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  • Writer's pictureDunsmuir Hardware



It is 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 should not be discarded because you never know when it might come in handy for touchups or other unrelated projects, never mind that throwing it away waste’s 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 is not over when you have 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 do not spread around any paint that may have gotten on them. Clean paint brushes 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 the 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 do not know that leftover latex paint must 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 is away from children, pets, and open flames.

Helpful Tips

Only buy what you need for the job at hand, so you do not 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. To see how much paint you will need, check out the paint calculator tool.

When setting out paint to dry up, try filling partially empty cans with shredded newspaper or 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 is 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.

Do not use a screwdriver to open paint cans. This can bend the lid and make it harder to close later. Use a paint can opener.

Safety Alert!

Do not 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 a 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 the 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.

Here is an unrelated tip: Dunsmuir Hardware is for Sale! The present owners have operated the store for over 40 years and are ready to pass it on to a new owner who appreciates how special it is. Want to learn more about this amazing business opportunity? We are open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sundays. Come and see us we are at 5836 Dunsmuir Avenue Dunsmuir, California, or call (530)235-4539.

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