collection site or event. Properly disposing of your paint can help to keep your community safe, while also finally getting rid of those paint cans cluttering up your basement or garage.

How to safely dispose of paint

What should you do with left over paint?

Paint cannot be disposed of in your normal bin and it definitely should not be washed down the drain, follow our useful guide for more details on how to dispose of paint responsibly.

Our top tips on how to dispose of paint responsibly.

1) Touch ups

Label the tin with which room it was used in and then store it in a cool, dry place. You’ll then be able to use it for those all-important touch ups in the future!

2) Donate

Talk to local community groups, schools and causes to see whether they have any need for it for craft projects, murals etc. You could also check with your local household waste recycling centre whether they have a paint donation scheme. Bear in mind this is probably only appropriate for emulsions.

Brewers have recently donated a selection of paints to The Lewisham School of Muralism, which were used by the artists to create an extraordinary mural on the side of Lewisham Shopping Centre. Find out more here.

3) Get crafty

Paint a bauble, picture frame etc to match your interior.

4) Dispose safely

If you cannot find a way to use up all the paint then you will need to dispose of it responsibly. Liquid paint cannot be accepted by refuse centres, they will only accept it in a dried form. You can dry out your left over paint by adding sawdust or paint hardener to it and letting it dry.

Top tip – check it is fully hardened by piercing the dried paint.

Please note: paints that are solvent based should be treated as hazardous waste, this also includes other decorating materials such as paint thinners and white spirit. Check with your local recycling centre for local disposal options.

Follow us on social media @brewerspaints on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

One of the many activities that you can undertake to care for our environment is the safe and considerate disposal of paint, solvents and related products. When purchasing paint, remember to estimate the exact amount required for the job. Buy only what you need. Ask your your Thrifty-Link paint specialist for assistance.

Use it All Up

If usable latex paint is left over after your project is finished, you can:

  • Use it for touching up your work, or store it away for future fixes.
  • Mix small amounts of paint together and use it as an undercoat for future jobs.
  • Donate paint to charities (for example, Habitat for Humanity, church groups, community groups, theater groups, schools or your neighbor.
  • Contact your local recycling center to see if the cans and lids can be recycled.

Never place liquid paint in the trash or pour it down the drain.

Storing Paint

Prepare the paint for storage: Label the paint can lid with the color and the location where the paint was used.

To properly store your paint, make sure you tightly seal the can. First, wipe away any excess paint from the rim. Then cover the can opening with plastic wrap. Put the lid securely in place and tap it down with a mallet. Store the can upside down. If the can is leaking, place it in a leak-proof container.

Store paint where temperatures are moderate. Temperature extremes can negatively affect paint and make it unusable. Never allow paint to freeze.

Quick-reference your stored cans by brushing a small amount of paint onto the outside surface (body of can or lid) and writing the color name and number in permanent ink. You can also identify the room or wall that was painted with that color.

You may also want to create and save a file on your computer of the paints you have placed in storage; that way, if someone tosses it by mistake you still have the information at your fingertips.

Keep paint in a safe location, away from children and pets.

Paint Disposal

Proper paint disposal contributes to a more efficient use of our landfills and, ultimately, safergroundwater and soil. We recommend the following tips:

  • Check local ordinances and waste hauler regulations.
  • Read paint can instructions for proper disposal.

Place properly dried latex in your regular household trash; however, follow these steps prior to disposal:

  • Cans with leftover paint should be left open so that the paint dries before disposal.
  • Make sure you place the drying cans in a well ventilated area.
  • Cans with less than a quarter of the paint remaining will require a few days of drying time; cans with larger amounts will take longer, about a week.
  • You can also add shredded newspaper, sand, sawdust, cat litter or paint solidifier to the paint, which will absorb the excess paint. These materials also work well in stopping paint spills from spreading on most surfaces.
  • Another solution is to punch holes in the top of the can and then place it in a dry area for a couple of weeks.
  • When the cans are ready to be thrown out, make sure the lids have been removed to let waste haulers know the paint is dry.

NOTE: Oil-based paints, varnish or paint thinners are generally considered hazardous waste.

Check with your municipality about any local ordinances and read label instructions before disposal — another good reason why you never want to spill paint on the back of your paint can label. Only dispose through your locally designated household hazardous waste program.


The Valspar Corporation takes environmental sustainability and responsibility seriously. Our architectural paints meet or exceed national, state and local ordinances for low VOC in consumer products. In addition, we have saved over a million gallons of water usage in our latex plant operations through optimization and reuse programs.

Recycling metal and plastic paint cans should always be considered to reduce landfill usage. Paint cans should be thoroughly clean and dry. Metal cans are recyclable. Plastic cans may be recyclable if your waste hauler accepts them. Check your local ordinances or your waste hauler to see what is allowed.

Tool Tips

Good painting tools can be reused many times —saving you money and time spent shopping for new tools as well as helping the environment by generating less waste.


  • To reuse a roller the next day, place it in a plastic bag for storage to prevent it from drying out.
  • With latex paint, partially fill a sink with warm water and roll the applicator back and forth.
  • You can also remove paint in a bucket of water. If necessary, use detergent with the water to remove difficult paint. Rinse the roller until the water is clear. Let dry.
  • For oil-based paint, roll the applicator in a paint tray containing mineral spirits (petroleum distillate) or paint thinner. Then wash the roller in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  • Spin out the excess moisture and place rollers into clean plastic bags, such as food storage bags.


  • With latex paint, remove most of the excess in a bucket or container while the paint is still wet. It is much more difficult to remove dried paint with soap and water. Wash off the remaining paint under running water.
  • Oil-based paint should be removed in a bucket or container with mineral spirits (petroleum distillate), rinsed in tap water and then washed with soapy water. Rinse once more.
  • Moist paintbrushes can be wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a rubber band or aluminum foil to retain their shape. Hang the brush upside down to maintain its shape.


A spontaneous combustion hazard exists when cleaning up after using products that contain drying oils, such as linseed oil or tung oil. Rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste soaked with oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container.

Other Tools

  • Follow the directions on the paint label for tools used.
  • Applying the excess paint to cardboard or newspaper, or carefully scraping the tool, should remove excess paint.

Information supplied by Wattyl (The Valspar Corporation)

Improper disposal of household paint cans is bad for the environment, potentially dangerous for sanitation workers, and—in some localities—subject to fines. Here’s how to do it safely.

By Bob Vila | Updated Oct 8, 2020 9:57 AM

How to safely dispose of paint How to safely dispose of paint How to safely dispose of paint How to safely dispose of paint

How to safely dispose of paint

No matter what you’re painting—your home’s exterior, the living room, or the furniture you recently bought secondhand—every project seems to leave you with a frustratingly minute quantity of leftover paint, usually too little to keep for future use. So how do you get rid of it? Well, there are several ways to dispose of paint. The best method depends on the type of paint in question. Read on to learn how to dispose of paint that’s most commonly used in homes: latex, oil, and spray paints.

Throw out leftover latex paint only after it is hardened.

Due to environmental concerns, leftover latex paint can neither be poured down the drain nor thrown directly into the trash. DIYers do have three options for how to dispose of latex paint, depending on the amount that remains in the can.

