Identification and Disposal
Latex paint is the most popular paint on the market, accounting for approximately 85 percent of paint sales in United States. It is preferred by most do-it-yourselfers because of the ease of cleaning up with soap and water. Latex paint is less detrimental to our environment than oil based paints because it contains less hazardous ingredients. However, latex paints do contain acrylics, vinyls and epoxies and can pose environmental problems if poured down the drain, into a storm drain, or if the liquid is disposed of in the regular trash.
How Do I Tell If The Paint is Latex?
Latex paint can be identified in the following ways.
- Read the label: If cleanup instructions say you can clean your brush with soap and water, it is typically latex or "water-based" paint. The product is solvent or oil-based if the instructions are to clean with mineral spirits or turpentine. If you can’t read the label, assume it is oil-based for disposal purposes.
- Water test: If the paint is water-based, it will dissolve in water easily. Place a small amount of paint in a small clear container with some water. Latex paint will mix with the water while oil-based paint will separate and form layers similar to the layers formed when oil and vinegar are mixed.
What Can I Do With Leftover Latex Paint?
- Use It Up: This is the easiest and safest way to get rid of your leftover paint. Store small amounts for touch-up or for use on a small project. Once you use up the paint, dispose of the empty paint can in the regular trash or recycle it if possible.
- Give It Away: If it isn’t possible to use it up or store it for later use, give your leftover paint to someone who can use it. Churches, high schools, recreational groups, camps, or other charitable organizations may be interested. Give away paint only if it is of good quality and in its original container with the label intact.
- Swap It: Some communities have events known as "paint swaps" in conjunction with their household hazardous waste collection days or on a regular basis at their facility. The paint can must have never been opened, the label must be legible and the paint must still be useable in order to be placed in the reuse area.
- Recycle It: Some communities have recycling centers in their area that accept leftover paint. Some hazardous waste collection programs may accept latex paint for recycling. Contact your local recycling coordinator for more specific information.
- Dry It Up: Liquid latex paint cannot be placed in your regular trash. The liquid in paint cans up to one-quarter full can be easily hardened using an absorbent such as kitty litter, newspaper or sawdust, and disposed of in a sanitary landfill. Leftover latex paint can also be dried by removing the lid and allowing it to air dry. Leave the lid off the can so the waste collector can see that the paint is hardened. Another way to dry the paint is to pour thin layers (about 1" of paint) into a cardboard box containing shredded newspaper and lined with plastic. Allow the paint to dry one layer at a time until all of the paint has hardened. This process may take up to several days. Dry paint in an area protected from pets and children. Cans and boxes containing dried paint can be safely disposed with the municipal trash.
If you cannot identify paint as latex, or if it is old or improperly labeled, not in its original container or potentially contaminated, DES recommends it not be dried out and disposed of with the trash. Safely store the paint until it can be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection event or facility. Call (603) 271-2047 for more information.