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How to Dispose of Old Paint

Updated: Sep 22, 2021



An unanticipated but significant challenge to executing painting projects is that almost anything you might use to clean brushes or thin paint can be deemed a hazardous waste if it’s in sufficient quantities. But, while it’s intuitive that smelly cauldrons of leftover cleaners and solvents might require hazardous waste management, paint often gets overlooked. Typically, leftover paint is tucked away in the garage or basement, and kept for future touch-ups. So, the issue of paint disposal has probably been moot. But, what about when those cans start to stack up from subsequent paint jobs? Or what if you inherit a bunch of old paint from the previous owner?


Household hazardous waste (which includes oil-based paints, solvents and cleaners) can be taken to one of the local collection sites. But, in a strange twist of irony, they DO NOT accept latex paint at these locations! This makes latex paint arguably more difficult to dispose of than their hazmat counterparts—unless you know the right procedures.


What to do?

Dumping paint is illegal, and can be a hazard by plugging or damaging septic fields, overloading sewage treatment plants and creating environmental hazards in the soil. We are required by the EPA to properly dispose of or recycle all paint.


How you manage this will depend on the type of paint, and what resources you have available in your location.


Latex paints

For small quantities, the answer can be simple. King County Waste Management suggests that you dry out leftover latex paint, or mix it with kitty litter, causing it to dry to a solid. Then you are allowed to throw it away in the household garbage.

  • Watch a VIDEO on ‘How to dispose of latex paint’.

But, obviously if you have a large volume of paint, this can be a pretty time-consuming project.


Up to 200 gallons of unwanted latex paint and water-based stains can be dropped off for recycling at one of the Take it Back Network paint recycling locations. However, you will need to call ahead first and confirm that they are currently accepting, and a recycling fee will be charged (usually between $1.25 to $12.50 depending on the size of the container.) And oil-based paint and solvents are NOT ACCEPTED.


Oil-based paints

Washington residents should refer to the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County for information about how to dispose of oil based paints. Oil-based paints and stains can be disposed of for free at one of the hazardous waste management sites listed. The following limitations apply:

  • Total waste – 50 gallons per customer per day (25 gallon limit for businesses)

  • Container size – no larger than five gallons

  • No latex paint accepted

Fortunately, oil-based paints are relatively scarce nowadays, or only sold in small quantities (usually less than one gallon). So, it will probably not be an issue disposing of them as mentioned above, unless you live too far from one of the collection sites.


We Can Help

If you have paint you need to have disposed of or recycled, Arclight Painting can help you. As a part of our regular service, we will dispose of any leftover paint that you do not want to keep at no additional charge. And if you have any other paint you’d like your painting team to dispose of as well, we can do that too! We just charge the following small fees to cover the cost of labor to package and transport the paint to the processing facility for you.



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