How to Dispose of Old Paint Properly

Old paint is always a hassle. If it is still usable, then you can often find a DIY project that it might suit, but a lot of older paint ends up gathering dust and becoming impossible to use in any productive way. It might even be a type of paint that is no longer sold or from a company that no longer exists.

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So if you can’t use it, how do you get rid of it? Throwing away paint might sound easy, but there are actually a lot of specifics behind how you can do it – and how you can’t.

Throwing Paint Away

It might be tempting to simply throw your paints away like anything else, but this can actually be a very risky move. Not all paints can be thrown away, and even when they can, you need to follow certain steps to make sure that it is actually safe to throw that specific can away.

On top of that, there can be limits on how your local municipalities will actually pick up the paint, so you will have to check the relevant regulations and restrictions first. Even if you follow all of the standard steps, you may live in an area where they will not pick up paint.

Even if you meet all of those other requirements, there are better ways of getting rid of the paint. Throwing it away should be a last-ditch option since it is both wasteful and very difficult for waste workers to deal with.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints contain chemicals that can damage things like soil and water, leading to some major environmental damage if you simply toss it away. Even throwing it in the trash is a bad idea, to the extent that many states make it a crime to do so.

Throwing away your oil-based paints is technically possible, but not through the usual measures. You have to specifically take your paints to proper hazardous waste facilities or drop-off events, which are sometimes only open once or twice a year at most.

Latex Paints

Latex paints are not hazardous, so you can throw them away under most circumstances as long as you follow the correct steps. Most of these are two dry the paint out and make sure that it is safe to throw away without causing problems later on.

First, you need to remove the lid and toss it away separately, letting the paint completely dry out (either on its own or mixed with something to dry it). Then, if you are leaving it out for roadside pickup, you pour all of the paint into a cardboard box and wait for it to dry, then throw it away.

This method sounds strange, but a lot of locations will allow this. However, it is much more effective to simply donate your paint instead.

Donating Paint

Instead of throwing away your paints, you can donate them to people who need them more than you did. There are multiple great ways and places to donate paint that you are not going to use, and most of them will accept any paint as long as it is still usable.


Any kind of shelter, such as homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters, can benefit from having more resources. Not only can the paint help stave off rust and mold, but the paint itself is actually quite expensive – and such organizations will not have much money spare to buy it when it is needed.

This is especially important if a new shelter is opening up since they might be using a building that has not been maintained well. Paints that can cover cracked walls or damaged doors can improve the overall atmosphere of the shelter and stop it from looking as dreary.

Hobby and Drama Clubs

Any club that relies on paint, from an actual painting club to DIY groups or drama teams, might like an extra paint option. They are often run with the budget of the members, or sometimes even just the club leader, and that means that paints are in short supply.

If this is a community club that forms a major part of some social circles and events in your area, then the paint might be even more useful since it can be used as part of seasonal displays or events that only get limited funding.


There are multiple non-profits that accept paint and redistribute it to any struggling organizations. This can include schools, hospitals, or even individual homes that urgently need a specific kind of paint for a project, especially if it is for restoring the building or repainting a mural.

Should I Donate Paint?

Always check with an organization before bringing them paint, just in case the paint you are offering is not one that they can actually use. Giving them the wrong paint can create more of a problem than it solves and leaves them with no real way to use it.

Donating paint is always better than throwing it away since other people get to make use of it. Being wasteful with materials and substances like this is not just annoying to the people who need them but also means that you are creating more of a burden on the environment.

The exception is any paint that is completely unusable, either because it is tainted or just because it has dried and hardened completely. In this case, consider renting one of our dumpster options to help move large amounts of paint without needing to worry about spills or stains on your vehicle.

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