Lead Paint Best Practices

Oil-based paints may contain lead, mercury, chromium, or cadmium, all of which are toxic to humans, animals and the environment above certain levels. Even when not required by environmental regulations, the following best practices are recommended.

  • Leftover paint should be labeled as "latex" or "oil-based." New latex paint is usually labeled as such or has instructions to clean up with water. Oil-based paint may be labeled "alkyd," "contains solvents," "clean up with mineral spirits," or "combustible."
  • Latex paint that is free of heavy metals (of particular concern are lead, barium, and mercury) may be allowed to dry completely and then be disposed in the trash as a non-hazardous solid waste. If so, to dry small amounts of latex paint, remove the lid and let the paint dry in the can. For larger amounts, mix in kitty litter or pour one-inch layers of paint in a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag. Stir the paint occasionally to speed the drying process.
  • Oil-based paints, stains or wood finishes should NOT be allowed to air-dry because the volatile chemicals are air pollutants. Even if dry, oil-based paint should not be disposed of through the trash stream.
  • Liquid paint should not be put in the trash or poured down the drain. If you want to store useable paint for long periods of time, cover the opening of the paint can with a piece of plastic wrap and seal the lid tightly. Store the can upside down and away from heat.