Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Almost every household has some type of hazardous waste. All painting jobs create waste that can be harmful if handled or discarded improperly. When paint, paint waste or rinse-water enters the stormwater system, it drains directly into local streams and rivers without water treatment. Aside from causing environmental damage, improper disposal of paint and paint waste violates state, federal, and local laws, and could lead to costly fines or penalties.

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention (P2) is a term used by EPA and industry to describe methods and practices that focus on minimizing or eliminating the generation of pollution in place of treatment or disposal. Most paint waste is simply unused/unwanted paint that is caused by over purchasing. Accurately estimating the paint you will need to do the job before purchasing it and only purchasing that amount is the best way to minimize paint waste. This is a P2 idea that will also save you money! There are many online paint estimators to help you calculate the amount of paint you will need. Here are some links to a few good calculators:

Environmentally friendly tips to disposing and cleaning up paint properly:

Recycling is the best option, but if your community doesn't have a program, you can't simply toss dried paint into your trash can. To be acceptable for landfill, paint must be thoroughly dry.

There are a number of ways you can dry up your excess paint*

  • For small amounts of paint you can
    1. Leave the lid off the can and set it out to dry (Hint, leave the lids off the cans for pick-up so they can see the paint is dry and accept it.)
    2. Pour the paint out onto cardboard or newspaper in a thin layer and let dry
  • For larger amounts you can
    1. Give the paint to someone who can use it (i.e., friends & neighbors, recreation departments, theatre groups, housing assistance groups)
    2. Mix in equal parts of kitty litter, sand, saw dust, crushed corn cobbs, or any other absorbent material and let dry.
    3. An easy-to-use, nontoxic product called Waste Paint Hardener shortens the drying process for acrylic and latex paint to a matter of minutes. You can find this product in most local hardware/paint stores.

* As always, find an outside work area away from children, pets and rain. Locked screen porches and storage sheds work well. Because oil-based paint contains solvents and some latex paint contains mercury, it's important to dry out paint outdoors in a safe place. Paint will take between several days and several months to dry - it depends on the type and quantity of paint that you have.

Cleaning Up

  • Wash all latex paint equipment at an interior drain (such as a tub or sink) or into a bucket for later disposal down an inside drain.
  • Let latex paint containers dry out before putting them out for regular garbage pick-up.
  • Allow paint solids in used solvents to settle, then pour off the clear portion and reuse.
  • Collect all paint chips and dust and dispose of in the trash can. * Oil-based paints, stains, and solvents are considered hazardous materials.
  • Clean up paint spills with an absorbent material like kitty litter or sand. Once absorbed, sweep up and deposit into a garbage can for regular pick-up.
  • Never pour any type of paint, paint waste, or wash water onto the ground or into an outside drain, creek, ditch, or street gutter.

More information on waste paint disposal:

More information on home painting projects from EPA:

Remember to keep paint out of storm drains!

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