6 Ways to Manage Paint Leftovers

What to do with that extra paint.

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Americans buy about two gallons of paint per person, per year, according to the National Coatings and Paint Association. Because paint comes in standard one-­gallon or one-quart containers, you can almost guarantee you’ll have leftovers. Most landfills won’t accept paint because it’s considered hazardous waste, so learn to manage the amount you buy and find uses for the remainder.

1. CHOOSE CAREFULLY. Many companies offer either large paint chips or sample pouches or cans for better color visualization before you make a purchase.

2 MEASURE TWICE. Get wall dimensions, then buy no more paint than you need (you can always purchase more later if you run short).

3. STORE IT RIGHT. Make leftover paints last for future touchups:

• On the paint-can lid, write the date you bought it and where it was applied (e.g., “June 2005, kitchen trim”).

• Secure the lid tightly when your job is complete.

• Turn paint cans upside down for storage; the paint forms a seal and helps prevent rust and drying around the lid.

• Don’t stash paint in the garage or places where heat or cold can destroy its usefulness.

4. USE IT UP. Did you buy a sample quart, but the color isn’t right? Consider using it:

• On a trash-to-treasure furniture restoration

• As “primer” underneath a visible color

• In the basement, closet, garage, or other hidden spot where looks don’t matter

• As a contrasting trim color on a door panel or interior of a cabinet

5. DONATE IT. Give leftover paint to a worthy cause, including:

• A local high school, college, or community theater group (for sets and props)

• A graffiti-abatement program

• Housing restoration projects that benefit low-income individuals or senior citizens

6. SWAP IT. Organize a neighborhood paint swap on garage sale day.

As a Last Resort...

If your latex paint has seen better days, don’t wash it down the drain. Let it dry in the garage or outside, out of the reach of pets and children. Most trash-collection services will accept dried-up paint.

Never toss oil-based paint—considered a hazardous waste—in the trash or let it air dry. Consult with your local trash collector or landfill for proper disposal methods.