Living Smart: Get covered on disposing of paint cans

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

If you look in almost any homeownerís garage, youíll probably find a half-empty paint can or two. We know we canít pour the leftover paint down the drain ó which would contaminate the water treatment systems ó and we canít toss it in the trash without risking environmental damage and potential harm to the sanitation workers. So how do we get rid of old paint?

Take paint cans to a drop-off site

Spend some time locating your nearest hazardous waste facility, and see if they accept paint. Or mark your calendar for any community "roundup" days, when temporary sites are set up for collection.

Some states, such as California, Connecticut, Oregon and Vermont, have paint stewardship laws that allow paint retailers to accept leftovers. The stores take leftover paint during regular business hours, making paint recycling and disposal much more convenient and safe. Similar legislation is expected to pass soon in Minnesota, Rhode Island and Maine.

Let it dry out

If thereís less than a half-inch of paint left, take the lid off and let it dry out until it becomes hard. Make sure to keep it out of the reach of children and pets. "Then itís OK to throw away in the trash," says Greg Mrakich, owner of Greg Mrakich Painting in Indianapolis.

In California, where tossing paint is illegal, residents need to take leftovers to a paint retailer or hazardous waste drop-off. Also, donít try this with oil-based paints ó too many fumes!

Mix paint in kitty litter

If thereís more than a half-inch of latex paint left in the can, stir in cat litter or a paint-hardener compound you can purchase from the hardware store. After you mix it in, let it sit in the open for a day and dry out. Then itís OK to toss it in the trash.

Donate it

"Sometimes local charities will want some of your good, leftover paints," says Joshua Abramson, chief solutionist for A Allbright Painting in Valencia, Calif. "Especially whites and off-white colors."

Another option for homeowners working with a painting contractor involves a little sweet-talking. "Ask nicely if he or she could clean out your paint locker at the end of the project!" says Michael Chism, president of highly rated Chism Brothers Painting in San Diego.