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Recycling Paint
A frequently asked question from clients is what to do with all that old or leftover paint.

If sealed properly and stored in a cool, dry place away from extreme temperatures, most paint can last for years.  
(*See below for more storage tips.)  However, when you're ready to dispose of it, here are several options to
consider based on the type of paint you have.

Latex Paint
Latex, or water-based, paint is deemed a "less hazardous waste", like alkaline batteries and fluorescent tubes,
though it should never be taken to a landfill or poured down a sink.  In San Francisco, there are a number of
neighborhood collection locations which can be found at www.sfenvironment.com or by calling 415-554-4333.

Many hardware stores will also accept old latex paint.  Cole Hardware of San Francisco has long been a staunch
environmental advocate and will accept suitable paint at all four of its city locations. (
A Coat Above is a frequent
visitor.) Check out its very informative website at

Oil Paint
Otherwise known as household hazardous waste, oil paint (and fellow unwanted products such as motor oil,
pesticides and other chemical toxins), must never be put into the ground.  Most counties have specific recyling
stations where homeowners can get rid of these dangerous substances.

In San Francisco, you must show proof of residency to use its facility, SF Recycling & Disposal, located at 501
Tunnel Avenue.  For more info, contact 415-626-4000 or visit

*To help extend the longevity of leftover paint, cover the can's opening with plastic wrap which creates an
additional seal.  Replace the lid and gently tap it closed with a mallet (a hammer may damage the rim).  Storing
the paint can upside down creates a vacuum seal and prevents air from entering which dries out the paint.  
However, if the paint goes bad, it may leave a large deposit on the lid and make it difficult to open. Some
programs discourage this practice so check with your local recyling/collection places for recommendations.

Using Up Your Paint
It's always good to have extra paint on hand for the inevitable touch-up. Also, consider using it in small
quantities with like colors for larger jobs or as a primer where the final finish isn't that important.

Getting Rid of the Can
If you use up all your paint, check to see if your local places recycle the can and if so, make sure the skin of
paint on the inside is completely dry before dropping it off.

Donating or Exchanging Paint
Local schools, community groups, churches and other charities are usually more than happy to make use of your
unwanted paint, and it may be tax deductible as well.  

Another idea is to swap or exchange paint with neighbors, friends and others.  You never know what colors may
inspire you.   Some people have taken such resourcefulness even further, forming entities that utilize leftover
paint to help their communities, like the nonprofit New Orleans Mid-City Green Project showcased in the following
Mother Jones article.

Additional Sites
For more paint-related information, check out the sites below which were consulted to help compile our tips.

Chemical Educational Foundation             
National Paint and Coatings Association    www.paint.org
Consumer Product Safety Commission      www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/5055.html