How to Properly Dispose of Paint Cans

Paints and solvents can be some of the most dangerous products in your home.

EMPTY paint cans may be disposed of as refuse in Montclair. Removing the lid lets the refuse collector know that the can is empty. Never pour unused paint down your drain, down a storm drain, or in the trash.

If there is still residue or unused paint in the can, disposal options depend on the type of paint you have used. Paint is either latex (water-based) or oil-based.

Latex paint is labeled as such, or will give instructions to “clean up with water”.
Oil-based paint may be labeled "alkyd", "contains solvents", "clean up with mineral spirits", "combustible", or "enamel."


Paint cans containing small amounts of latex paint can be disposed of by first drying out the paint. Simply open the lid and let the paint dry. Paint cans in which the latex paint has been dried can then be disposed of as refuse.

If the can of latex paint still has a substantial amount of liquid paint, you may not dispose of it that way, because the paint will immediately empty out into the garbage truck, and spill out onto our streets…and the trail will begin at your home!

If the latex paint is usable and there is a significant quantity, try to use it up; or, try to donate it to a community organization, or a theater group.

Otherwise, simply add a paint drying/hardening product, which can be purchased for low cost at any hardware store. Once the latex paint has crystallized and hardened, you may then dispose of it as refuse.


In New Jersey, any paint cans containing oil-based paints and/or stains (and also paint thinners, solvents, and aerosol spray paints) are classified as Household Hazardous Waste, because they contain toxic chemicals which are prohibited from disposal due to their significant negative impacts on human health, and to our environment. Do not leave oil-based paint cans open to dry.

Oil-based paint must be disposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day event, conducted twice per year by the Essex County Utilities Authority, typically in the spring and fall (usually on the first Saturday in May and October). Simply store the materials in an attic, basement, closet or garage until the next event.

For further information and scheduled dates, call ECUA at (973) 792-9060, or go to