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Paint Disposal

How to Tell if Your Paint is Latex or Solvent Based?

Paints are either latex -- also known as "water-based" -- or solvent-based, sometimes called "oil" or alkyd paints.There are two easy ways to help tell the difference!

  1. Read the Label

    For solvent based paint, you'll often see the words "alkyd" or "oil-based" on the label.

    Clean up instructions on the label are also a good way to tell whether a product is solvent based. If the label says to use mineral spirits or turpentine to clean your brush or roller, then the product is solvent based.

    If clean-up instructions say you can clean your brush or roller with soap and water, it is typically latex paint.

    NOTE: If the label is missing or unreadable, you should assume it is solvent-based for disposal purposes.

  2. See if the Paint Dissolves in Water

    Put a small amount of the paint in a jar or cap, mixed with water.

    If it's latex paint, it will readily mix with water. Since it is water based, it will become thinner as water is added.

    If it's solvent-based paint, it won't dissolve in water. The paint and water will separate like vinegar and oil.

Got Leftover Paint?

Get With the Program: The Six Point Program for Leftover Paint

Too much leftover paint ends up in our nation's landfills, because people needlessly throw it away. You can help. You are the key to reducing the amount of paint that ends up in our landfills. "Get With the Program" the Six Point Program for Leftover Paint by following these steps:

  1. Buy Only The Paint You Need First, always buy only what you need. That way, you reduce the chance of having any paint leftover in the first place. It's the same idea behind reusing grocery bags, or eliminating excess packaging. When you avoid creating waste at the start, you're practicing "source reduction." It's a smart way to help the environment!
  2. Store Paint So it Lasts for Years You don't throw away the loaf of bread just because you used a few slices. You wrap it up and store it, so you can enjoy it again later. It's the same with paint. Did you know that when properly stored, paint can last for years? Just cover the opening with plastic wrap, and make sure the lid fits securely so the paint doesn't leak. Then, and here's the key step: store the paint can upside down. The paint will create a tight seal around the lid, keeping the paint fresh until you need it again.
  3. Use Up All Your Paint Now that you know how to keep your leftover paint fresh for years, don't forget about it. Use it up! Leftover paint can be used on touch up jobs and smaller projects. You can also blend and mix smaller quantities of similar colors of latex paint to use as a primer on larger jobs, or jobs where the final finish is not critical. (Always make sure you read and follow all label instructions when applying paint.)
  4. Recycle the Empty Paint Can Once you've used up your paint, recycle the empty steel paint cans. Each paint can you recycle is one less can that ends up in a landfill! In some areas, plastic paint pails and containers may also be recyclable, so be sure to check the requirements for your community.
  5. Donate or Exchange Your Paint If you just can't use your leftover paint, donate it to community groups, theater groups, schools, churches and others who need or want it. You may even be able to take a tax deduction! Another good way to get rid of your unwanted leftover paint is to participate in or organize a neighbor to neighbor or community wide paint exchange/paint swap. Some communities even hold these along with their household waste collection events.
  6. As a Last Resort...Dispose of Paint Properly Everyone should be able to save, use up, donate or exchange leftover paint. If as a last resort you need to dispose of your leftover paint, make sure you do it properly. Remember, air drying liquid solvent based paint is generally not recommended, but if the paint has already solidified in a closed can, you can dispose of it in the regular trash. Save leftover solvent based paint for collection. Liquid solvent based paint should not be discarded with normal trash. Instead, save it for a special paint collection program or household hazardous waste program in your community.

Please refer to our Household Hazardous Waste Program for the next scheduled event and a list of items which are accepted.