How to safely dispose of paint

  • If there’s really only a tiny bit left, either air-dry it or use up the remainder on some cardboard. You can then recycle the empty paint can, if not through curbside pickup, then at a local waste facility.
  • If there’s more than a little paint left, take action to harden the paint. You can try materials you have on hand, such as sawdust or scrap paper, or opt for a waste paint hardener. The latter is readily available in hardware stores or from Amazon. Simply mix the hardener into the paint, closely following the instructions provided. Let it stand for the recommended period of time, after which the paint should be hard as a rock. You can now throw the can away (but you cannot recycle a can with hardened paint).
  • Donate a nearly full can. If it’s a full or nearly full can and you simply no longer want the paint (and you cannot return it to the store where you made the purchase), call your local home resale store or a charity with an office nearby.

Oil-based paint qualifies as hazardous household waste and should not go in the regular garbage.

As such, it comes with limited disposal options. You may recycle a completely empty can, but things get tricky if there’s paint left. If you’re prepared to spend money to avoid a hassle, you may want to contact a hazardous household waste (HHW) facility to dispose of oil-based paint. Alternatively, consult your local government for advice, or contact the big-box home improvement store closest to where you live. In many counties, there are drop-off dates on which HHW material is accepted. A full (or nearly full) can of oil-based paint would be much easier to donate than to dispose of properly.

Recycle spray paint cans only if completely empty.

Half-full cans of spray paint are potentially dangerous; they can explode under heat or pressure. To be sure that you’re throwing out a can that is completely empty, spray the remaining contents on a piece of cardboard until you’re certain there’s nothing left. Once empty, add the can to your regular recycling.

As you can see, disposing of paint properly isn’t always a breeze. One thing is certain, however: No matter the type of paint, it’s easier to deal with an empty can than with one that’s half full. So if you’re stuck with a partially full can, you’ve now got a very good reason to get started on one of these smaller painting projects using leftover paint!

How to safely dispose of paint

Like most DIYers, you probably have a handful of half-empty, old paint cans stored in the garage or basement from previous paint projects. While storing unused, leftover paint is a great practice, at some point, you may need to dispose of leftover paint properly. Keep reading to find out how.

Regulations on disposal of leftover paint vary by location. Some states and municipalities require leftover paint to be taken to an approved drop-off location, while others will allow latex or water-based paint to be solidified and thrown out with the household trash. However, some household waste haulers may not pick-up latex paint even if solidified. Always check with your local authorities and your local waste disposal service provider on rules and regulations applicable to your area.

Inventory Your Leftover Paint

Sort through your leftover paint. There are two general categories of paint: water-based latex and oil-based/Alkyd paint. Water-based latex paints are not considered hazardous household wastes and can usually be dried-up or solidified, and where local governments allow, it can be placed out with the trash. Oil-based or alkyd paints, as well as paint thinners and other paint solvents are considered hazardous household waste and cannot be poured down drains or solidified and placed out with the trash.

After you’ve sorted through your leftover paint, begin opening each can and examine the contents. Both latex and oil-based paints generally have a 10- to 15-year shelf life, depending on how well it was sealed, on temperature fluctuations in the storage area and other factors. Paint that has been unopened has a greater chance of still being usable even after 10 years than a can of paint that has been opened in the past.

Helpful Tip

Don’t use a screwdriver to open paint cans. This can bend the lid and make it harder to close. Use a paint can opener.

Don’t worry if a “skin” has formed on the surface of the paint when you first open it — this is normal. Stir the contents of each can with a paint stirrer and brush the paint onto some newspaper or other disposable material. If the paint has clumps or has an overly thick texture, it is not usable. Organize again, by separating the usable paint from the non-usable paint. Set the non-usable paint aside for later disposal.

Try to Use Leftover Paint or Consider Donating

Rarely will you finish a paint project and not have leftover paint. Storing leftover paint properly will increase your chance of being able to reuse that paint at a later time for other paint projects. If you can’t find another use for the leftover paint, consider donating it to someone who can use it.

Helpful Tips

Before you begin your paint project, carefully measure the area to be painted (height x width = total sq. ft.) to more accurately estimate the quantity of paint you need to purchase. One gallon of paint will cover approximately 350 to 400-sq.-ft.

Always store paint in a cool, dry location away from sunlight and temperature extremes. Wipe away any excess paint on the outside of the can. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the opening and then replace the lid, firmly sealing it with taps from a rubber mallet and then store the can upside down to prevent air from entering the container.

Dispose of Water-Based Latex Paint

Dispose of leftover water-based latex paint appropriately. While some local governments allow water-based latex paint to be thrown away in the trash once solidified, the paint has to be dried-out completely before disposing of it. Even if you have used all the paint from a can, always allow the empty containers to dry-out with the lid off before discarding. If there is a small amount of paint left in the can, you can let the paint dry by leaving it in a well-ventilated area until it hardens, stirring it once every few days. When setting out paint to dry-up, try filling partially empty cans with waste paint hardener, shredded newspaper or cat litter to aid in clumping up the leftover paint so that it dries up faster. Consider recycling metal and plastic paint cans to reduce landfill waste. Check with your local government to see if your city/town participates in paint can recycling.

Safety Alert!

When leaving paint out to dry, be sure to keep it in an area away from children, pets and open flames.

Dispose of Oil-Based Paint

Always check with your local authorities on how to properly dispose of leftover paint. You can also use the PaintCare Site Locator to find a place to drop-off your leftover paint.

PaintCare Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to represent paint manufacturers to plan and operate paint stewardship programs in the United States in those states that pass paint stewardship laws. Their main effort is to set up more places for people to take unwanted, leftover paint.

Safety Alerts!

It is not recommended to leave out numerous cans of oil-based paint to dry out because of a build-up of fumes.

Never pour liquid paint into the trash or down drains.

That’s it! Now you know how to dispose of old paint properly.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

Get information on how to dispose of your paint safely and responsibly, how to store it, and how to order the right amount in the first place!

How to safely dispose of paint

Buy the Right Amount

The best time to start thinking about paint disposal is before you’ve purchased any paint. The Benjamin Moore Paint Calculator can help you determine how much paint you’ll need based on the details you provide. While your paint needs will vary depending on many factors, this tool can be a great starting point to reduce the chance that you’ll be left with too much paint.

If you use all the paint you’ve bought, let any paint residue air-dry, and check with your local trash service or community recycling program to determine the best way to discard empty cans.

Use this online tool to quickly calculate how much paint you’ll need.

How to safely dispose of paint How to safely dispose of paint

Store Your Paint

Properly Dispose of Paint

Paint disposal guidelines vary by region. A web search like “paint disposal near me” or “paint recycling near me” is likely to provide information on your municipality’s paint disposal policies, which will probably include regular pickup dates or drop-off sites.

  • In some states, PaintCare, a nonprofit, operates drop-off sites that you can locate using their drop-off site locator.
  • Canada has a similar nonprofit, Product Care, for paint drop-off recommendations.
  • offers a “Where to Recycle” database that is searchable by ZIP code.

Latex Paint and Oil Paint Require Different Disposal Techniques

  • In general, latex paint may be discarded in the trash, but it needs to be dried out first. If you have a small amount of paint residue, you can dry it out by leaving it out in the sun. For larger quantities of paint, you can use kitty litter or a commercial paint hardener to dry it out.
  • Oil paint cannot be disposed of in the trash, so you’ll need to find a disposal or drop-off site using tools such as those provided above.

It’s important to protect our planet by disposing of old paint properly. At Benjamin Moore, we are focused on environmental stewardship. For more information, please visit our Planet page in the Corporate Responsibility section of our website.

