What to Do with Left Over Paint

According to the National Paint & Coatings Association, paint can last for years when you follow these proper storage tips:

  • Cover the opening with plastic wrap
  • Make sure the lid fits securely so the paint doesn’t leak
  • Store the paint can upside down; that creates a tight seal around the lid, keeping the paint fresh until you need it again

But if you want to give the boot to those old cans, here’s what you can do:

Check the Label: Paint made before 1978 might contain lead, and paint made before 1991 might contain mercury. Both materials should be listed on the paint label.

Recycle It: Hunterdon County offers recycling programs for old paint and empty paint cans. Water-based or latex paint can be recycled into new paint or it can even be used to create non-paint products such as cement. Oil-based or alkyd paint is usually used for fuel blending; meaning it is burned to create energy at a power plant.

Donate It for Reuse: Some organizations will accept paint that is in good condition; meaning it can be easily stirred to a smooth consistency and is uncontaminated. The paint should also be in an intact, labeled container. Check for donation options in your area at Earth911.com.

Dispose of It: If you can’t donate or recycle your paint, here is how you can dispose of latex paint:  Dry out the paint and place in your regular trash.

Note: Oil-based paint is always considered hazardous and should be disposed of at a household-hazardous waste collection facility.

To Dry Out Paint

1. Check the label to see if any lead or hazardous materials are in it. If there are, then you must wait for the County hazardous waste collection day.

2. If no hazardous materials are in the paint, remove the lid and let the paint air dry in the can. To speed up the process, stir in an absorbent material such as clay kitty litter, sawdust, or leftover concrete mix.

3. Look to see when the paint is completely dry and shows no moisture whatsoever; wrap the dried clump in newspaper and place it into your regular trash. Do not place the lid back on the can. Wrap the lid and can separately in newspaper for disposal.

If you need to dispose of a lot of latex paint, you may want to consider purchasing “waste paint hardener.”  A cup or so of this powder mixed in with a gallon of paint will cause paint to harden up within hours.