How to Dispose of Unused House Paint

Many paints contain petrochemicals that are harmful if released in landfills..

Many paints contain petrochemicals that are harmful if released in landfills..

Unused house paint looks harmless in its sealed container. However, you can't dispose of it by dumping the closed paint can in the trash. When paint buckets eventually rupture in landfills, they can release petrochemical solvents and other environmental toxins into the soil. Instead of dumping unused paint, you can donate it to an appropriate charity or a community theater group. If this isn't an option, and you need to dump the paint, you will need to do more than carry it out with your curbside trash.

Disposing of Latex Paint

Line a kitty litter tray with a large plastic trash bag and fold any excess bag material around the top edge.

Pour the latex paint into the tray until the paint is roughly 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Leave any remaining paint in the bucket.

Stir in the kitty litter or sawdust until the mixture thickens. Leave the tray outdoors in a secure, dry location or in a closed garage. Most latex paints will dry out overnight, but the mix may require a few days to harden completely.

Remove the plastic bag from the sides of the tray carefully. Pull the bag closed and tie it firmly together at the top. Discard the bag of hardened latex paint solution into your trash can.

Repeat the steps above as needed for any remaining paint in the bucket. Do not dispose of the bagged paint mix until it is completely dry and hardened.

Disposing of Oil-based Paint

Place the lid securely onto the paint bucket. Pound the top edges of the lid with a rubber mallet to be sure the can is tightly sealed.

Contact your local, county or state waste removal department, and ask about oil-based paint disposal. Some communities provide special locations for disposing of household hazardous waste. In other areas, you may need to transport the paint to a private disposal center.

Lay a drop cloth on the trunk of your car or truck bed before placing the paint cans inside for transport. You can also place the buckets inside plastic trash bags to minimize the risk of accidental leaks or spillage. Drive carefully to the disposal center.

Items you will need

  • Kitty litter tray
  • Large plastic trash bags with ties
  • Clay-based kitty litter or sawdust
  • Rubber mallet
  • Drop cloth


  • You can dry up small amounts of latex paint by pouring the kitty litter or sawdust directly into the bucket. Stir the mix, then let the paint dry before closing the lid and placing the paint bucket in the trash can.
  • Most recycling services accept empty steel paint cans.


  • Let the latex paint dry away from the reach of children. The paint mixture can be harmful to children if ingested.
  • Oil-based paint emits toxic fumes that may be hazardous if inhaled.

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About the Author

Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.

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