tips and tricks4 min read

What to do with your leftover paint

Lick paint brush with white paint on in

WordsMaha Elley


So you’re done painting for a home decor project (for now), but there’s still some perfectly usable paint left in the tin. What next? Before you go ahead and dispose of it: wait. Did you know that every year an estimated 20 million litres of solidified paint that could be reused, donated or remanufactured ends up in landfills across the country? We want to encourage our community to make conscious purchases. That’s why, together with PaintCare, we want to help you waste less when decorating and help tackle leftover paint. 

From buying the right amount, storing your paint correctly, and getting creative with leftover paint, to donating and recycling. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Here are a few ideas on what to do with leftover paint so it doesn’t have to go to waste.

But first... buy right

How can you avoid having leftover paint in the first place? Prevention is better than a cure, so buying the right amount of paint is key to avoiding leftover tins at the end of a job. In fact, an estimated 30% of excess paint is due to miscalculation and over-ordering. That’s why we’ve created our helpful paint calculator. Simply choose the paint you want on our website and next to “choose quantity” click “try our paint calculator”.

What to do with leftover paint

Store right and save for touch-ups

Done with your DIY project and have some paint left over? You don’t need to put it to use straight away - save it! You never know when it could come in handy for any touch-ups needed in the future.

It’s not just tinned food that likes to be kept in a dry, cool, dark place. If stored correctly, your paint tins will last much longer too.

Here’s how to store your paint the right way so it doesn’t go ‘bad’: 

  • Make sure it’s sealed in an airtight container, which most paint cans are. Make sure to clean the rim and replace the lid firmly after use
  • Store leftover paint in a cool, dry place. Avoid anywhere that’s too hot, too cold, or too humid. 
  • Don’t have much leftover paint? Pour it into a smaller container to reduce the paint-to-air ratio and keep it fresher for longer.

Get crafty

While painting for DIY or decor projects is our first love, you can also use your paint for some good old-fashioned arts and crafts fun. Unleash your crafty side by using any leftover paint to get a little creative. Get some blank canvas and paint your heart out. 

Leftover paint samples used in a scrap book
@celiamartinepickering creates art with her leftover paint samples
Art created using leftover Lick paint samples
We love what @celiamartinepickering has created

Upcycle furniture

Paint isn’t just for your walls and ceilings. It also comes in super handy if you want to make over existing pieces of furniture that could do with a bit of a spruce. Use any leftover paint to upcycle furniture and save yourselves the cost (and hassle) of having to invest in new pieces. Oh, and you’re helping the environment in two ways here: by not throwing away your leftover paint and by saving old furniture pieces from landfill. 

Check out how to upcycle your bedside table by doing a little IKEA malm hack or learn how to upcycle cabinets in your bathroom using leftover paint.

An upcycled cupboard drawer
A upcycled console
Upcycling done beautifully by @patience_and_gough

Donate it 

Consider donating your leftover paint if you can’t find a use for it yourself and give it a new home.  Ask your family or friends if they’d like it for any decor or upcycling projects. Or reach out to local businesses or schools to check whether they may like it. Consider some of the organisations that would welcome your donations, like your local community centres, homeless shelters, or schools. . Alternatively, you could even give your paint away on online marketplace listings like Facebook Marketplace.

How to dispose of paint in an eco-friendly way  

If you can’t find another use for your leftover paint, have nowhere to store it, and no one to donate it to, make sure you dispose of it carefully to avoid causing any harm to the environment.

Recycle it

Right now, only a third of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) accept liquid paint. It’s part of our joint mission with PaintCare to improve these figures. Use PaintCare’s recycling locator to find your nearest HWRC and once you’re there follow the instructions on which method of recycling or disposal to use. Depending on your local centre, your leftover paint will either be recycled into new paint or other products, used in energy recovery or sent for proper disposal.

For more information, check out our guide on how to dispose of paint cans safely. 

Want to know more about our sustainability efforts? We have an all-new Sustainability hub for that.