What to Do with Empty Paint Cans – Can They Go in Garbage?

dispose of paint cans
Old & Empty Paint Cans

We can see continuous development around the globe all the time.

Due to this development, there are lots of mega projects that have been completed and many others that are under process.

When it comes to development, the usage of paint is the most necessary thing for the new as well as old buildings.

You also apply paint to the walls of your houses when they become dirty or old.

However, the thing most of us do not care about is the safe disposal of the paint cans after completing the paintwork whether at home, in commercial buildings, or in industries.

Aerosol cans, in general, are usually made of thin sheets of steel and alloy. The presence of carbon elements in these paint cans makes them extremely hazardous for human beings, animals, and our environment.

Also, these used cans may still have a residue of paints in them which is extremely dangerous. Therefore the used paint cans need to be disposed of, and should not be thrown in the garbage.

Below we list down some of the best tips for you that can help in disposing of the paint cans properly without any risk to humans or nature.

But let’s start with knowing a few reasons why you should actually dispose of them safely…

Why You Should Not Throw Empty Paint Tins in the Garbage?

The carbon element of the old emptied paint cans is responsible for the increase of carbon in the air which has devastating effects on the climate.

Moreover, the components in spray paint can are under high pressure which is why these used cans cannot be shifted to the garbage basket.

The chances of an explosion are there if these cans get exposed to heat. The extreme pressure in the garbage truck can also be the reason for the explosion.

The left-over paint in these aerosol cans is also extremely dangerous not only for your environment but for your health as it can cause the risk of diseases like cancer, among many others.

In some regions of the world, you can be fined for disposing of used paint cans with regular garbage.

Due to the presence of highly hazardous components in the paint cans, the local authorities are formulating strict laws for the safety of the general public and the environment that needs to dispose of the paint and paint cans properly in a safe place.

Dispose latex paint can

How to Dispose Of Latex Paint Cans?

There are multiple methods that can be used for disposing of the used latex paint cans and plastic buckets.

The most significant thing that needs to be considered while disposing of latex paint cans is to know about the rules and regulations in your locality related to recycling used latex paint cans.

The following are some of the most important factors that you need to follow if you want to dispose of the used latex paint cans.

1- Check whether Completely Empty

The first thing that you need to do is to check the paint can whether they are completely empty.

If there is a small amount of paint present in it you should open the lid of the can and let it dry completely in a natural way.

You can place it in a well-ventilated area as it is extremely necessary to completely dry out the can before its disposal. It may take almost 2-4 hours depending on the paint.

The commercial paint hardeners can also help you in drying the paint faster and hence can be used.

2- Visit the Recycling Centre

Many localities around us have proper paint recycling companies. These companies will reuse your empty latex paint cans.

They are offering this service free of charge. You can check the recycling options by checking them online.

You should try to check the website of your local administration. This will clarify to you whether your local administration is offering recycling facilities or not.

You can also have the option of placing them directly into the recycle bin.

3- Place It in the Trash if Not Recycled

You can also place your used latex paint cans in the trash if they are completely dry. Otherwise, you cannot throw it in regular garbage.

One thing that needs to keep in mind while placing latex paint cans in the trash is to make sure the lid is off of the can.

How to Dispose Of Oil-Based Paint Cans?

Oil paints are flammable and can be more hazardous than latex water-based paints.

When disposing of them, you will need to deal with them cautiously.

The following are some of the important steps that need to be considered while disposing of the oil-based paint cans.

1- Ensure that It’s Empty

The first and foremost step is to check whether the can is completely empty or not.

Oil-based paint is extremely dangerous, so it is highly recommended to use the paint if it is present in the can.

If by chance there is some of the oil paint that is still present in the can and you don’t have any place where you can use it further then the best thing is to brush it onto the newspaper or anything else.

This way you can empty the can and dispose of it properly without any risk.

2- Check out the Local Guidelines

We recommend you check the local guidelines of your locality when disposing of the oil-based paints and old tins.

You will come to know the rules and regulations of your area for properly disposing of oil-based paint cans.

These oil-based paint cans are highly hazardous, so different localities have different policies.

For checking local guidelines, you are advised to check the website of your local administration.

3- Trash the Cans Safely If Allowed

You can place your hazardous oil-based paint cans in local trash if your local administrative rules are permitting you to do so.

The most important thing that needs to be considered is to make sure that the can is completely empty.

You should remove the lid of the can before disposing of it in your local garbage.

4- Visit the Local Hazardous Waste Center

In many cities around the world, the local administrations have a proper site where you can dispose of the hazardous garbage that you cannot place in your local trash.

It’s safe to visit the hazardous waste centers and hand over to them your oil-based paint tins or cans for safe dumping.

You can further check online whether they are offering you a pick-up facility of hazardous garbage in your locality.

Dispose spray paint can

How to Dispose Of Empty Spray Paint Cans?

Spray paint bottles are different than latex or oil-based tins. These spray cans are extremely pressurized which shows that they may explode at tampering.

Hence it is highly advisable to not alter the aerosol cans. Also, do not expose them to extreme heat.

