Painting is an easy way to update a room, but often you end up with a lot left over. But don't just dump it down the drain! 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. Here's how to properly dispose of it.
Think before you toss.
If sealed correctly, latex paint can last up to 10 years, and oil-based paint up to 15. 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) and with the original label. Add the date you opened it and room it corresponds to (it's unlikely you'll remember which wall was "Violet Mist" and which was "Lavender Blue" in a few years).
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.
Try to donate it.
If you know you won't use leftover paint again, try to reuse or recycle it. Ask a friend if they need some paint or use the leftover 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 , for example, take latex paint. Or list it on a site like or TrashNothing.com to see if anyone wants to take it off your hands.
Dry it out before you throw it away.
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 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.
Find a disposal location.
If you can't properly dispose of the paint curbside, let the professionals handle it. Companies like , , and accept leftover paint in order to recycle it. You can also search for a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area at .
Plan for the future.
Next time you do a makeover, get a good estimate of how much to buy ahead of time with so you don't end up with much left over.