House Painters Pro Tips - What To Do With Leftover Paint?

Jeremy Holderness

Recycling Symbol For Painters TampaAccording to Wikipedia, "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that every homeowner in the US has 3 to 4 gallons of leftover paints in their basement, and 10 percent of those paints ends up in landfills. One gallon of improperly disposed paint has the ability to pollute up to 250,000 gallons of water."

I suppose those are not surprising figures, but it is scary to think that such a small, careless act can result in such devastating consequences.  In the 20 years, I've been selling paint and providing painting services to the public I've been asked countless times by homeowners how they should dispose of their leftover paint.

My experience tells me that most people want to do the responsible thing when it comes to protecting our environment, but I've also been told by several homeowners and professional house painters that they have deliberately poured paint on the ground or down the sink drain.  But I know first-hand that the EPA takes an active role in the enforcement of clean-up, as well as both civil and criminal enforcement to hold those accountable who violate our environmental protection laws.

Back in 2009, when I was an owner of a small painting company, we had an incident where a group of young teenage children broke into a storage building that held several 5-gallon buckets full of paint for an upcoming job.  The kids stole a couple of the buckets, carried them to a nearby creek, and dumped them into the waterway.  Fortunately, a neighbor witnessed the act and called the police, who notified the EPA's Emergency Response Section.  

Long story short, the EPA mobilized amazingly quickly to contain the spill, the kids were caught and eventually forced to perform community service, and our company was held financially responsible to the tune of nearly $800 -- as the caretakers of the coatings -- for the cleanup efforts until the children were able to make restitution to us through their community service work.

I'm confident that most cases of improper paint disposal are not as malicious as this one.  Rather they are more the result of a lack of knowledge of what is supposed to be done with it.  Even if you're a master of paint calculation, everyone ends up with some leftover paint after a project.  The purpose of this House Painters Tampa Pro Tip article is to help homeowners to understand their options.


Don't Buy Too Much Paint

The easiest way to not have to deal with an excess of leftover paint after a project is to not order too much to begin with.  Many paint companies offer online paint calculators to help homeowners dial-in their estimates for their product needs.  A couple of them are:

Sherwin-Williams Paint Calculator

Benjamin Moore Paint Calculator

Some online calculators are more detailed and more accurate than others.  A few things to always bear in-mind that can affect your paint needs are the number of doors and windows that can be excluded from your paintable surface, the texture and porosity of the substrate to be coated, major color changes sometimes require more coats, and the fact that your first coat may not cover as well as subsequent coats.


Keep It For Touch-Ups

If you're careful when purchasing the right amount of paint you will certainly end up with less of it when you're done.  If you have a manageable amount remaining, the thing that probably makes the most sense is to keep it for when you need to touch-up the paint on your walls and siding.  

Paint doesn't last forever so if you're going to hold on to a few cans be sure that the lid is sealed so it doesn't dry out prematurely; store it in a cool, dry area where it will not freeze; and use a permanent marker to label the can with the color, the area of your home where it was used, and the date when it was purchased.

Many paint manufacturers will tell you that the shelf life of most latex paints is about 3 years but if it is stored correctly you could certainly get a few years of additional usable life out of it.  Oil based paint can remain usable for several years beyond that of latex.


Donate It

If you don't plan to ever touch-up your walls, or maybe you just have more leftover paint than you know what to do with, consider donating it to your favorite charity that can put it to good use in lieu of disposing of it.  

If you're not familiar with any in your community, some good places to consider are your local Habitat For Humanity or their Habitat For Humanity ReStores or Global Paint For Charity.


Recycle It

In 2009 the American Coatings Association (ACA) created PaintCare Inc.  PaintCare is a non-profit organization formed to represent paint manufacturers' stewardship programs in the States which have paint stewardship laws.  Using their website homeowners can enter their zip code or city to locate a site in their area where paint can be dropped-off, sorted, and recycled.

Another recycling option is Lowe's Recycling Centers.


Dry It Out & Throw It Away

If recycling is not an option, you can dispose of your leftover latex paint by incorporating an equal amount of cat litter into the paint, leaving the lid off the can to allow it to dry, and then simply throwing it in the trash once it is.  There are also waste paint hardeners available at hardware stores that will also do the job.

Oil and solvent based paints are generally considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of at one of the recycling centers listed above, or by contacting your local refuse company, or by searching



Although we can't really help you any further when it comes to disposing of your excess paint after your DIY project, we can help you make your paint look fantastic on your walls.

If you live in the Greater Tampa, Florida area and you need help with your painting project please click on the 'Contact' button below or give us a call at 813-570-8800 or 727-754-9800 for a free, no-obligation consultation and quote.


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