Follow these easy steps to safely get rid of those old cans.

How to safely dispose of paint

Maybe you’ve just finished freshening up your bedroom walls with a dreamy new color, or stumbled across paint cans so old that they might predate the Stone Age during your basement remodel. No matter where—or when—it came from, you probably have paint leftover from a home improvement project stashed away somewhere in your home. After all, even the handiest DIYer usually has a tough time estimating exactly how much paint it’ll take to finish a job up, which means those partially used cans of paint tend to pile up over the years. You want to get rid of them, but you’ve heard you just can’t toss ’em in the garbage. Improperly disposed of paint can harm the environment, permeating the ground and contaminating drinking water.

So the question remains: How are you going to get rid of those paint cans?

The answer? With care.

How to Store Paint

Paint stays usable a surprisingly long time—about a decade for latex and around 15 years for oil-based—especially if it’s stored correctly. To save an opened can of of paint for another day, use a rag to wipe down the grooves at the top, ridding it of any excess paint. Then stretch plastic wrap over the lid before tamping the whole thing down with a rubber mallet (hammers can damage the lid, making the can more difficult to seal). Place the can in a cool, dark place, like the basement, making sure it’s off the floor so no moisture can rust the bottom. For good measure, write the date you opened it and the room you used it in on the label.

If the paint has gone bad, you’ll probably know it by the rancid smell it gives off when you open the can. If not, you’re most likely good to use it for fun projects, like giving new life to an old dresser. Just double check that the paint is its original color and hasn’t hardened on the bottom or sides, and there aren’t any lumps in it. You can remove that thin skin that’s likely coating the top of the paint and simply stir what’s left beneath.

If you’re sure you won’t need the paint for touch-ups or projects, you might want to consider donating it to an organization that can put it to good use, like a local high school drama club, scouts troop or an animal shelter that needs to spiff up its facility. Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts liquid latex paint in original containers that are five gallons or less, with the original label attached. If you can’t find any takers, you might be able to give your leftover paint away through a site like

How to safely dispose of paint

How to Dispose of Latex Paint

While different locales may have varying regulations regarding the disposal of latex paint, many permit cans with paint that has hardened or dried out to be included with household garbage for regular trash pick-up. If you have a can with just a little bit of paint, removing the lid and allowing it air dry, or dry in the sun, should work. Or, pour the paint onto a newspaper. Once it dries, throw the paper and can, with the lid off, away.

If you have too much paint to air dry, add equal parts cat litter to the can, and let the amended mixture sit for an hour. Shredded newspaper also works, but if you have more than a half-can of paint, you’re going to want to pour it into another container and then add in the proper amount of paper or cat litter. Place the dried paint and can, with the lid off, in the garbage.

If you don’t mind spending a few bucks, there are also paint hardeners available at hardware and home improvement retailers, as well as on Amazon.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint

Oil paint, and its more modern cousin, alkyd paint, are classified as hazardous waste, which means you can’t ever dump them down a drain or throw them in the trash. Instead, check with your municipality to find out the nearest appropriate drop-off site. Or, wait for the next hazardous waste collection day. Most communities offer them annually.

Paint is a common product that can become household hazardous waste when it is not used up. In this fact sheet, paint refers to a wide range of coating materials that can be divided into two types; latex and oil based.

Latex Paint

Water based paints are called latex paints. If the clean-up instructions on the paint can say that water can be used for cleanup, the paint is a latex paint.

Oil Based Paint

Enamels, varnishes, shellacs, lacquers, stains and sealers are all oil based paints. If the clean-up instructions on the paint can say that solvents such as paint thinner, mineral spirits or brush cleaner must be used, the paint is oil based. (Solvents can also become household hazardous waste.)

Disposal Issues

Paint should not be poured down the drain, dumped on the ground, or thrown in the trash. Paint contains chemicals, such as solvents and metals, that can damage the environment and endanger human health if disposed of improperly. When poured down the drain, many of the chemicals in paint will not be treated by sewage treatment or septic systems. The untreated chemicals may be discharged to lakes or streams and contaminate these waters.

When thrown in the trash, liquid paint can also be a hazard. Eventually, most household trash is compacted, releasing the paint from the can. Sometimes this paint can leak from the garbage truck and end up splattered all over a residential street. In a landfill, as water seeps through the garbage, the paint will move with the water and may eventually contaminate ground water. As a general rule, liquids are not allowed in landfills. Full or partially full cans of liquid paint should not be placed in the trash and are not accepted by many garbage collectors.

Proper Disposal

Dry Out Paint

Speeding Up the Process

Identifying Usable Paint

Avoid Future Leftover Paint Disposal Problems

Be a careful consumer. Paint and varnish become a disposal problem only when the quantity purchased is not used.

  • Buy only the amount of paint you need. Measure the space you need to paint and request the assistance of hardware or paint store personnel in purchasing the correct amount.
  • Use existing paint before purchasing more.
  • Avoid purchasing exotic colors that you will not be able to use for another project.
  • Apply another coat to use up left-over paint.
  • Store cans of left-over paint lid side down. Be sure to tightly close the lid before doing this.
  • The paint will form a seal and this will prevent hardening or moisture damage. Store paint in a dry area, as well as in an area where it will not freeze.

How to safely dispose of paint

Some types of paint are considered hazardous waste so they need proper and safe disposal. These types of paint can contain heavy metal (or other harmful ingredients), they can be flammable and are not suitable for reuse after long storage. Also some water based paints such as varnishes, stains, sealers etc. may contain hazardous ingredients such as mercury and so therefore are classified as chemical waste.

The use of heavy metals in paint has raised concerns due to their toxicity at high levels of exposure and since they build up in the food chain.

Another harmful material that can be found in paint is lead. Lead is normally added to paint to speed drying, increase durability, retain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion. Paint with significant lead content is still used in industry and by the military. For example, leaded paint is sometimes used to paint roadways and parking lot lines. Lead, a poisonous metal, can damage nerve connections (especially in young children) and cause blood and brain disorders. Because of lead’s low reactivity and solubility, lead poisoning usually only occurs in cases when it is dispersed, such as when sanding lead-based paint prior to repainting.

Primer paint containing hexavalent chromium is still widely used for aerospace and automobile refinishing applications, too. Zinc chromate has been used as a pigment for artists’ paint, known as zinc yellow or yellow 36. It is highly toxic and fortunately now rarely used.

Antifouling paint (or bottom paint) is used to protect the hulls of boats from fouling by marine organisms. Antifouling paint protects the surface from corrosion and prevents drag on the ship from any build-up of marine organisms. These paints have contained organotin compounds such as tributyltin, which are considered to be toxic chemicals with negative effects on humans and the environment. Tributyltin compounds are moderately to highly persistent organic pollutants that bioconcentrate up the marine predators’ food chain. One common example is it leaching from marine paints into the aquatic environment, causing irreversible damage to the aquatic life. Tributyltin has also been linked to obesity in humans, as it triggers genes that cause the growth of fat cells.

The label of an oil-based paint will say “oil-based” or “alkyd,” or it will instruct you to clean brushes with mineral spirits or turpentine. Paints of this type are toxic and they can cause great damage to the environment (including humans and animals) if not disposed of properly.

