Recycling paint is easy, inexpensive, and green! Not only will it keep hazardous material out of landfills and waterways, but it will also save you money.
Be sure to work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area away from kids and pets. You will need latex gloves, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, a dust mask, and goggles. Avoid splashes by keeping your face away and mouth closed when opening cans. Should any paint splash on your face, especially near your eyes, nose, or mouth, always rinse immediately.
Stick to Water-based
Read the label on the can to determine if it is water- or oil-based. Oil- or alkyd-based products are great for special projects but are considered hazardous materials when it comes to recycling and disposal. If the label is missing, torn, or painted over, check the ingredients list for water, or examine the base of the can to ensure it’s rubber. If these tricks don’t help, check the cleanup section of the container for instructions that say to use “soap and water” as opposed to mineral spirits. This is an indication that the contents are water-based.
Shake It Up
Be sure to close the lid tightly with a mallet before shaking. Hold the can firmly by the sides and shake vigorously, turning the can and shaking again from each direction. Once the liquid inside sloshes consistently, you can carefully open the can.
Know What to Use and What to Discard
You are simply combining usable materials together, not salvaging a dried or rotten product. Reseal and set aside any cans that smell rancid, look like cottage cheese or Jell-O, or have solids settled on the bottom with bubbly water on top. These should be disposed of properly as hazardous waste.
Filter Like Colors Together
Hold the can with one hand on the bottom and one hand on the open top. For heavier cans, loop the handle around your thumb for stability. Pour carefully through a mesh screen into a five-gallon bucket. You can use a window screen, or buy rolls of mesh from your local home improvement store.
It’s best to dedicate a drill and mixing bit to this project, but for small quantities, you can simply shake vigorously until it is thoroughly integrated.
Behold Your Creation
Your recycled product will always be unique as you can’t reproduce the exact same combination of colors again. Plus, it will essentially be a different shade of the same color family you’ve been using, so your new color should coordinate with the original colors.
Get to Work
Roll or brush onto primed surfaces as usual. Generally, recycled paint will be a little thicker due to some water evaporation, so you will likely need fewer coatings.
Store the Remainder
When you’re finished, swatch and date the top of the lid, seal tightly, and store in a cool, dry place.
For paint that you are finished using or that has gone bad, contact your city’s sanitation department regarding household hazardous waste collection. Even if the recycling process isn’t for you, most cities offer this service at little to no cost-and you gain the satisfaction of keeping your planet and community sustainable!