Leftover Paint? Dispose of it Properly!

Why Does The Erie County Landfill Ban Paint? Ohio law bans paint and any other free liquids from all solid waste landfills in Ohio. Neither you nor your trash hauler are allowed to bring liquid paint to the landfill for disposal.

Can I Dispose Of Paint Down The Drain Or Storm Sewer Or On The Ground?

NO! Paint and paint solvent should NEVER be disposed down the drain, on the ground or into a water source. Conventional wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to handle oil-based paints and solvents or large amounts of latex paint. Storm sewers may drain to a stream or lake, and paint poured on the ground can run off or percolate into streams or wells.

Both oil-based and water-based (latex) paints contain organic chemicals that can damage the environment and human health if they contaminate water or soil. Paints manufactured before 1979 may also contain lead and those manufactured before 1991 may contain mercury, both of which are highly toxic.

How Do I Dispose Of Old Paint Properly?

USE IT UP… The easiest way to dispose of leftover paint is to use it all up. Apply a second coat, touch up areas, paint a closet or a small object.

GIVE IT AWAY… If you can’t use it, find someone who can, a neighbor, theater group, or community organization. Set it out at a garage sale with a “free” sign. Just make sure the paint is in its original container with its label intact.

DRY IT OUT… Liquid paint may be solidified by the following methods, then disposed of with the household trash. Leave the lid off the can so your trash hauler can see that the paint is hardened. Stores such as Lowes and Home Depot sell waste paint hardeners in their paint departments.

How Long Can I Store Old Paint?

LATEX PAINT… can be stored for up to ten years. It is generally usable if:

  • The can is at least 1/3 full.
  • It has been stored indoors.
  • The lid has been well sealed.
  • It has not been frozen.
  • It is not lumpy or does not smell bad.
  • Mercury is not listed as an ingredient on the label.

OIL BASED PAINT… can be stored for up to fifteen years. It is generally usable if:

  • The can is at least 1/3 full.
  • It mixes and spreads smoothly.
  • The lid is well sealed.
  • Lead is not listed as an ingredient on the label.
  • Test the quality of paint by brushing on newspapers or a cardboard box. If it is lumpy, the paint is not usable.

Latex Paint

  • May be disposed if it is allowed to dry. Remove the lid and place the can in an area away from children and animals. Occasionally break the “skin” that forms on the top as it dries. Or stir in enough plaster of paris, cat litter or oil absorbent to harden the paint. Latex paint may also be dried by pouring a little at a time into a cardboard box filled with layers of newspaper, sawdust or cat litter. When dry, the box and empty can may be disposed in the trash.

Oil Based Paints

  • In small amounts (one inch or less) may be hardened. Mix sawdust or cat litter into paint and allow to air dry in a well-ventilated area. Once paint is dried and hardened, wrap paint can in several layers of newspaper and dispose in the trash. Oil-based paints include enamel, varnish, shellac, lacquer, stain and sealer.

Aerosol Paints

  • Outdoors, spray the contents of the can into a cardboard box and let dry. Be sure to stay away from hot surfaces, open flames, flower and vegetable gardens. Do not inhale the vapors. Discard the dried painted box and empty can in the trash.


  • Such as paint thinner, turpentine and mineral spirits should never be poured down a drain or storm sewer. Let these products sit in a closed container until the paint particles settle out. Then pour off the clear liquid which can be reused. Add sawdust or cat litter to the residue. Let it dry completely before disposing in the trash.

How Do I Keep Old Stored Paint To A Minimum?

BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED… Measure your room, including the door and window spaces, or the object you plan to paint. Take the measurements with you to the store and let the paint sales person help you estimate the amount of paint you will need. Read the label for coverage information. Average coverage is 400 to 450 square feet per gallon, although this will vary depending on the surface to be painted and type of paint.

USE LATEX PAINT… Because latex paint cleans up with soap and water, you do not need to buy paint thinner or other solvents.

USE IT ALL UP… Apply a second coat, paint a closet, touch up or paint a small object.