Latex or water-based paint, on the other hand, is not consider hazardous waste and it can enjoy many reincarnations after its initial use. Latex paints are those that clean up with soap and water. They’re very common for both interior and exterior painting. However, even this type of panit needs to be proper disposed of or recycled. Specifically, it is not advisable to pour latex paint into drains, onto the ground, or into creeks, streams or rivers. Disposing of paint this way introduces contaminants into the air, soil and ground water that can eventually work their way into the food chain.

When considering how to dispose of large quantities of unused paint, always ask for professional advice. Any reputable hazardous waste disposal service will be able to assist you.

Here are some measures you can take to reduce environmental impact of you paint consume.

  1. Choose a low VOCs paint if possible

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted by various solids or liquids, many of which have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Solvents in traditional paints often contain high quantities of VOCs. Low VOC paints can improve indoor air quality and reduce urban smog. The beneficial characteristics of such paints include low odour, clean air, and safer technology, as well as excellent durability and a washable finish. Low-VOC paint types include latex (water-based), recycled latex (water-based), acrylic, and milk paint.

The labels of paint cans can be checked for the following information:

To be considered low-VOC, the paint should contain Avoid overbuying paint

Each year, 10 percent of the paint sold in the UK is thrown simply because too much has been purchased for every single project. You can avoid that mistake by using an o paint calculator to help you pinpoint how much paint your project really needs.

If stored properly, paint will last for years. In order to store it properly you should

– Cover the opening of the paint 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 can upside down in a place that’s safe from freezing and out of reach of children and pets.

  1. Recycle your unused paint

The best way to handle leftover paint (after avoiding over buying) is finding someone else who can reuse your leftovers. Try to be imaginative — local councils, schools, universities and art academies, they may all be happy to use some of your old paint for their projects.

Unused paint an also be recycled it to make low-quality paint. Latex sludge can be retrieved and used as fillers in other industrial products. Waste solvents can be recovered and used as fuels for other industries. A clean paint container can be reused or sent to the local landfill.

If your large quantity of paint can’t be reused or recycle, then it’s a good idea to call a professional chemical waste disposal service. All Waste Matters can offer your company the complete chemical waste disposal service and from collection to disposal, you can rest assured your waste is being handled safely and in-keeping with the latest legislation.

We are a fully licensed chemical disposal company and operate our own collection vehicles and fully licensed hazardous waste recycling facility. This ensures your chemical waste collection is carried out with minimum impact to the environment and has full traceability as to its eventual disposal.

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Dispose of leftover paint

Take unwanted oil-based paint to HazoHouse. Oil paint, stains, varnish, and thinners are toxic and flammable and should not be dumped or disposed of as trash.

Latex paint: Dry it up, use it up, pass it on!

How to safely dispose of paintLatex paint (also known as acrylic paint) can go in the trash. HazoHouse no longer accepts latex paint.

All can contents MUST be dried up or solidified before being placed into the trash. Liquid latex paints and stains can spill while awaiting collection or during the collection process. Paint leaking into trucks and onto roadways poses tremendous cleanup challenges. Any liquid or soft paint will be left as unacceptable by trash collection crews. Remove lids from cans so your hauler can see that the can is empty or contents are solidified.

If your can is 1/4 or less full:

Simply remove the lid and place the can in a safe, well-ventilated area. The latex paint will dry in a few days and then you can place the container in the trash. Check the paint’s dryness with a stick.

If your can is more than 1/4 full:

Kitty litter, mulch, sawdust or shredded paper may all be used to solidify paint. Just mix it in with the paint. Some hardware and paint stores carry packets of paint solidifier that cost just a few dollars. Follow the direction on the packet. Once paint is a tacky, oatmeal-like consistency and will not spill out, it is ready for disposal.

Small amounts of paint can be mixed with other colors or mixed together and used as a primer coat or on jobs where the final finish is not critical. Avoid creating waste at the start. Buy only what you need. One gallon of paint will cover between 250 and 350 square feet, depending on the porosity of the surface to be covered. Staff at the paint store can help you figure out how much paint you will need for your job.

Are you spring cleaning and finding an abundance of unwanted latex paint stored in your basement or garage?

“It’s important to properly dispose of all paint, both latex and oil-based, since paint can pollute groundwater,” according to Sarah Alessio Shea, PRC’s Collection Events Manager. “Therefore, you should never throw liquid paint products into your trash. And if the paint is usable, by all means offer it to a friend, neighbor or relative.”

If you have latex paint in need of disposal, PRC shares a simple method for preparation at home that allows you to legally and safely dispose of latex paint in your regular trash, eliminating the need to purchase any products or drive to a household chemical collection event.

Latex paint (water based) in a solidified form is not a hazardous waste, so follow these instructions to prepare paint for disposal with your curbside household trash:

  • Divide the paint into small amounts, 1/3-full can or less;
  • Add kitty litter, sand or shredded newspaper into liquid latex paint and mix well;
  • Leave the lid off, set aside and allow the paint to completely dry;
  • Dispose of the dried paint in the trash.

“This method works well for a small quantity of latex paint, such as one-third of a can or less. Options for correctly disposing of larger amounts of latex paint include using packets of waste paint hardener, which is available at home improvement stores, or dropping off the paint at a household chemical collection event,” said Shea.

Please note: Oil-based paint, stains and varnishes are hazardous in any form and always should be taken to a collection event.

For information regarding PRC’s 2020 schedule of household chemical collection events – which accept paint products, pesticides, automotive fluids and a wide variety of products for a fee – visit the Household Chemical Collections homepage or call 412-488-7452.

It’s almost impossible buy the exact amount of paint necessary for a paint job. And what ends up happening is you have a half-bucket of paint sitting in your closet for months on end. But what do you do when you’ve had enough of it? In this article, we answer this question. We’re telling you how to dispose of your old paint safely and effectively.

How to Notice When Paint Has Gone Bad

Before you dispose of your paint, you need to be sure that it’s actually gone bad. No sense disposing of perfectly useable paint. And if you can’t use it yourself, maybe give it to someone who can!

Either way, you need to know how you can tell if your paint is good to go.

Firstly, paint generally takes quite a long time to go bad. If it’s sealed and stored properly, it should last you a couple years at the very least, and often much longer than that. Past this point, you might have bad paint on your hands.

There are generally a few warning signs that your paint may have gone bad. These range from obvious to subtle. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Mold: If your paint has visible mold, then it has definitely gone bad! You’ll notice the mold on the surface of the paint, and it’s often accompanied by a musty smell.
  • Inconsistent Texture: If you paint no longer looks smooth and consistent, then it may have gone bad. For example, old paint might develop “chunks”. But don’t throw it out just yet! Sometimes all it needs is a good stir. But if you try and nothing works, then it may be beyond saving.
  • Rust: Sometimes, the problem isn’t the paint itself. Rather, the rust from the can. If the can has begun to rust, and the rust has seeped into the paint, then the paint is no longer useable.
  • Dry: If the paint has dried out, it will lack the consistency to properly coat a wall. Needless to say, you can’t paint with it!

How to safely dispose of paint

How to Dispose of Paint

So, you’ve examined your paint, and decided it’s no longer useable. What are your options? You can’t just throw it in the trash, and you definitely can’t pour it down the sink, so what’s next?

There are actually a few things you can do to dispose of paint. Some of these options may depend on your location. Consider the following options to dispose of old paint:

  • Dry it Out: Depending on your local regulations, and especially if your region doesn’t offer a service for disposing of hazardous household products, it may be legal to throw away paint with the trash. To do so properly, attempt to dry out the paint first. Put it in shallow trays, and leave it in the sun for a while. Some also mix it with an absorbent substance like sawdust. This makes it a proper consistency for putting in the garbage.

