How to Store and Dispose of Paint

Learn the correct methods for storing and disposing of paint.

By: Jennifer Lifford

Painting is one of the easiest and most economical ways to make a big impact when redesigning a space. Inevitably, touch-ups will be needed, so it’s always a good idea to keep leftover paint on hand for the perfect colour match-up. Maximize the shelf life of stored paint, and safely dispose of any paint that’s no longer needed.

Tip: If stored under the proper conditions, latex and water-based paints can last for approximately two years.

Step 1: Choose the Proper Storage Location
While paints made years ago may have been able to survived a freeze-thaw cycle, the lower Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) paint products made today are unable to withstand these temperatures and will often become gritty following a freezing.

  • Paint should be stored in a dry location where temperatures are above freezing and there are no excessive temperature swings.
  • Metal paint cans should be stored on wood or plastic shelving rather than on cement floors to minimize rusting.

Step 2: Choose the Proper Storage Container
While you may be tempted to keep the paint in the original can, choosing an alternative storage container (such as a glass jar, a plastic air-tight container, or a smaller can) will help to prolong the lifespan of paint, and cut down on storage space.

Tip: It’s best to use a container that is just large enough to store the amount of leftover paint, which will reduce airspace in the container and help prevent drying.

Tip: When there’s a small amount of paint left in the bottom of the can, repurpose an old water bottle into the perfect container! Fill the bottle with leftover paint and drop a marble in before screwing on the lid. When you need to paint, simply shake the bottle and pour it out.

Eliminating air is essential, so follow these steps to ensure an airtight seal:

  1. Cover the opening of the container with plastic wrap
  2. Put on the lid ensuring there is no leakage
  3. Turn the container upside down to allow the paint to create its own seal, as well as prevent air from entering the container

Step 3: Label Containers
Label all containers with the room it was used in, the product and colour formula from the original container (including the brand, finish and colour codes) as well as the date it was opened.

Tip: Have the store associate print out an extra label when you purchase the paint, and use it on your secondary container.

Step 4: Check Stored Paint Before Using
Before using a paint that has been stored for an extended period of time, you will want to check that it hasn’t spoiled.

  • The paint should be smooth and creamy and free of any foul odours.
  • Do a small test patch on a spare piece of wood.
  • If in doubt, take it to a paint retailer to have it examined.
  • The colour of the paint may also fade over time, so be sure to colour match the paint in an inconspicuous spot prior to touch-ups.

Paint Disposal Tips
Before you take action, check with your local waste centre’s policy — rules tend to vary from place to place.

  • Look into any recycling programs that may be available at schools, service clubs or municipalities. You may be able to put old paint to good use!
  • Latex paint should not be put directly into the garbage, as the liquid paint can seep out of the container and into the groundwater.
  • Place latex paint into a plastic container and stir in some kitty litter or paper scraps to create a solid lump before adding it to your trash.
  • Allow it to dry outside before disposing of it.
  • Purchase a waste paint hardener for very large amounts of paint.
  • Paint should never be poured down a drain as it can cause damage to pipes and is not good for the water supply.

Tip: Empty paint cans can generally be recycled with other metals as long as there is less than 2 1/2 centimetres (1 inch) of dried paint in the bottom. If there is more than this, they will likely need to be discarded in the trash.

Jennifer is the author of the blog Clean & Scentsible, where she shares her passion for organizing, crafting and home décor. She is a mom of two boys and enjoys coming up with fun activities to celebrate the holidays and everyday life with her family.


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