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How to Dispose of Paint

Whether you’re flipping a piece of furniture or working on a whole-house renovation, there’s a big chance you’ll end up with some paint left over from your most well-planned projects. When that happens, you’ll need to know how to dispose of paint safely, and in a way that abides by your community’s guidelines. Those rules vary depending on the type of paint, the amount you have left, and your state’s hazardous waste laws. 

Picture of old paint cans for the blog about how to dispose of paint in North Carolina

When To Dispose of Paint

Holding out hope that you still may be able to use that old paint for another project down the line? Well, you may actually be able to. Latex paint can last as long as 10 years when properly stored and sealed, while oil-based paint can last up to 15 years. 

If you can’t remember exactly how long ago you purchased this particular paint, or if you aren’t sure your storage was up to snuff, you can typically tell if it’s time to toss it out simply by the smell of it. First, pop the lid open; if it still smells like paint, you’re good to go. If, however, it smells sour or off, it’s probably gone bad. 

However, we don’t recommend sniffing paint – so exercise caution if choosing to test your paint’s shelf life in this way! If you suspect your paint has already gone bad: just get a new batch! If you do have a significant amount and don’t want to waste it, paint a test strip and see how it dries. Skim off the top layer of skin, mix the paint vigorously, then paint your sample. Give it a few days to fully cure to see how the paint looks when dried.

How to Dispose of Paint 

If it is time to throw out that old paint, it won’t be as simple as tossing the half-full can right into the garbage. 

Many types of paint used around the house are considered hazardous waste so it’s important to know how to dispose of paint the right way. Latex-based paint, commonly used on walls and ceilings, can quickly clog up pipes and lead to sewage system damage. 

Oil-based paints, typically used on furniture, cabinets, and trim, are flammable, and both can leak toxic chemicals into the environment. This is especially true of pouring paint down storm drains, where it can pollute streams, rivers, and other water sources. That’s why it’s especially important to know how to dispose of paint the proper way.

How to Dispose of Latex-based Paint 

Method 1: Let it Dry

Not sure how to dispose of paint when it’s latex-based? Latex paint disposal can be a little confusing, as it can technically be disposed of along with other waste and picked up by your local waste collection agency. However, it can only be disposed in its solid, dried form—not in liquid form.

You can use a few different methods to dry out your remaining paint. If there’s only a bit left, you can probably dry it out simply by opening the can and letting it air dry. Or, spread out some newspaper or other waste on the ground and pour the remaining paint on that to speed up the drying process, then toss that pain-covered waste out. Voila! 

If you have a nearly-full can of paint that needs to be disposed of, air-drying may not be an option. Instead mix cat litter into the paint, which will speed up the drying process, then toss it out. 

Method 2: Throw in Some Kitty Litter

You read that right! A great way to soak up that extra latex paint is to toss some cat litter into the paint can. Make sure your paint and litter mixture is a 1:1 ratio. Let this gross concoction dry for at least one hour so that it hardens into a solid. Then, you can toss it into the garbage.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint 

Method 1: Take it to an Approved Drop-Off Area

Oil-based paints, whether in liquid or solid form, cannot be disposed of with regular waste. Instead, you’ll need to follow your state’s guidelines for hazardous waste disposal. 

In North Carolina, you can take your old oil-based paints to your nearest hazardous waste drop-off site, or leave it on the curb on the designated hazardous waste collection day of your neighborhood.

Method 2: Donate it

You can also donate your paint to a community center, charity, place of worship, local theater or Habitat for Humanity ReStore. These organizations often work on projects and could make great use of some extra paint supplies! Once they’ve used up the paint all they need to do is know how to dispose of paint cans. 

Recycling Old Paint

Even if your paint hasn’t gone bad, you may simply find that you no longer have a use for it. In that case, consider recycling or donating it as a more sustainable option. 

Look for your local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection center online to find one near you. These centers can serve as a middle man when it comes to finding places that may be taking paint donations. They can also repurpose hazardous wastes to be used as fuel. 

If you have a lot of paint left, you may even want to list it for sale on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You’d be shocked by how many people are in the market for discounted paint products that can make you a profit. 

Call Wall Recycling & Waste Management

Looking or a place to drop off your old paint or still not sure how to dispose of paint? Wall Recycling has several waste collection centers across North Carolina including Raleigh, Greensboro, Wilmington, Durham, and more. Once you drop off your latex or oil-based products, we take it from there, making sure they are properly disposed of to protect both our community and its ecosystems. However, not all locations take paint and old paint cans so contact your nearest Wall Recycling center!

Contact us today to learn more about paint recycling in North Carolina!