Now, it goes without saying that this far from the “greenest” option for disposing of paint. But if there are no options in your area for paint recycling, then you might not have a choice.

  • Recycling Program: Your municipality may offer a hazardous household product recycling program that offers safe paint disposal services. Do a Google search of your area to see what’s near you.

In addition to recycling, some companies also accept donations of old paint (see list below). Although these companies will often only accept paint that is still somewhat useable (as they intend to reuse it themselves). Check to see if a paint recycling service is in your area.

  • Reuse It: You know the old saying “reduce, reuse, recycle”. So why not try to get creative and reuse your old paint? It might be too far gone to paint your walls, but it might still come in handy for a DIY art project. It might also do the trick if you’re just looking to do small touch-ups to your existing paint job.

Paintcare, a program dedicated to informing people of where and how to safely dispose of their paint, makes it easy to recycle leftover, unwanted paint. They operate paint stewardship programs on behalf of paint manufacturers in states that have passed paint stewardship laws.

The current states are Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and the District of Columbia. Although there are hundreds of retailers that offer recycling and donation programs, a few of the popular ones are Benjamin Moore, Behr, C&M Coatings, Rudd Company, Sherwin-Williams, and Timber Pro Coatings. You can find a full list of states and retailers on their website.

Thanks for checking out our guide to paint disposal! Remember, with proper storage, paint can last a very long time. Only consider disposing of paint as a last resort. We are lucky to have so many options at our disposal!

Responsible Storage And Disposal of Paint

Do you have unused or old paint that you wish to store or dispose but not sure how to?

There are responsible and safe guidelines on how to store or dispose the paint, depending on the type.

Disposal of Water-Based Paint

Latex, acrylic or water-based paints must not be disposed of in liquid form. Do not:

  • pour the paint into drains, onto the ground, or into sinks
  • put cans of liquid paint out for regular trash pick-up
  • try to burn paint

Disposing of paint this way introduces contaminants into the air, soil and ground water that can eventually work their way into the food chain.

To dry out paint that is less than 1/4 full

  • Remove the lid.
  • Allow to dry completely in a well-ventilated area away from children, pets and direct heat.
  • Paint will dry in a few days.
  • Dispose of the solid matter in the regular trash.

To dry out paint that is more than 1/4 full

  • Brush or roll the paint onto layers of newspapers or cardboard.
  • When the paint dries, put the paper in the trash bin.
  • Alternatively, you can pour the paint into a cardboard box and mix it with shredded newspaper, cat litter, or a commercial paint hardener to speed solidification.
  • The box can go in the trash when the paint dries and the cans can be recycled.

Note: All residual/leftover latex, acrylic and water-based paint must be hardened or dried.

Disposal of Aerosal Spray Cans

Aerosol containers or spray cans are pressurized products that can also start a fire or injure sanitation workers if you dispose of them in the trash where they can be punctured and explode.

Paint and varnish are the most common household products that become household hazardous waste.

Aerosol paint cans that still contain paint are accepted at the household hazardous waste collection events. Please see Aerosols for information on the recycling of aerosol paint cans that contain a small amount of liquid or are empty.

Oil based paint, turpentine, paint remover, paint thinner, shellac, stains / varnishes, furniture stripper, and finisher and wall paper cement are all accepted at the household hazardous waste collection events.

Latex paint is not considered hazardous waste and is not accepted at household hazardous waste (HHW) events. Unfortunately, latex paint does find its way to HHW events. In 2009, at HHW events, Montgomery County collected 188,000 pounds of latex paint and non-hazardous materials that cost $65,737 to dispose of. This happens for a number of different reasons:

  • Owner of paint is uneducated about the proper way to dispose of latex paint.
  • Owner of paint sees HHW events as an easier disposal alternative than the proper method.
  • Label on paint can is too old or unreadable, thus making it impossible to determine its type.
  • Owner of paint is moving and will not have time to dispose of paint properly.

By diverting latex paint from household hazardous waste collections, Montgomery County could save valuable tax payer dollars and perhaps provide additional services or events.

How to safely dispose of paint

We all have them, tucked away in the garage or at the back of the shed – the half-used cans of paint that we’ll never use again, but don’t know what to do with. Even if you’ve kept that can of white gloss for touching up paintwork, the chances are you’ll never get around to it and the paint is now past its best. So, what are you going to do with all those leftovers that have dried out, dried up or simply discoloured?

Take Unused Paint Back To The Shop

If you’ve changed your mind about a paint colour and you still have the receipt, you may be able to take it back for a refund or exchange it for something you will use.

Give Away Any Old Paint

The paint on your walls is manufactured to be safe to use, but if you simply pour old paint down the drain, you’ll create a big environmental problem that results in damage and hard-to-shift blockages.

Instead, you could find someone who needs it. There always seems to be someone who’s doing a DIY project, so why not check if any friends or family need some paint. You get rid of the cans and they get some free paint, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Failing that, you could try giving it to a local charity project. Try advertising your paint on your local community recycling site or contact a group like Community RePaint, who match half used cans of paint with new owners.

If your paint is completely unusable, however, you’re going to have to dispose of it.

Dispose of Excess Paint

Just as you can’t pour paint away, you can’t just stick old paint cans in the bin either. Like all liquid wastes, liquid paint is banned from landfill and therefore cannot be accepted by the council – you’ll need to wait for the paint to harden before you can take this non-household waste to the local recycling centre.

To speed up the hardening process for larger amounts of paint, add some sawdust, soil or sand to the cans and leave it to solidify. For smaller amounts, pour the paint onto card or paper and leave it to dry before including it with your household waste.

Once the paint is hard, you can take it to your local household waste and recycling centre to be disposed of appropriately.

How To Dispose Of And Recycle Paint Tins

Only empty metal paint cans are widely accepted for recycling at most household waste recycling centres. Currently, plastic paint cans are not widely accepted for recycling, although your local recycling facility will likely still accept them and ensure they are disposed of responsibly.

Have a Clear-Out

As part of your paint project, if you find yourself left with lots of leftover items, there’s never been a better time to invest in HIPPOBAGs. Choose the size that’s convenient for you, fill it with your unwanted waste and arrange a collection for rubbish removal. It’s fast, hassle-free and cost-effective, with a wide range of different HIPPOBAG sizes available. With HIPPO vehicles across the UK, waste disposal has never been so simple.

Need a HIPPOBAG for a few old paint brushes and assorted bits of rubbish? Then a MIDIBAG will do the job. Flexible, cost-effective and convenient, HIPPOBAGs are the savvy way to deal with waste disposal after any DIY job, and they’re perfect for those empty, ragged out and dry paint cans too.

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Paint is the most common household product that becomes household hazardous waste. Paint contains harmful substances that can be dangerous to our health and the environment if not used, stored, and disposed of properly.

The best way to dispose of paint is to use the paint. If you cannot use the paint, try giving it to someone who can, such as:

– Theater groups
– Church groups
– Shelters for people in need
– Community organizations
– Habitat for Humanity ReStore; call for specifications. (814) 353-2390

Storage\Disposal of Liquid Paint
When storing paint, make sure lids are on tight. Label the top of each can with the color name and date purchased.

Do not pour paint down household drains. Many of the chemicals in paint will not be treated by sewage treatment systems or septic systems.

