How to Get Rid of Paint & Paint Cans

Updated July 19, 2017

Some paints are easier to get rid of than others. Latex paints are considered safe in the can when dry, but the metal in some paints can cause health or environmental problems if they are wrongly discarded. The type of paint determines the best way to dispose of it.

Determine the toxicity of your paint. Water-based paints and latex paints are environmentally safe and do not pose major health hazards. Oil-based paints, paints made before the mid-1970s, aerosol paint and lead and mould-retardant paints pose significant risks.

Check with your city, state or county hazardous waste centre for recommendations and requirements for discarding paints.

Discarding latex paint: If there is just a little left, allow latex paint to dry in the can. Put it into a garbage bag and discard it with the rest of the trash. If there is a lot of paint left in the can, donate it or use it up.

Discarding oil-based and other dangerous paints: Oil-based paint is flammable and the fumes can be dangerous. Lead paint, mould-retardant paints, old paint and aerosol paints are also dangerous to health and the environment. To discard, take them to a hazardous waste disposal centre. Many landfills also reserve certain days of the year when they collect old paint and other potentially toxic substances. Check with your local waste management office for a list of dates.


Try to use up all of the paint in a can, even if it means painting something a third time. You can also donate paint to community theatres, churches, schools and other organisations. Habitat for Humanity also accepts paint. Speed up the drying process of latex paints by adding kitty litter to the can.


Never dump paint, including latex paint, into drains, sewers, rivers or streams. If you leave the lid off a latex can to dry it out, put the can in a safe place away from pets and children.

Things You'll Need

  • Phone number of local hazardous waste centre
  • Plastic garbage bags
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About the Author

Nora Mayers began writing professionally in 1979 as an intern for the Robert Kennedy Memorial, where she wrote about government youth policy issues. She has written for Lucas Films' West End Games, "Horse and Horseman" magazine, "The Bowie Blade News" and several websites. As an honors graduate, Mayers has a diploma in residential planning from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.