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How to Dispose of Paint 

I enjoy your column in Friday’s Daily Courier and am always interested to see what the subject is for the current week. I have a question about house paint disposal. I have been told there is a proper and legal way to dispose of paint and paint cans. Please enlighten me.

Like so many of us, when we are finished with a household paint project there seems to be leftover paint. Leftover paint is considered a hazardous waste and the first thing that everyone should be aware of is “Don’t dump!” Spilling, pouring, pumping or discharging any liquid waste intentionally or by accident is illegal. Paint cannot be put onto or into the ground, any body of water or a storm drain or a trash receptacle. Doing so may result in a fine.

There are two different types of paints – water based and solvent based. We chatted with Scott Barrett, Manager of Dunn Edwards Paints in Prescott Valley and Scott said “the type of paint is easily determined on the side of the can under clean up. If it says warm soapy water this is typically water based and easily disposed of. If it calls for mineral spirits or other chemicals it is solvent based and harder to dispose of”.

Let’s talk about latex paint, the easiest paint to dispose of: Washwater that contains only latex paint residue from the clean-up of brushes, rollers, spray equipment or minor spills is generally regarded as non-hazardous. This washwater may be poured down a sink or drain that is connected to a sanitary sewer leading to a water-treatment plant. Although not considered hazardous, washwater cannot be poured into the ground, a body of water or a storm drain. Again, any of these actions may be considered illegal industrial discharges and are subject to fines and penalties.

Scott encourages homeowners and industry painters to reach out to their community with leftover paint. Call the Habitat Re-Store or other community organizations, and schools. In most cases they may take the paint “off your hands”. However, these organizations do have guidelines on what they will take so do not just show up with it and hope you can drop it off.

You can always consider using latex paint for a later project. Latex paint can be stored, mixed and reused. It may not be the exact color you need but it is useful to use as a base paint or to paint interior surfaces that will not be seen. This way you are able to use up the paint without having to dispose of. You just tightly seal the can and store it upside down in a cool dry storage area.

For water based materials once they are completely dry, harden or empty containers of five gallons or less in capacity they are exempt from regulation when recycled or disposed of at an appropriate solid-waste facility, such as the City of Prescott Transfer Station. Liquid paint can be hardened by pouring an absorbent kitty litter into the can. Scott mentioned that Dunn Edwards Paints also sells an inexpensive paint hardener and when mixed with paint it will cause the paint to harden within hours. One the paint is hardened, toss it into a garbage bag, tie shut and it can be inserted into a household trash can. The City of Prescott sponsors a Hazardous Household Waste event once a year and at this time, any hazardous material can be dropped off for free. The most recent event was held March of 2014 with another event taking place sometime during 2015.

“Empty” means that the paint container is drained to the point where no material streams from the opening when the contained is held in any position. “Dry” means that any paint residue in or on the container is hardened throughout. At the point your water based paint containers meets these descriptions it is ok to throw them in any household trash can as well. You can also pour small amounts of paint on a sheet of cardboard and create a thin layer of paint, letting it sit in the sun to dry and then toss in the trash can. Again, latex paint is not considered toxic waste so it does not have to be taken to a toxic waste site.

For solvent based material, commonly known as “oil based” there really is no easy way to dispose of the paint. If donating it to a community organization does not work, then the paint should be properly disposed of through our local hazardous household waste program.

Phone: (928) 778-0040


810 E. Sheldon Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

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