How to Manage Paint Disposal

The best way to deal with paint disposal is to purchase and use enough for the job with very little left over. Often this isn’t always possible, since paint estimating isn’t an exact science. Plus, you should try to have some leftover paint for touch up.

Now that you have some leftover paint, what do you do with it?

You should try to keep at least a full quart of interior paints and a full gallon of exterior paint for touch-ups and possible matching in the future. It is much easier to match the original paint. Disposing of any remaining paint in the trash is possible but care is needed.


Paint Disposal Options

The best way to deal with paint disposal is recycling and reuse. These can be recycling or reuse programs provided by your local city or county government. Here in Colorado Springs the program accepts all types of poisonous chemicals.

If no programs exist, the next best area to check is with your local church or charities. These organizations often repair homes and buildings and always need good paint and other finishes. Donations of latex or oil based paint, primer and clear wood finishes like varnish might be possible. Crowder Painting donates or gives away many gallons of paint and stains every year. These materials are often used by charities to paint schools and churches.

Another option is recycling programs offered by the paint manufactures. This is still rare but gaining acceptance by the industry. Inquire with your local paint stores about this option and voice your opinion if this type of recycling isn’t available in your area. Eventually the paint manufactures will have to practice a more open attitude toward paint recycling.


Sometimes We Can’t Give Our Leftover Paint Away!

What do we do? If the amount is small it can be put into the trash if allowed to dry completely. Never put liquid paint into the trash or down the drain. Drying paint can be accomplished in a couple of different ways.

  • Use a paint hardener. Paint hardener, a powder that is mixed into paint, is an environmentally-friendly way to manage left over paint. It turns liquid paint solid for curbside disposal. Works with latex and acrylic paints and stains. Less mess and less effort than than other methods, no need to use kitty litter, or sand. Works great on cleaning up spills too!
  • Use cat litter. This is a great way to deal with paint disposal, especially with water based paints. Materials needed are a 5 gallon pail, cheep cat litter and a sturdy stick for stirring. Combine your paint and cat litter together inside the pail. Do this slowly and allow the litter to soak up the paint. Stir well to distribute the paint evenly into the cat litter. Allow this mixture to dry in the pail, stirring occasionally. You can also spread the mixture over thick plastic in the sun.
  • Use a cardboard box and thick plastic. This method works well but the use of an absorbent material, cat litter, seams to work better. The materials needed for this paint disposal method are one shallow and sturdy cardboard box and thick, 6 mil, plastic. Line the box with the plastic and pour in a layer of paint. The paint dries faster if the layers are kept under 1/2 inches thick. Allow to dry completely then add another layer. When you are done simply peel out the plastic and throw away.


The cat litter and cardboard box paint disposal methods need to be done outdoors with good weather. The paint will dry best when the temperatures are warm and in the sun. Water based paints dry the fastest taking a full day or more while oil based paints can take several days or longer to completely dry.

Remember never throw away any paint until it is fully dry and solid.

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