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What to Do with Leftover Paint and Paint-Covered Brushes

How many cans of half-full paint do you have in your garage?  Even more important, how many of them are even still usable?! No matter the scope of your painting project, odds are you will have at least one partial container of paint left over when the job is done. If the paint was a special mix, then you’ll probably want to keep that remaining paint in good condition. It could come in handy if you ever have to touch-up or re-paint a scratched or damaged wall in the future.

Garages and sheds are the most popular places for people to store their left-over cans of paint AND THE WORST PLACES because extreme temperature changes can wreak havoc on your leftover paint.

Very Hot or Very Cold Changes Paints and Makes Them Old

When leftover paint is stored in a place that gets very hot or very cold, the paint will change in consistency, making it unusable. Eventually, the paint will turn into hazardous waste and it must be disposed of in an ecologically friendly manner — rather than being tossed in with your regular trash.

Latex paint, in particular, tends to separate in extreme temperatures. One freeze/thaw cycle will turn it into a curdled mess that will no longer blend into usable paint. Excessive heat will dry out the paint, leaving a thick skin across the top of the paint. If left long enough, the remaining paint will turn into a solid rubbery block.

Paints Survive in “Cool & Dry”

The key to storing paint is to keep it in a cool, dry place, such as a nice, dry basement.

Don’t have a basement? Find a spot in a closet inside your house. The two most important factors when you’re choosing a place to store leftover paint are: low-moisture and temperature-controlled.

You want to avoid places with high moisture because metal paint cans will quickly form rust around the lid. As soon as you open a paint can with a rusted lid, pieces of rust and debris will fall into the paint and ruin your paint job. 

If the basement is where you’ll be storing leftover paint, be sure to keep the paint cans off the concrete floor because moisture will wick up and create rust.

Brushing Up on Cleaning Brushes

Clean brushes and rollers immediately after your painting project is completed. First, remove all excess paint from the brush, roller, paint tray, or roller frame. For paint trays, use the heavy plastic kind, brushing excess paint back into the can, and letting the final layer of paint dry instead of rinsing out.

The best place to clean brushes is in a bucket of water and finish with a clean-water rinse before shaking them out. Check water restrictions and septic system or municipality regulations for places you are allowed to wash your brushes with water in your home. Many municipalities are okay with waterborne paint waste (water coming off brushes and going down drains during cleaning), because it heads straight to a treatment center with all the other waste water. However, don’t do this if you’re on a private or shared septic system.

The rinsing method of your brushes depends on the type of paint. For water-based paint, use warm water and about a teaspoon of soap. For a brush, use your fingers to push the paint through and out of the bristles, pressing them up against the base of the sink and scrubbing paint stuck to the outside of bristles with a scrub sponge. For a roller cover, run a 5-in-1 tool’s curved blade down the cover to remove excess paint, pull the cover halfway off the frame and run it under warm water, working with your fingers to get the paint loose from fibers.

For oil-based paint, use odorless mineral spirits. For a brush, pour solvent in a small container and swish the tool from side to side, using the edges of the container to push out paint. Then give it a rinse with clean mineral spirits. For a roller cover, remove excess paint with a 5-in-1, dip and roll it around in a paint tray filled with solvent, and do a final rinse with clean solvent.

If you have any questions, give us a call or come in and talk to us. We’re happy to help!

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Jodi Sundaram
March 20, 2020

Very happy with our interior paint project that the Unique Painting KC did for us. Chad, Toska and the entire crew were great. They do quality work and are very efficient. Customer service is obviously a high priority to them as the communication was timely from the first call to look at the project until the project was complete. I would not hesitate in calling them for our next paint project!