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Paint Products

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What Makes it Hazardous?

Latex paint is water-based, non-hazardous and considered to be low in toxicity. An exception would be paint that contains mercury or other heavy metals to provide mildew resistance. Oil-based paints, stains and varnishes contain petroleum solvents which are flammable and can cause health effects if the fumes are inhaled or the paint is ingested. Fumes from solvent-base paints can accumulate in closed spaces and areas with poor ventilation.

Consumer Tips

  • Latex paint can freeze and become un-usable. If your latex paint is lumpy, it is no longer good.
  • If you can’t use or store your latex paint and related products before they freeze, give them to someone who can.
  • Latex based products clean up with soap and water; there is no need to use paint thinner.
  • Buy the right amount of paint for the job.

Disposal Options


  • For small amounts of latex paint, let it dry and put it in the trash; if there is much left in the can, you will need to add cat litter to speed the process and ensure complete drying. Leave the cover off so your waste hauler can see that the can is empty and dry, otherwise they may reject your load. Please note: You MAY NOT put liquid wastes (even liquid under a dry top film) in your trash!
  • Annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event: Haz Waste Days, in September, accepts oil-based paints and related products, but NOT LATEX products.
  • Put empty cans from paints, stains and varnishes in your trash, or clean out and recycle the cans with your other steel cans. Leave the cover off so your waste hauler can see that the can is empty and dry, otherwise they may reject your load.


  • If your latex paint is still in good condition, never stored outside and at least three-quarters full, contact Home Resource building materials re-use center at (406) 541-8300.

The Residential Disposal Guide is provided by the Missoula Valley Water Quality District as a public service and is not an endorsement of specific businesses, services or products. Any omissions or inaccuracies are unintentional. Please contact us with corrections or additions. Call businesses or agencies to confirm hours, locations and charges for services, if any. For information on disposal of items not listed, email or call the Water Quality District at (406) 258-4890, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.