In order to ensure the health and safety of your home and environment, it is important to always dispose of paint through proper avenues. Below is a general guideline to disposing of paint. If you are unsure of your county’s requirements for safe disposal, please contact your local waste department.

How to Dispose of Paint

Step 1: Determine Paint Type

Read the can carefully to determine what type of paint you have. Sometimes, the paint type is labeled clearly on the front of the can. Additionally, you can read the fine print on the backside of the can. Check the section for clean up/thinning. Ultimately, paint can be divided into two basic categories for disposal:

  • Water-Based Paint: Water-based paints clean up with warm soapy water.
  • Oil-Based Paint and Other Solvent-Based Paints: Oil-based paints clean up with paint thinner or mineral spirits. Other solvent-based paints will call for the use of special solvents other than water for clean up and thinning such as: Denatured Alcohol, Xylene, Acetone, etc.

Step 2: Can you or someone else use it?

Before disposing, try to re-use the paint in order to reduce the amount of waste entering the environment.

  • You can use it: If the paint is something you can use for future projects or for touch-up, make sure the can is sealed tightly and store in a temperature controlled space such as a closet until ready to use.
  • Someone else can use it: If the paint cannot be used by you, see if someone else can use it. Some places that may take paint donations include: local theaters, non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations that regularly use paint for various projects. Be sure to call ahead and make sure the organization is accepting usable paint at this time and what types of paint they will take.
  • Paint is unusable: Paint goes bad when it is not stored properly. If paint is allowed to freeze or get too hot, it can turn. Indicators of bad paint are lumps that do not go away with stirring, any type of growth on the paint such as mildew or mold or paint that smells spoiled or sour.

Step 3: Dispose according to your county’s requirements.

As of April 2020, most counties in Middle Tennessee that provide proper disposal information state that latex (water-based) paint is considered non-hazardous and once dry, can be thrown with regular household trash.

Pro Tip: Before disposing of any paint cans, carefully remove the label and store for easier re-ordering in the future. Additionally, try to save the formula and a sample of the color.

Dry it Out: Latex (water-based) paint can be dried out using different absorbent material such as:

  • Cardboard
  • Cat Litter
  • Saw Dust
  • Paint Hardener

Oil-based and other solvent-based paints are typically considered hazardous waste and may only be disposed on certain dates or at certain disposal sites.

Please use the below list to find out more information on hazardous waste disposal by county.

Paint Disposal by County

For all counties without a provided link please click here to visit TN Department of Environment & Conservation for more information.