Whether they handle their painting project themselves or hire a professional contractor, there is one ecologically hazardous thing that a lot of people still do: throw their old paint and paint cans in the garbage.

Tossing your old paint cans in the trash is dangerous and irresponsible. But you don’t have to keep them lying around, taking up space in your garage because you don’t know what to do with them either. Today’s post is all about the hazards of throwing paint cans in the trash and how to dispose of them correctly.

Paint Disposal

What’s the Big Deal?

First of all, not all paint is dangerous to throw away. Latex paint is considered safe to throw in the regular garbage if you let the residual paint in the can completely dry out. Oil-based paints however are another matter.

Oil-based paints contain toxic chemicals which can damage topsoil, contaminate water and can even become flammable. Dumping your paint cans in the trash may expose yourself, your neighbors or anyone else who comes into contact with it to chemicals that can irritate:

  • Lungs
  • Eyes
  • Skin

If you choose to dump your excess paint and wash it away with a hose, you are exposing animals to potentially fatal chemicals and contaminating your local water source. If you are dumping lead-based paint, you could be putting yourself and others at risk of lead poisoning.

But the ramifications aren’t just health-related. In some cities, you could incur serious fines for the improper disposal of paint. If it is found that by dumping paint, you injured someone or damaged their property, they could easily take legal action against you.

So how do you Get Rid of it?

Let’s start with the easiest solution. As mentioned earlier, latex paint is not as toxic as oil-based but it still needs to be disposed of properly. For small amounts of residual paint, letting it set in the sun for a couple days will be enough to harden it which makes it safe to throw away.

If there is more than just a residual amount, you can purchase paint hardeners at your local hardware store or try dousing it with kitty litter so that it clumps up.

So what about oil-based paints? If you have excess oil-based paints, you will have to either donate them or take them to a proper waste receptacle. Oil-based paints are considered household hazardous materials so if you have a HHW facility nearby, you can certainly take any unused paint there.

Non-profit organizations like local schools and Habitat for Humanity may also accept unused paint as a donation.

You may also have recycling facilities or even hardware stores near you that will accept the paint and either dispose of it legally or recycle it.

If you are ever unsure about how to dispose of your paint, get in touch with your local Department of Sanitation and they will be able to give you all the information you need. You can also give us a call here at Century Painting and we would be happy to help!