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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Paint Disposal

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appears in the August 29, 2004 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

As fall approaches cleaning the garage and storage areas is a top priority. What to do with the leftover paint and paint products setting around the house is many times a question.

Some paints and paint related products fall in the category of potentially hazardous products. Products become potentially hazardous when they contain chemicals that can endanger human health or the environment if not properly used, stored and/or disposed.

The average American home has one to three gallons of unwanted paint stored. Forty to 70 percent of household hazardous waste collected at special collection events is paint. Source reduction is a priority in the prevention of paint waste.

Paint is classified into two basic categories: latex, in which the major liquid ingredient is water; and solvent-base, which contains organic solvents. Water-base paints include latex, vinyl and acrylic. Solvent-base paints include alkyd, oil-based, urethane or polyurethane, epoxy and varnish.

To reduce household paint waste:

  • Buy only what is needed and try to use all the paint purchased.
  • Buy the least hazardous product and buy the product for the specific job and material.
  • Use it up, give it away to friends or donate it to charity.
  • Use leftover paint and paint related products.
  • Keep paints tightly sealed in the original can.

Store paint in a well ventilated, dry area away from extreme heat, cold or flame sources and out of the reach of children. Do not discard paint on the ground or down a drain or storm sewer.

Paint shared or donated should meet the following criteria:

  • useable quantity remains;
  • paint is still in its original container with legible label;
  • paint that has not frozen (Latex paint that has undergone freeze/thaw several times may resemble "cottage cheese.");
  • paint has not been contaminated with other products;
  • paint is lead free (check label on old paints).

Small quantities of unusable paints (less than one-half gallon) that have dried and solidified are usually considered a household waste material and are accepted (check first) at most permitted landfills. To solidify the paint, allow the liquid to evaporate in an OPEN, secure, sheltered place in a SAFE manner away from flames, children and pets. Then, dispose of the hardened material.

For more information on this topic, read:

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