Do not throw liquid paint in the trash. There is always the possibility that the paint will be released from the can. Then the paint could be exposed to certain chemicals and cause spontaneous combustion.

Solidify first, then dispose of paint. Paint is hazardous in its liquid form. If only a small amount of paint is left, simply remove the lid (outside, with good ventilation) and let dry. Then the can may be put out for trash disposal. If the can is empty, it may be recycled with metal cans. If you have more than which would dry, there are various ways to dispose of paint.

Please Note: There is a difference between Latex Paint and Oil Based Paint.

Latex Paint
Latex paint, when dry, may be disposed of in your regular trash. If you are simply overwhelmed with latex paint, the Authority’s Transfer Station is allowed to accept up to 5 gallons of latex paint per person per day. There is a $20.00 minimum charge for this service. Please note that the Authority will not accept latex paint at our Household Hazardous Waste events.

Oil Based Paint
Oil based paint, when dry, may be disposed of in your regular trash. The Recycling & Refuse Authority’s Transfer Station will not accept oil based paint in liquid form. If you are simply overwhelmed with oil based paint, the Authority holds a Household Hazardous Waste Collection each spring. The Authority accepts oil based paint at this event. In addition, ReStore in Bellefonte takes unopened cans of oil-based paint for reuse. Please call for details: (814) 353-2390.

Tips to Dry Paint
Get a sturdy cardboard box and fill with clay-based kitty litter, pour the paint onto the kitty litter and let dry. Then dispose of this dried mixture with your trash. Some local hardware and paint stores carry a paint solidifier. Simply purchase, follow directions and when paint is dried, put out for trash collection.

Whether you completed a whole-house painting project or just did a few touch ups in one specific room, anyone who’s ever bought paint before knows that there’s almost always some left in the can once the job is done. While you can certainly hang on to remainder paint for future projects, especially if there’s a significant amount left, some homeowners just don’t have the space or desire to house countless metal cans. For others, particularly those with young children or without a secure place to stow cans, having excess paint in the home can be a safety and fire risk.

So, how can you safely, responsibly dispose paint? Ultimately, the best method will vary based on the type of paint you have and how much of it remains. With that being said, there are a few rules that stand across the board. Here, experts weigh in on the safest methods of disposing of every type of paint, from latex to acrylic.

The type of paint you use matters.

It’s important to remember that most traditional paints (like acrylic, latex, oil-based, and so on) are considered hazardous waste when disposed of improperly, which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re taking great care in the way you throw out any remnants. Otherwise, your leftover paint can have a profoundly negative impact on both human and environmental health, according to Kathleen Hetrick, LEED AP, sustainability engineer with Buro Happold in Los Angeles. When possible, Hetrick suggests consumers purchase non-toxic paints that meet GreenSeal-11 certification and contain zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “You can even purchase bio-based paints like Milk Paint, ($16.99, for [an] eco-friendly alternative to synthetic paints,” she says.

Disposing of oil-based paints and epoxies.

Usually, oil-based paints, epoxies, or anything that isn’t water-based requires special disposal because of potential toxins and their flammable state, Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company, says. This includes your painting accessories, too. “You should be careful when disposing [of] painting supplies, especially if you are using certain oil paints or even epoxies,” he says. “The instruments used, such as rags or brushes, need to be disposed of by following the product disposal instructions.” Simply put, these leftovers, and anything that has come in contact with them, need to be taken to a hazardous waste collection event or location.

Getting rid of acrylic and latex paints.

You should take your acrylic and latex paints to a paint recycling center, according to Cory Summerhays, founder and president of Unforgettable Coatings. “Some waste management companies have these, or local state/county agencies have also set them up,” he says. “In many areas, it is acceptable to dispose of acrylic (water-based) paint in the trash service if the paint is dried.” Additionally, you can safely dispose of these paints by spreading any leftovers out on plastic or cardboard to dry in the sun, by mixing it with kitty litter or other shredded materials and waiting for it to dry, or by purchasing a mix that is specially designed to dry out leftover paint in the can.

Cleaning water-based paint accessories.

If you’re looking to clean off your painting accessories like brushes, rollers, and paint trays so that you can use them again for future projects, Summerhays says you’ll need to be mindful of how you do it. “Supplies used with water-based paints are usually safe to clean with water (and detergent if needed),” he says, adding that you should never let the water run into storm drains. “After being cleaned or let dry, they are [also] safe to toss in the garbage.”

Do your due diligence.

While these guidelines are good for general knowledge, Summerhays says you need to be aware that there are often both state and county regulations that can vary across the country and even within a single state. “Be sure to check local regulations and suggested guidelines before disposing of any paints.”

You have plenty of options: reuse, recycle, or dispose, for starters.

How to safely dispose of paint

It’s happened to the best of us: there’s a home project you’ve been dying to complete, you’ve finally found the time for it, and you head off to your local hardware store and buy far too much paint. “One bucket can’t be enough for one room, right?”

You love DIY projects. So do we. Let’s make cool $#*% together.

Needless to say, you probably don’t need that extra half-bucket of cerulean blue paint you used in your backyard pool area for . pretty much anything else. So, what can you do with it?

Here, we present to you our favorite ways to reuse, recycle, or dispose of leftover paint. To make sure we’re giving you the best expert advice, we spoke with Jennifer Berry, public and strategic relations manager for Earth911, which maintains a database of recycling options for virtually every type of household product in every community in the U.S.

💡 Pro tip: You can use Earth911’s service by clicking the “Where to Recycle” button at the top of this webpage and entering your zip code.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #1: See if your state has a paint take-back program.

Ten states, plus Washington D.C., have passed legislation to enact paint take-back programs, each in cooperation with the paint industry after consultation with the Product Stewardship Institute, a nonprofit focused on environmental justice. Oregon passed the first paint take-back legislation of its kind in 2009, and enacted a pilot program in July 2010.

How to safely dispose of paint

How to safely dispose of paint

How to safely dispose of paint

These programs require the paint industry to set up take-back locations, listed at, a nonprofit that represents paint manufacturers and producers. PaintCare “plan[s] and operate[s] paint stewardship programs in U.S. states and jurisdictions that pass paint stewardship laws.” And the numbers don’t lie—this process has an impact. To date, PaintCare has collected 48.7 million gallons of paint.

Today, the regions with active paint take-back programs include:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, consumers bear the brunt of the cost of these programs, because paint is now marginally more costly. And if you live in another state not on this list, properly disposing of unused paint presents the same challenge it always has.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #2: Buy the right amount of paint.

How to safely dispose of paint

It sounds simple, but if you buy the right amount of paint, you won’t have any unused paint to deal with after the paint job is done! Berry calls it “pre-cycling.” Measure your walls, and multiply length x height to estimate the square footage (don’t forget to subtract for doors and windows). The rule of thumb is that one gallon of paint will cover about 350 square feet with a single coat.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #3: Store unused paint.

How to safely dispose of paint

PaintCare recommends covering the paint can’s mouth with plastic wrap, tightly securing the lid, then turning the leak-proof can upside down for storage. Store paint in a place that is out of reach for children and pets, and that won’t get too hot, and won’t freeze. Remember to label your paints so you know which room each can corresponds to.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #4: Mix and reuse latex paints.

