How to dispose of old paint

We share four safe, responsible and legal ways to get rid of leftover paint without harming the planet or your home

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Published: August 12, 2022 at 1:47 pm

If you're keen DIY fan who prides themselves on their room makeovers or a crafter with a passion for upcycling furniture, chances are you've got more than a few half-empty paint tins or sample pots cluttering up your shed or gathering dust in the 'big cupboard'.


It might have crossed your mind that your paint supplies are due a clear-out, but perhaps you're not sure how to best dispose of them - you wouldn't be alone. As you may already know, paint can't be thrown away as part of normal household waste, and it should never be poured down a drain or sink as the paint can clog the insides of pipes and even leach contaminating chemicals into the water supply.

So how should you responsibly dispose of old paint? Keep reading for everything you need to know about safe and legal ways to use up or get rid of your half-empty tins or tester pots, from cutting-edge recycling tech to fun craft projects.

Four ways to safely dispose of leftover paint

Reuse it

Recycling is always better than sending items to landfill, but even recycling has its own carbon footprint - that's why reuse is by far the most planet-friendly option, where possible. The most obvious use for old paint is to touch up damaged surfaces, such as painting over marks or chips, so it's worth holding onto paints you've used around your home - if you have several similar colours, label your paint tins with the room or area it was used in to tell them apart.

There are fun ways to use up old paint, too. If you've got a collection of tester pots and half-empty tins from past DIY jobs, you can use small amounts of paints for all kinds of creative and fun projects around your home, from painting a trendy wall arch to giving furniture a new lease of life. We've gathered a few of our favourite ideas to use up leftover paint here, to get you inspired!

Donate it

If you can't reuse leftover paints yourself, more likely than not there's someone else who can. If you've got spare paint to give away, reach out to friends and family, or post on a community Facebook page or message board. Very often, your useless clutter is someone's else's handy find!

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The Community RePaint Network is a great resource for ensuring your old paint get a new lease of life. The scheme collects leftover paint at household recycling centres across the country, which is then sorted and sold at a low cost to community groups, charities and individuals. Just enter your postcode on their website and they'll show you your nearest household waste centre with a paint collection point.

Recycle it

Can paint be recycled? The answer, surprisingly, is yes - at least, under certain conditions. Currently, only 2% of paint is recycled, but the technology of processing leftover paint and making it suitable for reuse - a process called remanufacturing - does exist.

Since 2015, the Community RePaint Network has been operating paint remanufacturing centres, where leftover paint is filtered, treated and then blended to create new full tins of high-quality paint. Enter your postcode to find your nearest collection point if you have paint you'd like to donate to the network.

If you're looking to buy a large amount of paint at low cost, for instance for a community project, you can also order ReColour remanufactured paint on their website. Available paints include matt emulsion, masonry paint and chalk paint, and prices start at just £5 for a five-litre tub. Online orders start at a minimum of 60l for matt emulsion and masonry.

Dispose of it safely

If your leftover paint is unsuitable for reuse - for instance, it has started to dry out, or is contaminated with debris - your only option may be to dispose of it as waste. Rules differ from area to area, so check out your local council's guidelines to see what your options are.

Many household waste and recycling centres can only accepted solid waste, so first you may need to dry out the contents of your leftover paint tins. To do this, take the lid off and leave to dry until fully hardened in a safe place, away from your living area and out of reach of children or pets. You can speed up the process by adding sawdust, soil, sand, or paint hardener.


If you only have a small amount of paint left over, you can paint it onto pieces of cardboard and leave to dry. The painted cardboard can then be included in your regular household waste.


Rebecca MessinaEditor,

Rebecca is the Digital Editor of Your Home and HomeStyle


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