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Paint Disposal – What to do with Old Paint


Disposal of old paint and hazardous household material

So you’ve decided to do some purging and organizing in the garage. We’re doing the same thing here. And one of the things we have plenty of is old paint. Such is life when you’ve always got a paint project going. And since paint is considered hazardous, you must be careful how you dispose of it and other household waste.

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What should you keep?

Any paint that isn’t chunky or smelly or dried up is probably still usable if you stir it well. Don’t have it shaken on a paint shaker because the can might be weakened from age and could spring a leak if clamped down too hard. That gets really messy.

If the paint is leftover from a color that you still have on your walls or furniture, you’ll want to hang on to it for touch ups. Try to keep it in the original can in case you need to purchase more in the future. The original can has product numbers, paint formulas, and everything the paint store needs to make more for you. However, if the can is rusted, strain the paint with a strainer like this and pour it into a fresh airtight container. Paint isn’t cheap so you’ll want to preserve it as long as possible.

New metal gallon size paint cans with lids can be found here. Quart size can be found here.

On the lid of your container write the room the paint is used in and the date you painted it. Keep the label from the old can and any other information if possible.

If it’s still usable but you won’t be needing it any more there are a few options.

*Give it to a friend or someone who might be sprucing things up. Maybe you know someone who has their first home or apartment and wants to paint a wall or a piece of furniture. They might be glad to get it.

*Habitat for Humanity Re-stores. Most will accept donations of paint and other usable household items. Don’t bring them anything that’s not usable because then they’ll have to dispose of it.

Go here to find your nearest Re-store.

*Check with local art departments/schools or performance theaters. Sometimes they need paint for projects or backdrops.

If it can’t be used there are also a few options.

*If it’s completely dried up then it’s no longer hazardous and can be put out with the trash. If you’re not sure, push an old paint stick down into it. Sometimes paint will have a layer of dried paint on the surface but is still liquid underneath. 

*If it’s still liquid you can add this hardener or cat litter which will soak up the liquid and then you might be able to add it to the trash. Check with your local trash service for their policy on this.

*In most counties there’s a drop off facility for paint and other hazardous materials. Check with your county government for locations and dates. 

For Anderson County, Tennessee residents, here’s the link to the site : Anderson County Solid Waste Management.

*Certain states have locations called PaintCare where you can drop off old paint. Go here to see if there’s one near you.

How to avoid leftover paint

It may be impossible to have no paint leftover from a project. And it’s actually not a bad idea to have a little for touch ups. But if you don’t over buy then you won’t have a lot of leftovers to deal with. 

*A quality paint will cover about 350 square feet. Determine how much you’ll be covering and how many coats you’ll need and you should be able to buy the correct amount.

*Don’t buy 5 gallons thinking you’re saving a bundle because you’re probably not. If it’s really cheap, then it will take multiple coats and you’ll have to buy more than you would otherwise. You’re not actually saving money but are creating more work this way. And who wants to paint a room 4 times because the cheap paint you got for such a great price doesn’t cover at all? Not me. Spend a little more per gallon and you won’t regret it or have to buy as much. This saves you time and money, I promise.

*If you end up having most of a gallon left over, paint a closet or laundry room or some other small space if you really want to use it up. There’s always somewhere in the house that could use a fresh coat of paint, right? 

Do you have any other tips for getting rid of old paint? Comment below and share any ideas.

Want to see how our garage organization project turned out? Go here for the details.

Garage Organization Goals

And for other home organizing tips, go here.

Thanks for dropping by! Happy purging!



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  1. Great tips! After living here for 20+ years, we have a lot of paint that we need to get rid of.

  2. Kitty litter also soaks up old paint. Check your local sanitation department website for paint recycling/disposal days.

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