How to safely dispose of paint

Latex paints can be blended and used, though don’t expect an aesthetically pleasing hue. Still, for base coats and functional paint jobs, this is an economical and environmentally friendly way to reuse old paint. Berry also recommends checking with local waste haulers, municipalities and schools; many have programs to collect paints, blend them and use them on community projects. “We shouldn’t look at how to recycle first, but who can use this next,” she said.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #5: Recycle empty paint cans.

How to safely dispose of paint

If you’ve emptied a can of paint, let the residue air-dry, then recycle the can with other metals. Check with your waste hauler, first, but many community recycling programs accept paint cans this way, Berry said.

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #6: Dispose of oil paints as hazardous waste.

How to safely dispose of paint

For oil-based paints, the best option for disposal is a local Household Hazardous Waste facility. Some communities offer year-round access to these waste-handling services, but others offer drop-off days only once or twice a year. Check with your municipality or waste hauler for details, or plug in your zip code at’s recycling center locator or call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687). PaintCare cautions that “air-drying of liquid alkyd or oil based paint is not considered safe.”

✅ How to Dispose of Paint Method #7: Toss latex paint in the trash, but recycle the cans.

How to safely dispose of paint

Unlike oil paints, latex paints aren’t considered hazardous waste. If you have leftover latex paints that can’t be recycled, reused or stored, pour the paints into a box with shredded paper or kitty litter, allow it to solidify away from kids or pets, then discard in the trash. Recycle empty paint cans with other metals.

If dried paint fills a can to a depth of about a half inch or less, dry it in the can and recycle the paint can. If you have a more-or-less full can of dried latex paint, unfortunately, the next step is to remove the lid and toss the whole can in with the trash.

“If you have the opportunity to recycle the paint and recycle the can,” Berry said, “that’s the best option.” We agree.

Words Maha Elley

Got a few unused (or half-used) tins of paint in the garage or tucked into the back of your garden shed?

Let’s face it, we’ve all had a few paint tins gathering dust in storage at some point. The main reason we choose to ignore them for so long? Most of us just aren’t quite sure what to do with them.

So, how exactly do you deal with old paint? Or paint that you don’t want? Do you toss it in a bin and hope for the best?

The short answer? No. Learn how to dispose of paint in a safer and more eco-friendly way…..

Paint tin disposal: why you need to think about it

Although paint is perfectly safe for use on your walls and ceilings, the ingredients within mean you can’t just pour it down the drain. Unused paint is classified as hazardous waste so take a little extra care when getting rid of it.

Why, you ask? Well, 1) It’s not good for the environment and 2) It could result in hard-to-shift drain blockages.

How to dispose of old paint: can you throw it in the bin?

Just as you can’t simply pour unused paint down the drain, you can’t chuck old paint tins in the bin either. Liquid paint isn’t allowed in landfill sites so your council won’t accept it.

Don’t worry though, you’re not stuck with it for life. Check out what to do with leftover paint or read below.

Harden it first

Check with your local council, but in most areas, you can throw away hardened up paint with the rest of your recycling. Depending on the amount you’re dealing with, use one of the below methods to dry your paint up:

Option 1: If you’re dealing with large amounts: Add sawdust or soil to the tins and leave it out in the sun to dry out and solidify. Take to your local recycling centre for disposal.

Option 2: For smaller amounts: Pour paint onto old cardboard or newspapers to soak up and leave to dry. You can then dispose of the painted card or paper along with the rest of your household recycling.

Can you recycle the tins?

If they’re made of metal and are empty, you should be able to recycle old paint tins easily with the rest of your household recycling.

Plastic paint containers aren’t currently recyclable in most places. If you’re looking to dispose of plastic containers, check with your local recycling facility before dropping them off.

(Tip: all Lick paint tins are recyclable. just check the label).

Try donating it instead

If you know you won’t be needing leftover paint again any time soon, consider donating it. Ask around in your circle of family or friends to see whether they’d like it to decorate any surfaces around their home. You could also get in touch with local businesses or schools to see whether they may have any use for it.

. or save it for the future.

If you seal up paint tins correctly, most high-quality paint can last for up to 10 years in their original container. You may be glad you saved it next time you see a little scrape or dent on a painted surface. Try using it for other home interior projects or exterior makeovers (check out how to paint a shed and the best shed paint to use).

Seal unused paint by hammering down cling film over the closed tin lid. Store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. Label with the date of storage and do a thorough check of its condition before using again. Signs that it’s no good for use in the future? Hard lumps or a foul smell.

How to safely dispose of paint

Every household has products that are hazardous to dispose of:

  • Light bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Electronics (household appliances, computers)
  • Paint
  • Pesticides
  • Household cleaners

Request a free household hazardous waste pick-up.

San Francisco residents get special services for household toxic products. Call Recology at (415) 330-1405 or email them at [email protected] to schedule a FREE home pick-up from your San Francisco residence. Appointments are available Wednesday to Saturday mornings. You must be present at the time of pick-up.

ACCEPTED: With the free home pick up service, you can dispose of the following:

  • Oil-based paints
  • Solvents
  • Cleaning products
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Automotive products
  • Photo chemicals
  • Mercury thermometers
  • Non-empty aerosols
  • Old and expired Medicines and Needles cannot be collected by the home pick up service. Click here for information on safe medicine disposal.
  • Unknown or unlabeled toxic and other hazardous substances cannot be collected by the home pick up service. They must be taken directly to the household hazardous waste facility.

Find a drop-off location near you

Note: Due to shelter-in-place public health orders in effect across the Bay Area, many facilities, programs and businesses are closed or may have reduced services. We recommend calling them before dropping off your waste. Please follow State and Federal guidelines for keeping yourself and our community safe and healthy.

Depending on where you live, you might have neighborhood stores like hardware stores, pharmacies, auto shops or paint stores that take back one or more of the following toxic products. Ask at the store where you bought it or use SFRecycles to find a convenient drop off location near you for the following items:

  • Fluorescent tubes CFL or HID bulbs – many hardware stores take back light bulbs that are hazardous waste
  • Used motor oil and filters – many auto repair stations and parts stores take back used motor oil and filters
  • House paint (latex and oil-based)
  • Household Batteries – alkaline & rechargeable, AA, AAA, D, button batteries, etc. Read this important safety information on storing and transporting batteries.
  • TV’s, Computers, Cell Phones and Electronics
  • Large electronics: Get information on Recology’s free pick-up service for TVs, computer equipment, and other electronics. (Bulky Items)
  • Small empty propane tanks and cylinders – refillable, single-use. For tanks and cylinders which are not empty, use home pick-up service or permanent facility programs.
  • Medicine – Medicine disposal is only available at designated neighborhood drop-off sites. Medicines are NOT accepted by Recology’s home pick-up service or at Recology’s Permanent Facility.
  • Used and Un-used Needles & Syringes – Get information on safe storage and packaging of “sharps.”

ATTENTION: Quantity limits apply. No store takes back all items. Containers must have a label and a lid or cap. No leaking or damaged containers.

Drop off at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility

You can take your toxic products to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility:

San Francisco Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility
501 Tunnel Ave., San Francisco, CA 94134 (at The Dump)
8 A.M. – 4 P.M. – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday


  • Only San Francisco residents can use this program for hazardous waste from their home. You must bring proof of residence (driver’s license or utility bill).
  • Limit of 15 gallons or 125 pounds per visit
  • No drums, compressed gas cylinders (except small or BBQ size propane) or containers larger than five (5) gallons
  • No medicines


  • Pack household chemicals in a sturdy box and transport them in your trunk or truck bed outside of your breathing zone.
  • Put each leaking or damaged container in a separate box, plastic tub, or zip-lock bag.
  • Get more information on the San Francisco Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.

