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

dispose of paint cans
Old & Empty Paint Cans

We see continuous development around the globe all the time. Due to this, you can see lots of completed mega projects and many others under process.

When it comes to development, the usage of paint is an essential part of new as well as old buildings. These paints are also applied to the walls of our 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 carbon elements in these paint cans are what makes them highly hazardous to human beings, animals, and our environment.

Also, many of these used cans still have paint residue, which is extremely dangerous.

Therefore the used paint cans, containers, and buckets must be disposed of correctly, and not be thrown in the garbage.

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

But before that, let’s start with knowing a few reasons why these containers should not be disposed of in garbage…

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 used spray paint cans are under high pressure due to which there’s a chance of explosion if these cans get exposed to heat.

The extreme pressure in the garbage truck can also be the reason for the explosion which is why these cans cannot be shifted to the garbage basket and dump trucks.

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

Another good reason is the leftover paint (with hazardous components) in the aerosol cans which are extremely dangerous not only for your environment but for your health – it can cause the risk of diseases like cancer, among many others.

The local authorities, therefore, formulate strict laws for the safety of the general public and the environment that needs to dispose of the dried paint, rags, and paint cans properly in a safe place.

Dispose latex paint can

How to Dispose Of Latex Paint Cans?

Multiple methods can be used for disposing of the used latex paint cans and plastic buckets.

But before you start know the rules and regulations in your locality related to recycling used latex paint cans.

The following are the most critical factors that you need to follow…

1- Check whether Completely Empty

The first thing is to check whether the paint cans are entirely empty or not.

Even if there is a small amount of paint present, open the lid of the can, place it in a well-ventilated area, and let it dry thoroughly in a natural way before its disposal.

It may take almost 2-4 hours, depending on the paint. But commercial paint hardeners can help in drying the paint faster and hence can be used.

2- Visit the Recycling Centre

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

Most of them offer the service free of charge, so if you want, you can check the recycling options online or consider placing them directly into the recycle bin.

Alternatively, you can check the website of your local administration, which will help clarify whether they offer recycling facilities.

3- Place it in the Trash if Not Recycled

If completely dried, you can throw used latex paint cans in the trash or 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, so deal with them cautiously.

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

1- Ensure that It’s Empty

Like above, first, check whether the oil paint can is completely empty or not.

If by chance there is some, and you don’t have any place to use it, brush it onto the newspaper, cardboard, or a scrap wood piece that can be thrown away.

This way, you can empty the can and dispose of the painted piece properly without risk.

2- Check out the Local Guidelines

Oil-based paint cans are highly dangerous, so different localities have different policies, rules, and regulations.

For checking local guidelines, you are advised to refer to the website of your local administration regarding the disposal of oil-based paints and old tins.

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.

Make sure that the can is completely empty and that you 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.

Alternatively, check online whether they offer you a pick-up facility for 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.

Since aerosol spray cans are extremely pressurized, may explode at tampering, or be exposed to extreme heat, it is highly advisable not to alter them before disposing of them.

The following are the steps that will help you dispose of spray paint cans safely.

1- Empty the Bottle

Shake the bottle of spray paint to know whether the bottle is empty or not. If it’s empty, you will listen to the typical air noise.

If it’s not, find some newspapers in your house and place them on the floor. Spray the paint over till the can gets emptied onto the newspaper.

2- Check the Rules of Your Locality

Every municipality has different policies regarding the disposal of spray paint bottles.

So it’s highly recommended to check out the rules and regulations of your locality on the website of the local administration or call them to inquire about disposing of the spray bottles.

If you don’t have the proper site for hazardous waste in your locality, and there’s enough paint left, check with your friends or neighbors if they are willing to use these partially filled cans for their project.

3- Sell Them to The Interested Companies

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

Many spray cans are made of steel or aluminum, so many industrial units around you might be interested in buying and recycling 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, and secondly, you are earning money from the disposal.

How to Harden Latex and Oil Paint to Dispose of?

Leftover latex and oil-based house paints (whether they contain hazardous materials or not), should not be disposed of unless it’s completely dried out in the cans.

Fortunately, multiple homemade methods are there to help harden and dry the leftover house paint in cans.

Depending on how much time and paint you have to dispose of, you can use one of these methods…

1- Use paint hardener

If you have a large amount of latex or oil paint to dispose of, try making household paint hardeners by using absorbent materials like kitty litter, sawdust, cement, or sand.

When mixed with paint, they speed up the paint hardening process.

Alternatively, many commercial paint hardening products are available on the market that can be mixed in the paint according to the package instructions.

These store-bought paint hardeners are inexpensive, so 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, close the paint container lid and dispose of it safely.

2- Harden paint in a cardboard box

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

  • Place a medium-sized cardboard box on the floor or a 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 sheets

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

Use the leftover paint on these old sheets, and throw them easily in the trash once the paint is hardened and has dried over them.

This will cost you nothing. But it can be time-consuming if there’s a large quantity of paint you need to remove from your property, so try this method only if you have a minimal amount of paint to dispose of.

What to Do with Empty Paint Buckets – Can You Recycle Them?

Once you have cleaned out the paint cans and buckets, you can reuse or recycle empty paint cans in different ways around your home.

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

From punched-can lanterns, home office cubbies, coat hooks, and jewelry tins to bird feeders and hanging planters in the garden, Bobvila suggests a few DIY ways to be employed when reusing the empty quart paint cans and small paint containers.

Also, remember 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 to most recycling centers. So, check with these centers if you do not want to use them in your household.

Related FAQs

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 beautifying cities’ monumental grandeur.

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

This method is free for you and can sometimes 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 2022-23.

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 policy regarding old paint, depending on where you live. 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 old lead-content paint, most home paints 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 to know the easy, fast, and legal process based on your local guidelines.

You can also do a myriad of things 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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