Leftover brown paint in can

It’s rare that you will finish a paint project and find you have used exactly the amount of paint you needed for the job. Leftover paint shouldn’t be discarded because you never know when it might come in handy for touch–ups or other unrelated projects, never mind that throwing it away wastes money. However, you need to store paint properly so that it is reusable. Keep reading to find out the best way to store your paint for future touch ups and projects.

Step 1: Proper Post-Painting Cleanup

A lot of prep work goes into starting a paint project. The job isn’t over when you’ve applied the last coat. You need to clean up your work area and put things away before you can relax and enjoy your handiwork. Put as much effort and care into cleaning up after painting as you would in preparing for the project.

Start by picking up drop cloths and tarps. Pick them up carefully, making sure you don’t spread around any paint that may have gotten on them. Clean paintbrushes and other tools with warm, soapy water. You can also use a non-toxic, citrus-based cleaner for additional help. Thoroughly rinse your roller covers and brushes in water until the water runs clear, then place them in a brush/roller spinner, if you have one, to remove excess liquid. Store in their protective sleeves or hang them on nails or hooks.

Remove painter’s tape at a 45-degree angle to avoid removing any fresh paint. Remember that the longer it stays on, the harder it is to remove.

Dispose of used paint cans appropriately. Many people don’t know that leftover latex paint has to dry completely before you can dispose of it. Even if you have used all the paint from a can, allow the empty container to dry with the lid off before discarding. If there is less than a quarter of the can left, you can let the paint dry by leaving it in a well-ventilated area until it hardens, stirring it once every few days.

Safety Alert!

When leaving paint out to dry, be sure to keep it in an area that’s away from children, pets and open flames.

Helpful Tips

Only buy what you need for the job at hand so you don’t have too much extra paint. Before you begin, measure the area carefully (height x width = total sq. ft.). One gallon of paint will cover approximately 350 to 400-sq.-ft.

When setting out paint to dry up, try filling partially empty cans with shredded newspaper or a powder to aid in clumping up the leftover paint so that it dries up faster for discarding.

Step 2: Properly Store Excess Paint

There is no need to waste paint. You can save any leftover paint for touch-up jobs or use it to paint a small area of your home in an unrelated project. Always store paint in a cool, dry location away from sunlight and where the temperature stays above freezing. Before storing, wipe away any excess paint on the outside of the can. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the opening and then replace the lid, firmly sealing it with taps from a rubber mallet and then store the can upside down to prevent air from entering the container.

Helpful Tips

If you don’t have the storage area to house leftover paint or don’t want the clutter, consider donating leftover paint to someone who can use it, like an artist or a theater group trying to stretch its financial resources.

If you have young children, it's a good idea to purchase a lockable storage cabinet for all paints, chemicals and solvents.

Label the paint can with the color and location of where you used it for convenient reference later on.

Don’t use a screwdriver to open paint cans. This can bend the lid and make it harder to close later on. Use a paint can opener.

Safety Alert!

Don't put liquid paint in the trash or pour it down drains to discard it.

Check with your local municipality to find out what ordinances are in effect for proper disposal. Dried up latex paint is usually safe to discard in municipal trash cans. Many cities have drop-off locations for paint and other materials that require special methods of disposal. Checking with authorities goes double for disposing of oil-based paints. These are often considered hazardous material by many municipalities. Consider recycling metal and plastic paint cans to reduce landfill waste. Check local ordinances to see if your town participates in paint can recycling.

Good work. By following these simple tips for proper paint storage, you can store what paint you need and appropriately dispose of paint you don’t.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.