Painting Leftovers Painting Leftovers

If you’ve started your spring cleaning and can’t figure out what to do with all of those “almost empty” paint cans that you’ve got sitting in your garage, consider one of these options as a means to reduce the pile. Tightened environmental standards mean that you can’t just toss the cans into the trash anymore. You either need to come up with a creative way to use it, or you need to dispose of it in an approved and environmentally friendly way. Whether you’ve got oil, latex, or even some stains, there are ways to reclaim that corner of your garage that is piled high with cans.

One option, and probably the best, is to get a five gallon bucket with a lid and make a big batch of paint. If you have some oil and some latex then you’ll need to get two buckets, as you can’t mix those two types together. The chances are pretty good that you have some projects that need paint where color is not a factor. Do you need to paint the inside of your garden shed? Does the back wall of your workshop need paint? What about your kid’s play house, or even the doghouse? Any of these things are great applications for old paint. Simply combine them in a bucket –latex with latex and oil with oil- and get to work.

If you’ve got exterior stains that you don’t want to use on your house because they won’t match, consider using them to protect wood in inconspicuous places. You re-seal the surface of your deck every year, but what about the bottom? If you’ve got a deck that you can get underneath, you should be treated that surface as well. Even though it doesn’t get directly rained on, it still is exposed to the moisture that is evaporating up from the ground below it and can rot out from underneath you even as you keep the top surface of the deck looking beautiful. The underside of your deck is a great application for odd colors of exterior stain.

If you really have no use for the old paint, then you need to find a place to get rid of it. In these cases, the kind of paint that you have will determine how you get rid of it. If you have latex paint, you can simply open the lid and let it dry out. This will probably take a few days, but once it has dried up, you can safely throw it away with your regular trash.

If you have oil based paint, then you need to find a place that will recycle it. Check with your local paint store to see if they have a program in place and if that doesn’t pan out, many schools and charities will always accept donated paint. Housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity are always looking for donated building supplies to keep their overhead down. If you have a lot of paint to donate, it may even be worth some money in the form of a tax deduction. These organizations are usually more than willing to write you a receipt for your donation. They typically bulk the paint together with other donations to use on later projects.

The most important thing is that you do not put wet paint in your trash, down the drain, into the storm sewer, etc. This cause serious problems, as the chemicals in the paint will eventually end up contaminating the groundwater from which your town or neighborhood draws its residential water supply. This is your drinking water.

Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.

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