Guest Post: How to Safely Dispose of Latex Paint

Today's guest post comes from Crissy Trask of GreenMatters.com. Crissy is a well-renowned green living writer and speaker, and I am thrilled that we were able to collaborate on a post exchange.

The post is how to best dispose of latex paint. As many of you may know, I used to be a lead paint inspector with the EPA, so issues regarding house paint are very near and dear to my heart. We are surrounded by paint - and the chemicals paint is made from can affect our health in unexpected ways - so its always best to be informed.



QUESTION: How should I clean latex paint out of brushes, rollers and trays? Is it better to rinse them off in the sink so the water goes to the treatment facility, or to rinse them off outdoors over the ground so the paint filters through the soil?



ANSWER: Let’s take these two cleaning methods one at a time.

Sink cleaning: As long as the paint is latex (water-based), cleaning your painting tools in the sink and rinsing paint residue down the drain is fine. Waste water treatment facilities are set up for this kind of thing and are capable of removing or neutralizing impurities. Many cities prefer this method because they can control where and how impurities are disposed of.

Outdoor cleaning: Tools used for latex paint can be rinsed outside over the ground using a hose provided there is no risk of the tainted water running off into a storm drain or nearby waterway. This means rinsing them over a hard, impervious surface is definitely a no-no. Rinsing on grass is often best because the blades and roots provide a natural barrier that slows down the movement of water across the ground.
When choosing a suitable clean-up spot, give yourself a buffer of at least 15 feet between where you rinse and any edible plantings (on your property or your neighbors) and 200 feet from a natural water source. Choose relatively soft ground so the water will seep into the ground quickly. As it seeps deeper and deeper into the ground, the soil will naturally filter out impurities.

Before clean-up
Before cleaning painting tools, remove as much paint from them as possible. First brush wet paint out of paint trays and buckets into the original container. Then squeeze as much paint from brushes and rollers as possible. (That curved notch on paint sticks is for scraping paint from a saturate paint roller back into the can.) Clean paint brushes and rollers thoroughly to make sure they will last for years.

Crissy Trask is the founder of GreenMatters.com and the author of the bestseller It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living. Follow her on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook.