We’re all guilty of stashing old cans of paint on the off chance we’ll need them again one day.

Let’s face it, most of them are gathering dust and taking up unnecessary space in your loft or shed.  But if you don’t keep them what exactly can you do with them?

If your paint can isn’t empty

Save it – If you seal your paint cans correctly, most high-quality paint can last up to 10 years in the original container.  You can use it to touch up any scrapes or dent.  Store it in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight.  Label the paint with the date of storage, and always check it prior to reusing in case it has gone off.  If it smells bad or has hard lumps it’s time to let it go!

Donate it – Ask family and friends, or even advertise your paint on your local giveaway page.  Someone in your local community may have a small project on the go and would appreciate your leftovers.

Check if there are organisations in your area who would love to re-use your paint.  Community RePaint is a UK wide network of over 75 schemes who collect surplus and leftover paint and then make it available to individuals and families in social need and every form of community group and charity, so that they are able to re-use household paints for projects such as decorating community centres and creating colourful playground murals.

If your paint is very old and unsuitable for re-use, or you are not able to find someone locally who can use it, you will need to make sure your paint is hardened before you dispose of it.

How do you harden paint?

If you have a small amount of paint left, brush it on to scrap paper or cardboard and leave it to dry. Once dry, the paper or card can be placed in your household bin.

If there is a larger amount of paint in the can (more than a few centimetres deep), add some dry soil, sand or sawdust to the can and leave our in the sun to harden.

Next, take your paint cans to your nearest household waste recycling centre – your local council can let you know where this is.  Here, plastic paint cans are disposed of responsibly and metal paint cans are sent for recycling.

How do you dispose of empty paint cans?

Contact your local council for advice on where your nearest household waste recycling centre is that accepts paint cans.  Here, plastic and metal paint cans will be disposed of, or recycled, responsibly.


Don’t pour paint down the drain.  Although paint is perfectly safe for use in your homes, you can’t just pour it down the drain.  Unused paint is classified as hazardous waste so take a little extra care when getting rid of it. Not only is it not good for the environment, but it could also result in hard-to-shift drain blockages.

Don’t throw paint cans into the bin.  Liquid paint isn’t allowed in landfill sites, so your council won’t accept it.