How to Properly Dispose of Old Paint & Chemicals

Disposing of old chemicals such as paint requires two approaches.

Nonlead-based paint can be disposed of in the trash when dry.Nonlead-based paint can be disposed of in the trash when dry.
For old paint, it is necessary to allow the paint to dry prior to its disposal. Old chemicals such as chemical strippers, automotive oil or coolant must be recycled by appropriate recycling facilities. Simply dumping chemicals can pollute ground water and cause you to incur penalties from state and local EPA offices as well as potential cleanup fees, depending on the severity of the infraction.

Open the lids to any paint cans that you want to dispose of. Cans which contain less than a pint of paint will dry in a few days. Full cans of paint for which you have no further use should be recycled or repurposed. Consider donating unwanted paint to a local charity organization.

Throw the paint can in the trash once the paint inside has dried completely. This is possible because latex and oil-based paint solids are nontoxic. The solvents which thin the paint for application are toxic. Lead-based paint should be taken to a recycling facility whether it is dried or not. If recycling paint, keep latex and oil-based paint separate because they must be recycled separately.

Recycle solvents, household cleaners and automotive chemicals such as oil, antifreeze and transmission fluid at an EPA-approved recycling center. Automotive parts stores recycle automotive chemicals and some home stores such as Home Depot or Lowe's accept paint or other household hazardous chemicals for recycling.

About the Author

Don Kress began writing professionally in 2006, specializing in automotive technology for various websites. An Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technician since 2003, he has worked as a painter and currently owns his own automotive service business in Georgia. Kress attended the University of Akron, Ohio, earning an associate degree in business management in 2000.