how to4 min read

How to dispose of paint

Crate holding paint roller frame

WordsMaha Elley


Got a few unused (or half-used) tins of paint in the garage or tucked into the back of your garden shed?

Let’s face it, we’ve all had a few paint tins gathering dust in storage at some point. The main reason we choose to ignore them for so long? Most of us just aren’t quite sure what to do with them. 

So, how exactly do you deal with old paint? Or paint that you don’t want? Do you toss it in a bin and hope for the best? 

The short answer? No. Learn how to dispose of paint in a safer and more eco-friendly way…..

Paint tin disposal: why you need to think about it 

Although paint is perfectly safe for use on your walls and ceilings, the ingredients within mean you can’t just pour it down the drain. Unused paint is classified as hazardous waste so take a little extra care when getting rid of it. 

Why, you ask? Well, 1) It’s not good for the environment and 2) It could result in hard-to-shift drain blockages.

How to dispose of old paint: can you throw it in the bin?

Again, no.

Just as you can’t simply pour unused paint down the drain, you can’t chuck old paint tins in the bin either. Liquid paint isn’t allowed in landfill sites so your council won’t accept it. 

Don’t worry though, you’re not stuck with it for life. Check out what to do with leftover paint or read below...

Harden it first

Check with your local council, but in most areas, you can throw away hardened up paint with the rest of your recycling. Depending on the amount you’re dealing with, use one of the below methods to dry your paint up:

Option 1: If you’re dealing with large amounts: Add sawdust or soil to the tins and leave it out in the sun to dry out and solidify. Take to your local recycling centre for disposal. 

Option 2: For smaller amounts: Pour paint onto old cardboard or newspapers to soak up and leave to dry. You can then dispose of the painted card or paper along with the rest of your household recycling. 

Can you recycle the tins? 

If they’re made of metal and are empty, you should be able to recycle old paint tins easily with the rest of your household recycling. 

Plastic paint containers aren’t currently recyclable in most places. If you’re looking to dispose of plastic containers, check with your local recycling facility before dropping them off.  

(Tip: all Lick paint tins are recyclable. just check the label).

Try donating it instead

If you know you won't be needing leftover paint again any time soon, consider donating it. Ask around in your circle of family or friends to see whether they’d like it to decorate any surfaces around their home. You could also get in touch with local businesses or schools to see whether they may have any use for it.  

... or save it for the future.

If you seal up paint tins correctly, most high-quality paint can last for up to 10 years in their original container. You may be glad you saved it next time you see a little scrape or dent on a painted surface. Try using it for other home interior projects or exterior makeovers (check out how to paint a shed and the best shed paint to use).

Seal unused paint by hammering down cling film over the closed tin lid. Store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. Label with the date of storage and do a thorough check of its condition before using again. Signs that it’s no good for use in the future? Hard lumps or a foul smell.