leftover cans of paint

If you’re like a lot of people, you have an assortment of half-used cans of paint stacked up somewhere on your property.   Are they all  worth saving?  Here’s my personal thinking on leftover paint:

  • Any paint that has been stored in a garage or outdoor shed for any good length of time is ruined.  Forget about it.
  • This goes without saying, yet somehow I am guilty myself:  Do not harbor a leftover paint color that’s not painted on a wall in your house!  This applies to color samples, $2 oops gallons, paint that came with the house, and the like.
  • Ask yourself:  Do you actually use paint for touchups?  I have to admit that I never have.  If you do, I’m jealous of your pristine walls and I will get off your back about your extra paint cans.
  • Some folks will claim that paint stored correctly will last 10 years, but even if it does, would it still match for touch-ups?  If you’re saving touch-up paint for more than 3 years, it’s probably not going to blend with the original color.  It’s also probably leaving nasty rust stains on your shelf or floor.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that future owners of your home will appreciate leftover paint.  In my experience, buyers want everything gone from the house.  The only exception is if the whole home was just painted one neutral color for market (tip: a very popular option for the past couple of years has been the Sherwin Williams color known as Repose Gray).  In that case, a little extra left over may be appreciated.
  • There are some paints worth saving: If the can has enough paint in it to complete a large area, it could be used to paint a particularly scuffed up wall.  Other saves would be stain blocking primers and outdoor enamel in a reusable color like black or white, or paints that can legitimately be used for art or craft projects.

Have I convinced you to pitch some of your cans of paint?  Yes, it’s hazardous waste, but don’t let that keep you from taking care of it sooner than later.  In many parts of the country, cans of paint that are more than 25% full can be recycled at the local landfill.  If it’s less than 25% full,  leave the can open to dry out.  Then you can take it out with the regular trash.   Now all you have to do is scrub up those rust rings and enjoy the reclaimed space.


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