If you have paint cans stacking up in your basement or closet because you aren’t sure whether to keep them or how to dispose of them, you’ve come to the right place! First, you will want to determine if the paint is still good or not. Any solvent-based paint typically has a 15-year shelf life. If you are able to stir it, it’s probably okay to keep for touch ups. Latex paint has a 10-year shelf life. If there is any way it could have frozen in storage, it may not be usable. You can test to see by stirring and brushing the paint onto newspaper. If there are lumps, the paint needs to be tossed.
Next, you’ll decide what you actually want to keep. If your walls are no longer that color, it is likely time to get rid of that paint. If it is a color still in your home, it will be good to hang on to for touch-ups and repainting in the future. If there are any loose lids, be sure to seal them carefully. If you have the information, now would be a great time to label them with color name, number and date of purchase.
If you have good paint that you can’t use, offer it to family, friends and neighbors, or call a local paint contractor. Some charities take paint too, especially those that do work helping the elderly with home renovations.
Now that you’ve handled paint you want to keep or donate, it is time to dispose of what is left. Disposal is dependent on the type of paint. One gallon of paint can contaminate thousands of gallons of water, harm fish and aquatic plant life and eventually poison the food chain.
For latex and acrylic paints, you can solidify these paints and throw them away with the household trash depending on the municipality. To do this, mix your paint with a clay-based cat litter at a ratio of two parts litter to one part paint. Do this in a well-ventilated area, away from pets and children. Many hardware stores also carry additives to put into your paint to solidify it for disposal.
For oil-based paints, you will need to check if there is a scheduled household waste collection day in your community. You can also bring paints to a specified collection site along with other toxic products you want to get rid of, such as paint removers, used solvents, pesticides and herbicides, and you can get that information from your local community waste programs. If your community does not offer this service, call your County Extension Home Economics Agent, the local waste management agency, your area’s water treatment plant or the local landfill, and ask what the procedure is for where you live.