Chances are if you own a home, you have several partially full cans of paint collecting dust in your basement or garage. Properly disposing of old paint is not necessarily as difficult as you think.
- The best way to dispose of old paint is to avoid accumulating it in the first place. Purchase just enough paint to do the job, and when the project is complete, keep painting until the paint is gone. A third coat of paint on that bedroom wall will last much longer than that quarter can of leftover paint in the basement.
- Store leftover paint properly to maintain its usefulness. Place a splotch of paint on the top of the can and make note of which room the paint was used in. Cover the top of the can with a layer of plastic wrap, replace the lid and then hammer it into place. Store the can in a cool dark area. Do not allow the can to freeze or overheat, as temperature extremes will cause the paint to coagulate and become useless.
- Recycle unused paint by donating it to local nonprofit agencies or theater groups.
- Water-based paints can be safely disposed of in most public landfills, if they are solidified. To facilitate the hardening process, purchase a packet of latex paint hardening agent from the local hardware or paint store. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, mix the powder or liquid into the old paint can and allow it to harden. Latex paint can also be hardened by mixing kitty litter or shredded paper with it. In a well-ventilated area, away from children and pets, remove the paint can lid, add shredded paper or clean kitty litter to soak up excess paint and allow to dry. Once the paint has hardened, dispose of the can with the weekly trash pickup.
- Oil-based paints should always be taken to the household hazardous waste facility for disposal. Oil-based paints are flammable and contain toxic resins, pigments and solvents. Paints manufactured before 1978 may also contain lead and mercury.
Any paints can be dropped off at the Lawrence-Douglas County Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Call 832-3030 to schedule a drop-off appointment. There is no fee to Douglas County households.
Never pour leftover paint on the ground or down the drain. Dispose of paint properly to help keep the air, soil and groundwater free from contaminants and reduce the risk of these poisons finding their way back into our food systems and drinking water.