How to Dispose of Paint

Reusing Old Paint

Get creative and use your old paint to tie accessories into the room.
Get creative and use your old paint to tie accessories into the room.
Photo courtesy of Heather Kolich

If stored properly, paint will last for years. According to the National Paint and Coatings Association, you should:

  1. Cover the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap.
  2. Put the lid on securely and make sure it doesn't leak.
  3. Turn the can upside down to allow the paint to create its own seal.
  4. Store the can upside down in a place that's safe from freezing and out of reach of children and pets.

So, before you throw out that old paint, see if you can use it for another project around the house. This might include making touch-ups to finished paint jobs. But you can reach farther than that with a little imagination. Create a flow in your home by carrying the color of one room into the next with painted accessories. Items like picture frames, outlet covers, or clay planters are ideal for tying rooms together through color. You can give an old piece of furniture a fresh look, or even use old paint as primer for a new painted project.

If you can't think of any use for your left-over paint, see if someone else can.

"Individuals with old paint should contact their local Keep America Beautiful affiliate to find out if they would take paint donations for graffiti cleanups, or contact their local chapter of Habitat for Humanity," advises environmental educator Denise Carleton of Reaping Nature Productions.

Plenty of other local organizations would be happy to accept your left-over paint. Art teachers, summer camps, and non-profit organizations such as Boy Scouts, 4-H and the Salvation Army can use a potpourri of paint colors for murals, activities, service projects and to spruce up donated items. High school or community theatre groups can use it for stage sets. Just make sure they know to limit the use of exterior paints to well-ventilated outdoor projects. You can also check with local government departments such as parks, buildings and maintenance, fire departments, military bases or prisons to see if they're interested in free paint.