What to Do With Your Leftover Paint

Posted on Feb 20th 2019


What to Do With Your Leftover Paint

No matter how hard you try to only buy the amount of paint you need, sometimes you find yourself at the end of your project stuck with half a can of unused paint, having totally overestimated. Leftover paint is a common accident, but it needs to be properly handled whether you decide to get rid of it or save it. Here are some tips on what to do with your leftover paint, brought to you by our interior painting professionals.

Take It to a Disposal Center or a Recycling Center

Leftover paint is dangerous for both the environment and humans, especially oil-based paint. Oil-based paints are considered hazardous waste and must be taken to a disposal or recycling center. They cannot be poured down drains or solidified and placed out with the garbage, and air-drying is not recommended either because of fume build-up. You should never attempt to throw away oil-based paints by yourself. Latex paints can also become hazardous if not disposed of correctly. If you don't know where you can take your paint, you can search for hazardous waste drop-off locations near you, find a company that accepts leftover paint for recycling, or consider donating your paint to a local school, church, or community center in need of extra paint.

If You're Throwing It Out, Let It Dry First

While you can't throw oil-based paints out yourself, latex paints are safe to dispose of on your own if done appropriately. It is considered hazardous to throw away when wet so you'll have to let it dry out beforehand. If there is only a small amount of paint left in the bottom of the paint can or on the lid, leaving it out to dry in the sun for a day or so will do the trick. If there's enough left that air-drying would be impractical (think half a can or less) you can DIY a solution by adding equal parts cat litter or shredded newspaper to the paint. Stir it up and leave it to sit for a few hours until it absorbs and dries up the paint. If you have a larger amount of paint or don't want to use the cat litter/newspaper method, paint hardeners can be purchased at any home improvement store for a low cost with the same effect. Once the leftover paint has dried you can simply throw it away if your city permits it. Check local laws to be sure, but many locations allow dried latex paint to be thrown away with your regular trash. It should be discarded with the lid off to prevent pressure build-up in the can, preferably in a metal recycling program or in the normal garbage if the paint container is plastic. Just keep in mind that this is only true for latex paint.

If You Don't Want It to Go to Waste, Donate It

Like we said above, throwing it out or taking it to a disposal center isn't your only option when getting rid of your leftover paint. There are multiple companies, organizations, and charities such as PaintCare Inc. and Habitat for Humanities ReStore that accept leftover paint donations with open arms. Keep in mind, though, that whether or not an organization will take leftover paint depends on what they need or are even able to accept; because the paint is considered a hazardous substance, disposal rules and inability to sell it may mean they'll have no practical use for leftover paint. Call ahead and make sure that your donation will be more of a help than a burden for them. You can also get in contact with places around your community such as local schools, churches, libraries, or hospitals to see if they would have any use for extra paint in upcoming projects.

Or Store It and Save It for Later

Saving your paint for later is a smart move if you have enough left. When sealed and stored properly, latex paint can last up to 10 years, and oil-based can last up to 15. You'll be grateful you have some extra paint on hand the next time a scratch or smudge requires a touch-up. To seal a paint can, place a piece of plastic wrap under the lid and either hammer the lid down or otherwise tightly secure it. This ensures that the paint comes in contact with as little oxygen as possible and stays fresh longer. Once the lid is leak-proof, turn the can upside down and store it in a cool, dry spot in your home that won't be exposed to extreme temperatures or sunlight. Another useful tip is labeling the can with the paint's color, brand, and the date/location it was used on so you don't run the risk of playing a guessing game later on. If you go to use the paint and it has hardened, turned thick and lumpy, separated, or has a foul smell it's probably gone bad and should be disposed of through one of the methods mentioned earlier.

Or Repurpose It

It seems a shame to part with the remainder of a beautiful paint color even if you know you'll never need it for any of your other walls again. But the walls aren't the only things in your home that can be painted; if you're hesitant to get rid of your leftover paint, try venturing into some DIY projects around your house to use it up. This is a fun option that will allow you to get creative with your interior design. Experiment with repainting a bookshelf, a table, a set of stairs, a picture frame, any piece of wooden furniture, etc. It's a great way to add visual interest or contrast to a previously boring space, especially if you're using a vibrant color.

Mistakes happen, and ending up with leftover paint is one that has a lot of solutions for you to choose from. Half used cans of paint don't have to go to waste in your basement for years while you decide what to do with them or end up carelessly disposed of. Knowing what to do with your leftover paint will help you both get the most for your money and have a more positive impact on your community/the environment.

Do you have any questions? Contact one of our Painter1 expert painting contractors today to discuss having your home professionally painted. We're happy to help!