How to Store Paint and Other Hazardous Materials

Paints and potential poisons require careful storage.

Paint

Caked and driedout paint can be annoying, but fires or bodily harm from caustic substances pose far more serious concerns. Prevent these problems by following a few simple guidelines.

Prevent air from contacting the paint surface (and forming a skin) when resealing the can. Cut a circle of wax paper or aluminum foil and float it on top of the remaining paint. Wipe down the rim, then put the lid on very tightly by tapping with a rubber mallet.

Brush a line of paint on the can's exterior to show both the level remaining and the paint color. Jot a note on the side with a permanent marker that tells you when and where you bought it and which room it's used in.

Pour a small portion of any leftover paint into a Mason jar. When you need to make small touch-ups, you won't have to open and reseal the main container. Label the jar with the paint color or mixing formula, the room it's used in and the date.

Other items

Keep gasoline in a tightly sealed, prominently labeled container in a cool location separate from your residence. A detached garage or storage building is far preferable to a basement or an attached porch. Gasoline vapors are invisible and will spread rapidly from room to room if released.

Store other hazardous materials (drain opener, rust and lime removers, oven cleaners) in their original containers and out of the reach of children, making sure that the labels are clearly visible. Choose well-ventilated storage areas for materials that might produce vapors and fumes, and never store in the same area as a gas water heater. Keep them away from food, including pet food. Contamination can occur even if the chemical is not in direct contact with the food.

Store chemicals out of direct sunlight because some are photodegradable (they break down when exposed to sunlight) and can lose their potency. Keep them at room temperature--some chemicals can release harmful vapors if stored at high temperatures, even if the lid is tight-fitting.

Tips

  • Read 73 Make Your Home Safe for Small Children.
  • See 134 Organize Art Supplies for information on disposing of rags soaked in solvents and other toxins.

Warnings

  • Avoid storing paint in extreme heat or cold--either can damage the paint, and extreme heat plus oil-based paint can lead to a fire.
  • Never use a food or beverage container for storing hazardous materials. The resulting mistaken identity could be fatal.
  • Check container labels carefully before discarding; most list specific disposal instructions. Never burn or bury containers that once held hazardous materials.