You may not be aware of this, but there is a proper way to store paint—upside down! That’s right, when you store a paint can upside down, paint inside the can forms an air tight seal around the lid, preventing any exchange of air that would ruin the paint over time.
But what if you don’t feel like hanging on to your old paint cans? There are simple ways to dispose of used paint that don’t damage the environment–and ways to prevent such waste in the first place.
Here’s another surprising fact: not all paint can be legally thrown away in the garbage. Oil-based paints (also called alkyd) are considered hazardous substances. Disposal of these paints must be handled according to the laws of your community.
Here in Nashville, Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) is handled by Metro Nashville Public Works. If you have a valid Division County ID, you can drop off your oil based paints at the Household Hazardous and Electronic Waste Facility located at the East Waste and Recycling Facility. The same is true of most counties in the US.
Public Works also provides a latex paint (also known as water-based or acrylic) disposal information sheet. Basically, if you’re trying to dispose of your latex paint, you have two options: donating it or letting it dry out.
Give it away to an organization or non-profit that could make good use of your paint. Pre-schools, churches, community centers, high school theater departments, and organizations like Habitat for Humanity all may be interested in your old paint cans. You might even ask a neighbor or family members if they’d be interested in your old paint.
Let it dry out. If you don’t want your old paint and can’t track down someone who does, just let it dry out and then throw it away. Cans with less than an inch of paint in the bottom can be left to dry in the sun for a few days. If there’s more than an inch of paint in the can, fill it with sand, kitty litter, or shredded paper–then leave it to dry for a few days. Never dispose of paint in a toilet, sewer, or down your pipes!
The best way to avoid the hassle of dealing with leftover paint is to buy only what you need. In order to buy the right amount of paint for your walls, you’ll need to plan ahead. Calculate the surface area of your walls before buying the paint. As a general rule, a single gallon of paint will cover 250-350 square feet. Don’t forget to add in the square footage of extra coats of paint. And if you’re not sure how many coats you will need, buy fewer gallons at first–in other words, err conservatively.
To help you out, there are a variety of paint calculators online. Paintcare.org, a non profit group that collects old paint (although, unfortunately, not in the Nashville area), has a good paint calculator. Paint thickness and the number of coats required will affect the amount of paint you’ll need for your paint project, so talk to the representatives at the store when you buy the paint. They usually have invaluable advice from lots of experience.
It is important to be responsible with your old paint so that you don’t damage your home or the environment. Dispose of your paint by donating it, drying it out, or even reusing it.
Some people don’t store their paint or dispose of it–they use it for other projects around the house. If you’ve got creative ideas for using your old paint, leave a comment below. If you know of any organizations in the area that might want old paint, spread the word about this blog post. Organizations that leave instructions in the comments can reach residents of Nashville hoping to get rid of their old paint cans. Let’s get to recycling!