How to Dispose of Paint

Disposing of paint the right way requires just a few steps! Proper paint disposal protects you and the environment.

Most of us have a few paint cans from past home projects still hanging around our house—and this year’s spring cleaning may finally motivate you to do something about them. But wait! Before you toss the paint, there are a few things you need to consider for safe and responsible paint disposal.  

Latex Paint 

Latex-based paint is the most common paint used for painting walls and other similar surfaces. Latex paints are not considered hazardous waste and can be thrown away in the regular trash if dried first.  

Steps for Disposing of Latex Paint at Home 

  1. Combine paint from multiple cans into one can or a larger container like a lined box or trashcan.  
  1. Add an absorbent material like cat litter, sawdust, or oil absorbent and mix it into the paint. 
  1. Allow the mixture to set and dry for a few hours. 
  1. Throw the dried paint into your garbage. If you’ve dried it in the can, remove the lid from the can so the garbage truck driver will see it is dried.  

Alternatively, you can also harden the paint by removing the lid and letting it dry out. It could take a few days or a week to dry, depending on how full the can is. 

Better yet, latex paint is recyclable. Before you go through the steps to throw away latex paint, see if there is a collection event or store that accepts latex paint for recycling. Latex paint is accepted at Will County’s Household Hazardous Waste collection events. Some Ace Hardware stores will take latex paint for a fee since there is a cost to process it. In some states, there is legislation that makes paint recycling free for households and businesses. Call your local state representatives to pass legislation for a similar paint recycling program in Illinois.

Oil-Based Paint 

Oil-based paint is the main alternative to latex-paint based. It’s less commonly used today because of the gas it emits, making it dangerous to our health and the environment.  

Getting Rid of Oil-Based Paint 

Oil-based paint is considered hazardous and requires disposal at a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility. Paint solvent and aerosol paint should also be dropped off at a HHW facility. The nearest year-round Household Hazardous Waste facility is in Naperville, Illinois: 

156 Fort Hill Drive 
Naperville, IL 60540

(630) 420-6095

Hours of operation: Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., excluding holidays. 

There is no fee for dropping off Household Hazardous Waste, and no appointment is needed.  

Note that HHW facilities do not accept latex paint—you will have to take care of it using the steps outlined above. There are occasional one-day HHW drop off events in other parts of Illinois. You can find dates on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s website here. Will County also hosts HHW drop off days in the fall and spring. 

Reducing Your Paint Waste 

Although we’ve just went through the ways to dispose of paint, it’s better to avoid wasting paint in the first place. Below are a few ideas for reducing paint waste: 

  • Consider the amount you need for the particular project and buy the right amount of paint to reduce leftover paint 
  • Store the paint properly to use again for touch-ups or smaller projects. Store paint in a way that makes it usable for longer: 
    • Securely seal the can. One way to have a good seal is to lay plastic wrap over the opening before placing the lid on the can. Next, tap the lid closed with a rubber mallet to create a complete seal.
    • Label what room or project the paint you used the paint for. Labels will make it easier to find the right paint for touch-ups. 
    • Store in a cool, dry, and dark place. Paint that freezes and thaws will no longer be usable.  
  • You may be able to donate mostly full paint cans to organizations like Habitat for Humanity ReStore. To reduce paint waste and save money at the same time, you can purchase recycled paint at Habitat for Humanity ReStore as well.

Being responsible with using, storing, and disposing paint is important for our health and the environment. Household Hazardous Waste needs to be treated with special care and dropped off at a HHW facility. Hazardous or not, paint and other household chemicals should never be poured down the drain in homes or storm drains outdoors. Thanks for taking the time to dispose of your paint the right way! 

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