How Do I Get Rid Of Leftover Or Unwanted Paints, Legally!

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How To Dispose Of Old Unwanted Paint

With warmer weather fast approaching the Long Island Area, many people will start their Spring cleaning soon. One thing that many people have a hard time dealing with is leftover paint. How do you know if you can still use it, or if you should dispose of it? Once you’ve figured that out, then what?

The first thing you have to figure out, is the paint even still good? If you recently bought it, chances are it’s fine. Storage has a lot to do with how long paint will keep though. If you have a water-based or latex paint, these can usually last for about 10 years. A solvent or oil-based paints will typically outlast those by another 5 years.



  • Latex – First, smell it. If it smells rancid, it’s gone bad. Does it look like it separated? If it does, remove the thin skin layer on top, and try to mix it back together. Make sure there are no hard spots on the bottom or the sides. If the paint blends back together and looks like the correct color, it should be fine. However, you can always test it by brushing some onto a piece of newspaper to be sure. If it comes out lumpy or rough looking, you should dispose of it.
  • Oil-Based – As we said, storage is everything. As long as it was sealed properly and wasn’t exposed to extreme temperatures, this paint isn’t as prone to going bad as latex is. If it hasn’t been moved for a while, there’s likely to be a thin skin coat across the top of the paint, which will need to be removed before you try mixing it back together, just like with latex.

Ok, so your paint is still good. What are you going to do with it? You can check out this blog we wrote about uses for leftover paint for some ideas. Keep in mind, the options are limitless though.

Maybe you thought about it a little too late, and your paint went bad though. How do you dispose of paint? Legally I mean, you can’t just throw it out, as it’s considered hazardous material. You’re in luck though, as the process for getting rid of it is pretty simple.

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  • A drying agent, such as kitty litter or sawdust – for mixing purposes
  • Stir sticks – which you can get for free at any paint supply store
  • Tarp – to place cans on and clean up any spilled litter

The actual process is really simple, so we’ll use kitty litter as our example. Mix the litter into the paint until you have a thick consistency. For latex paint, this will end up being about 50/50 litter to paint ratio. Oil-based paint is about ⅓ paint to ⅔ litter – this one will also take longer to dry. You’ll want to add enough litter to get a thick oatmeal texture when stirring. Make sure to get the litter all the way to the bottom, otherwise, that paint won’t dry completely.

If you’re having any doubts about how much litter you’ve added, go with the general rule of thumb – more is better. You can also check out the video below for a visual aid. Once you’ve got the paint to that texture, let it sit for about 3-4 hours before returning. If you can allow it to sit in the sun, this will help it dry faster. If the mixture is not completely dry when you check on it, just repeat the process until it is.

When you’ve dried out the paint as much as you can, leave the lid off the container before disposing of. You don’t need to try and pull the mixture out, either.

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  • If you have more than half a can of paint, you can pour it out into something else to make it easier to mix and dispose of, such as a box or trash can. Just make sure they’re lined, so no paint leaks out.
  • If you only have a little bit of paint left in the can, you can leave it in the sun to dry it out. Make sure to place it high up or out of reach from children and pets.
  • If you don’t want to use kitty litter, there are commercial paint hardeners that you can purchase, such as Krud Kutter. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for those.
  • You can also donate your extra GOOD paint to places working on a limited budget, such as charities, a community center, or Habitat For Humanity. These places can always use extra supplies.

With these helpful tips, you can definitely dispose of your old leftover unwanted paints, the right way. If your needing residential, commercial, interior and exterior painting in Long Island, NY, don’t hesitate to contact us at Suffolk County Painters for all your painting needs.


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