Is painting a room in your house or maybe your whole house on your “to do” list? A fresh coat of “Jungle Vine Green” or “Morning Hush White” can be a great pick-me-up for tired-looking walls, but did you know that paint and paint-related products can harm the environment if they are disposed of improperly?
Buy Recycled Paint
Paint can be recycled, at the appropriate facility! GreenSheen in Kent produces 12 colors of paint that can be bought at some Habitat for Humanity locations. MetroPaint in Oregon produces 20 colors of paint from recycled latex paint, and you can buy it at Second Use in Seattle.
Prevent Wasted Paint
Buy Only What You Need
Know how much paint you need before you go to the paint store. Painting projects require about one gallon of paint to cover 400 square feet of smooth surface. You can save money and avoid waste by getting the right amount of paint for your project.
Paint store staff can help you buy the right quantity and you can also use an online paint calculator to help estimate the correct amount needed.
Make Your Paint Last
Everyone has good intentions to use half-filled paint cans for “touch-ups” that never come. Also, many people have saved paint that becomes unusable over time. If you save paint for later, follow some easy tips to make the paint last longer:
- Cover the opening with plastic wrap, and make sure the lid fits securely so the paint doesn’t leak.
- Then turn the paint can upside down to create a tight seal, and keep the paint fresh to use again.
Choose Paint that Cleans Up Safer
Latex Paints are water-based and usually less harmful to the environment than oil-based paints. They clean up with soap and water.
Oil-based Paints, Stains and Varnishes contain solvents that don’t mix with water. They must be cleaned with paint thinner or appropriate solvents.
Paint Thinner, Turpentine and Mineral Spirits are generally used to thin oil-based-paints and stains or to clean up the residues left behind. Leftovers are household hazardous waste: they are highly flammable and should never be dumped into the environment.
Protect Streams by Cleaning Up Right After a Painting Project
Clean paint brushes and rollers by rinsing them in water or solvent in a container. Never wash your brushes over or pour paint into a storm drain. Do not pour the rinse water or solvent into the street gutter or down the drain. Paint, solvents, and adhesive contain chemicals that are harmful to people, fish and wildlife.
Waste materials from painting include excess paint, thinner, cleanup water, dust, and paint chips from preparation work. Runoff from painting and prep areas may be contaminated with toxins, oil, grease, metal and debris. Use ground cloths and drip pans to collect debris and spills from work area. Sweep and/or vacuum the area when work is complete – don’t hose it down into the street or storm drain.
Dispose of Paint Properly
If your paint is still usable, the best way to get rid of it is to share it with someone else. Post your paint on a community exchange site such as Craigslist, Nextdoor Kirkland, or Buy Nothing Kirkland. Even small amounts of paint might be suitable for craft projects – you never know what someone else might want!
A statewide paint recycling program offers free drop-off locations for recycling latex and oil-based paint! Visit paintcare.org/WA to find locations.
If your can of paint is mostly dry or has a very small amount of paint left, you can dry out the paint and throw it away instead. Dry out paint by stirring in an equal part of kitty litter is the best option.
Painting can be green, even when your paint is white!
Updated March 2022