Dangers of Household Hazardous Waste

Old containers of household chemicals can deteriorate and leak, causing dangerous fumes and fires when stored inside your house, or polluting rainwater runoff when stored outside.

When disposed improperly, these products end up in the landfill or down the drain. They can leach toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the soil and groundwater. Workers can be injured when these products are crushed in garbage and recycling trucks or poured down the drain.

What about empty containers?

Household chemical containers which are empty, dry and five gallons in size or smaller can be safely and legally recycled.

  • Recycle: Empty cans of aerosol paint and latex paint (acrylic or water-based) may be placed in your blue recycling bin. All nozzles, caps, and lids must be removed and placed separately into the blue recycling bin.
  • Landfill: Put all other types of empty hazardous waste containers into your black bin for disposal – do not try to recycle these containers.
  • Call 415.355.3700 for information on recycling empty containers larger than five gallons.

Even Better Than Recycling: Reduce, Reuse

To avoid the worry of how to store and dispose of household hazardous waste:

  • Buy only what you need.
  • Share unused products or half full containers with your friends or neighbors.
  • Use up the products you purchase

Related Content

Learn more about how to safely dispose of: Light Bulbs, Batteries, Motor Oil and Filters

ATTENTION: These special services for household toxic products are available for San Francisco residents ONLY. Find programs in other Bay Area counties.

Household hazardous waste includes Anti-freeze, Gasoline, Paints, Pesticides and Other Materials

How do I properly recycle/dispose of paint?

There are several options available to the public on disposal of paint. These options are as follows:

  • Use all paint on the project at hand. This may mean putting on a third coat but it is better to do that than have the paint put in the garbage. Next, try to find someone who can use the paint. Places that may need paint could include a local theater group, school, Habitat for Humanity or other similar organization.
  • Take paint to a household hazardous waste collection event if one is held in the area or a permanent collection site if one has been established in the community (City of Jackson and Jackson County have permanent sites). Click on the link below Jackson Metro HHW to view the tri-county household hazardous waste recycling facility servicing the Jackson Metro area.
  • If the above options are unavailable, allow latex or water based paints to sit out and evaporate leaving the pigments in the bottom of the can. After this has been done, then leave the top off the can and place the can(s) out with the garbage. Latex or oil-based paints can also be mixed with oil dry, saw dust, or kitty litter which will soak up the paint. The material can then be placed in a plastic bag and put in the garbage.
  • The last alternative is to store the paint for touch-ups or other projects. Although these are good intentions for keeping and storing paint, the paint is rarely used. If this option is used, follow these easy tips to make the paint last longer when it is finally needed. First clean the area of the paint top and cover so that there will be a good seal. Next cover the opening with one or two layers of plastic wrap. Then place the lid on securely so the paint doesn’t leak. Finally, turn the paint can upside down!! This will create a tight seal, and will keep the paint fresh for the next time it is needed. As a final measure, mark on the paint can the room in the house where that color was used in the event it is actually used do touch-ups.

To find out more about safe use, storage and disposal practices; dangers of improper disposal; and reduction and alternatives for household hazardous waste, click on the Guide to Household Hazardous Waste link below.

How do I properly recycle/dispose of pesticides and other similar hazardous wastes?

These are very difficult materials to manage no matter where one lives. Here are several options:

  • Try to find someone in the neighborhood or community who can use the pesticides or any other hazardous materials for the purpose they were intended.
  • Take pesticides or other hazardous materials to a household hazardous waste collection event if one is held in the area or a permanent collection site if one has been established in the community (City of Jackson and Jackson County have permanent sites). Click here on Jackson Metro HHW to view the tri-county household hazardous waste recycling facility servicing the Jackson Metro HHW area.

To find out more about safe use, storage and disposal practices; dangers of improper disposal; and reduction and alternatives for household hazardous waste, click on the Guide to Household Hazardous Waste link below.

How do I properly recycle/dispose of old gasoline?
  • Allow the old gasoline to evaporate in a well ventilated area such as the backyard until all the fuel is gone.
  • Mix very small quantities of old gasoline with the regular gasoline and slowly burn it off in a lawn mower or similar engine. A ratio of 1 part old gasoline to 20 parts of good gasoline is suggested.
  • Take the old gasoline to a household hazardous waste collection event if one is held in the area or a permanent collection site if one has been established in the community (City of Jackson and Jackson County have permanent sites). Click below on Jackson Metro HHW to view the tri-county household hazardous waste recycling facility servicing the Jackson Metro area.
How do I properly recycle/dispose of antifreeze?

Antifreeze is generally one of the most difficult items to dispose of properly. In addition, antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and other animals. The best option is to first purchase the new environmentally safe antifreezes that are now on the market. Otherwise contact the nearest car dealership, or automotive repair shop to see if they’ll take and recycle antifreeze. Antifreeze can also be taken to a household hazardous waste collection event if one is held in the area or a permanent collection site if one has been established in the community (City of Jackson and Jackson County have permanent sites). The only other option is to pour the antifreeze down the sink drain followed by several gallons of water. This is not advisable if the house in connected to a septic tank. Click below on Jackson Metro HHW to view the tri-county household hazardous waste recycling facility servicing the Jackson Metro area.

Liquid paint can cause big messes when mixed with garbage. Have you ever seen a big splotch or a trail of paint down the street in your neighborhood? That is what often happens when paint is picked up with garbage and compacted in the garbage truck. Aside from the mess, many paints contain toxic materials or vapors that can be released into the environment.


Liquid paint can cause big messes when mixed with garbage. Have you ever seen a big splotch or a trail of paint down the street in your neighborhood? That is what often happens when paint is picked up with garbage and compacted in the garbage truck. Aside from the mess, many paints contain toxic materials or vapors that are released into the environment when paint isn’t properly handled.


Liquid Paints – Although there are thousands of different paint and paint related products on the market, they consist of 2 general types: oil-based and water-based (latex).

Latex Paint – Water-based products are generally safer to use and less harmful to the environment. Full or partially full cans of latex paint can be brought to a SWA household hazardous waste collection site. Good, usable latex paint may be sent to a paint manufacturer and recycled. The SWA recycled over 5,000 gallons of paint last year. If available, Non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive free recycled paint through the SWA’s Community Service Program.

Smaller amounts of latex paint can be easily dried out and thrown away with your household garbage. Remove the lid and add sand, cat litter, or sawdust to absorb the liquid and let it dry. Leave the lid off of the container when disposing.

Spray Cans – Aerosol cans are pressurized. In addition to containing a flammable propellant they often contain toxic materials. Empty, depressurized aerosol cans may be placed in your household garbage. If the nozzle functions properly, spray it until empty and place in the garbage. If the can still has product in it that cannot be sprayed out, bring it to a household hazardous waste collection site.

Oil-based Paint & Thinners – Oil-based products are often flammable, release greater amounts of harmful vapors into the air, and may contain toxic chemicals or metals.

Dry Paint – Any paint product that is already dry can be safely disposed in the garbage. This includes empty containers. Please leave the lid off when disposing.


Any HCRC. Households may use the dedicated drop-off areas at Solid Waste Authority transfer stations. These drop-off areas provide convenient locations for individuals to discard unwanted paints.