The following are some of the significant steps that will help you in the disposal of spray paint cans safely.

1- Empty the bottle

The first and foremost thing that you need to do is to find some newspapers in your house and place it on the floor. You are doing this to empty the spray paint bottle completely.

Shake the bottle of the spray paint properly. It will let you know whether the bottle is completely empty or not.

If it’s empty you will listen to the typical noise of air otherwise spray it till it gets empty by spraying the paint onto the newspaper.

If there is paint left you can also donate the partially filled cans to the ones who are willing to use them.

2- Check the Rules of Your Locality

Every municipality has different policies regarding the disposal of spray paint bottles, so it is highly recommended to check out the rules and regulations of your locality.

You can check the website of the local administration or you can call them and inquire about disposing of the spray bottles.

If you don’t have the proper site for hazardous wastage in your locality then you can dispose of it in local wastage.

3- Sell Them to The Interested Companies

If you have a large number of spray cans that you want to dispose of you can call the companies that are willing to buy the trash aluminum cans.

There are many spray cans that are made up of steel or aluminum and many of these companies around you are interested in buying them.

You can find the list of interested buyers of spray cans by searching on the internet.

This will give you a double advantage, on one side you are disposing of your spray cans properly and secondly, you are earning money from the disposal.

How to Harden Latex and Oil Paint to Dispose?

While most of the latex and oil-based house paints do not contain very hazardous materials, you cannot dispose of these leftover paints unless the paint has completely dried out in the cans.

Fortunately, there are multiple homemade methods that can help you dry out the cans of latex paint.

Depending on how much time and paint you have to dispose of, you can use one of these methods for disposing of leftover house paint.

1- Use paint hardener

If you have a large amount of latex or oil paint to dispose of, you can try paint hardeners.

You can make these hardeners by using absorbent materials like kitty litter, sawdust, cement, or sand which when mixed with paint speeds up the paint hardening process.

Besides these household paint hardener products, there are commercial paint hardening products available on the market.

These store-bought paint hardeners are inexpensive to use and can be mixed in the paint according to the package instructions.

The more paint you want to dispose of the more of these products you can put into the paint can as a hardener.

Mix them lightly and add more after a few minutes if required.

Once you find that the paint is solidified and is non-spillable, you can close the paint can lid and dispose of it safely.

2- Harden paint in a cardboard box

For larger amounts of paint that you need to get rid of, you can also make use of a cardboard box (think of leftover boxes after online shopping).

  • Place a medium-sized cardboard box on the floor or flat surface
  • Line it with a large plastic trash bag
  • Pour the paint slowly into the lined cardboard box to get a thin layer (less than one inch)
  • Wait for a few hours and let the paint dry naturally
  • Repeat the paint pouring process to get additional thin layers of paint until you have dried the entire paint

3- Paint newspapers or cardboard boxes

Painting the old newspapers or cardboard is one of the cheapest ways to harden paint for disposal.

You can try this method if you have a very small amount of paint to dispose of.

This will cost you nothing. Plus, the good thing is you can throw the paper and cardboard easily in the trash once the paint is hardened and dried over them.


Can You Recycle Empty Cans?

Of course, you can reuse or recycle empty paint cans. 

Once you have cleaned out the paint cans and buckets, you can use them in different ways around your home.

Simply use them for storing various household products or decorate them creatively to add them to your living room.

Also, keep in mind that the paint can is most often made from steel which can be heated, melted, and reused.

It also has a tin coating that keeps it from rusting or becoming corroded which makes them easy to recycle and acceptable by most recycling centers. 

You will, however, need to follow the requirements for taking your old paint cans to the recycling center which means you may have to completely remove the old paint first.

Can You Donate Excess Paint?

Yes, if you have a large amount of paint in the container left, that is neither usable nor can be exchanged at the store, you can consider donating it to non-profit organizations.

These donations can be used for civic projects or for beautifying the monumental grandeur in cities.

These organizations may also use the paint to help senior citizens or people with low income who need to paint or renovate their homes.

This method is not only free for you but can sometimes also help you save taxes.

Does Lowe’s or Home Depot Take Old Paint?

Unfortunately, both Lowe’s and Home Depot do not take in old paint for recycling as of 2022.

However, if the paint you have purchased is new and within 30 days, you can return the paint for a full refund by showing a proper receipt.

Individual Lowe’s and Home Depot stores may also have their own policy regarding old paint depending on the place you are living in.

So it’s worth calling your local store to check before you plan to recycle or donate the paint.

Additionally, there are many Sherwin-Williams retail stores that accept old latex paint (but not oil-based) for disposal.

If the latex paint brand you purchased is Sherwin-Williams, you may check with them if they can take your old paint.

The Bottom Line

Unless it’s an old lead content paint, most paints used in homes are safe to use and not very hazardous.

However, disposing of the remnant paint and empty paint cans can be illegal if you do not do it right.

You should therefore take proper steps in knowing the process that is easy, fast as well as legal based on your local guidelines.

There is also a myriad of things you can do to recycle and reuse old paint cans. 

Just use your imagination and you can find many different uses that your old paint cans will fulfill. 

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