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How to dispose of leftover paint, white spirit and other chemicals

There is nothing like that feeling of satisfaction when you’ve finished a lengthy painting and decorating job at home, cleaned up and put all your brushes, tools and materials away. You can then stand back and admire your handiwork.

For many of us, most of what we’ve used can go straight back in the shed or garage. But some people don’t have that luxury of space or simply want to get rid of leftover paint or white spirit. The temptation may be to just throw the paint in the bin, tin and all, or to pour the white spirit down the sink. But these are two of the worst things that you can do, for so many reasons.

painter's roller

Image source: Photocapy via Flickr

When it comes to paint, it’s always worth keeping the remains of that final tin back for touch-ups, knocks and scrapes in the future. It may look like it doesn’t match your hard work as it goes on, but as it dries it will blend right in. Just make sure you give it a good mix before you use it again. You’ll be glad that you kept hold of it and won’t have to buy a new tin or try to track down that colour mix you had custom-made.

When it comes to white spirit and other such solvents or chemicals, you should never pour these away down the sink. There’s a small chance that such chemicals will damage your drain or pipes, but there is a larger one that they will cause problems further down the line. After all, the water you pour away down your sink is the water that is cleansed, recycled and pumped back through your taps. White spirit eventually ends up at the filtration system that your water company uses and it can interfere with the effectiveness of the cleansing systems. The more people who pour waste like this down the sink, the larger the problem becomes.

kitchen tap

White spirit, along with mastics, fillers, fuel and adhesives are categorised as hazardous waste by most local authorities and they will have a service dedicated to either collecting them or providing a place for you to drop them off. This means that they’ll be disposed of safely and without damaging the environment. In most cases you’ll be able to visit your local council’s website, or call them to arrange for a pick up or find out where you can take half-empty containers.


There isn’t usually a charge for this service as councils want to encourage you to dispose of these items safely. Do always check before you take any items for disposal, as not all waste sites will have the facilities to deal with them. In some cases, your local DIY store may also take excess white spirit off your hands at no cost.

You can also post a waste removal job for free under our specialist tradesmen category  and up to 3 waste removal specialists in your area will provide you with quotes.

If you do have the space then it’s worth holding on to your white spirit. You can re-use it as well. Simply allow it to settle and any paint that is in the spirit will sink to the bottom of the jar or container that it’s kept in.

painter painting wooden frame

If you definitely don’t have the space to keep this, spare paint or any other DIY materials, then one of the best things that you can do is to donate them to local projects. You will always find that local youth clubs, schools, religious organisations or charities will be only too happy to take DIY materials off your hands so that they can use them for projects that they’re working on, or if not appropriate, to donate them to those less fortunate than you.

Some towns or cities will have specialist projects or even small shops that collect old DIY tools and paint. Seek them out online, via local social media or ads in local newspapers. Recycling for re-use is far better than throwing away these items at the tip and far superior to chucking them down your sink.

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Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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