Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paint Can Giveaway

Do you have a bunch of half-used paint cans in your garage? We do. Or, we did, until today.

Earlier this month our contractor installed our new heating/air conditioning system. He had to tear up a bathroom wall as part of the installation. Then he asked me for the can of leftover paint so he could repaint the torn-up wall.

I couldn't find it in the mess of old, rusty cans in the garage. That paint job was only three years old, and yet I couldn't find the can!

It was embarrassing. It was annoying. It was wasting the contractor's time.

So after the contractor lectured me on keeping tabs on my paint, I bit the bullet. I pulled ALL my paint cans out of the garage for a good look-see.

It was shocking, people:

We had amassed 61 cans of paint! And 61 cans of paint takes up a lot of acreage:

(Cringe, cringe.)

But once they were all out on the garage floor, it was pretty easy to figure out what to do next.

First, I grabbed a screwdriver (to pry open the cans), some trash-able paint stirrers (I used shish kebab skewers), a hammer (to bang the cans shut), a piece of wood (to keep the lids from warping when you bang on them), and some latex gloves (because this is dirty work, people!) :

(You may ask, Why do I have a snow/ice remover in this collection? Because I couldn't find a scrap piece of wood hanging around, so I made do with the handle of the de-icer.)

But anyway...

I also pulled together some stuff to properly label the cans: 1)Rags for wiping dirt off the cans so they're read-able, 2)Scissors, felt markers, and paper for making labels, and 3)Tape for affixing the labels to the cans:

After I collected together all the paint cans, I held each one firmly in two hands and gave it a shake. If the can made a "thud-thud" sound--or no sound at all--I knew I had a dud. Just to make sure, though, I pried open each dud with the screwdriver. Here's what I found:



Oh, lordy. Sorta pretty, in a totally, not-good-for-anything kind of way.

So put these dried-out cans aside. (More on them in a bit.)

Next, I used a rag to wipe the dirt off my "sloshing" cans. I looked for anything to identify what's in the can. It's not always obvious what color is in a paint can these days. That's because, paint stores don't stock all the colors they offer. Sure, they keep some of the big sellers on their shelves. But nine times out of ten, when you buy paint now, the paint store takes a can of basic white and mixes in the pigment only when you buy the paint. So the pre-printed label on the can often just says "Tintable White" and that's it.


But a good house painter will usually put some identification on the can at the end of the job. Typically your painter will write 1)where in your home the paint was used and 2)when it was used. If not, look for a hint of the color on the outside of the can. Sometimes it's just a dried drip down the side; sometimes the painter will put a dab of color on the lid for color ID purposes.

If so, thank your painter.

Next, I made big labels to stick on each can. I made them large enough to be seen across the garage, or in low-light situations. No more peering and squinting at dingy labels for me!

I used see-through packing tape to stick on the labels. That way I didn't cover up important information on the labels, like what type of finish, or whether the paint was for interiors or exteriors. When possible, I wrote what room the paint is for, what part of the room, and when it was applied:

I found two cans of paint that have been used in multiple rooms in my house. In that case, it made more sense just to write the paint's color on the label. "Swiss Coffee"and "Indian Legend" (which used to be called "Navajo White") are two of the most common shades of white used by painters and contractors.

I betcha you have a can of one of these in your garage, too:

At the end of my organizing, I had 30 cans of good, well-labeled paint:

I also found 10 completely dried-up cans:

...and 21 cans for giveaway:

Who would want old paint? You'd be surprised!

Put out your leftover paint at your next garage sale. It's amazing what people will buy.

Or, did you know your local chapter of Habitat for Humanity Re-Store will take used paint? They accept any shade of water-based paint, as long as the can is at least half full (even if it's a quart-sized can).

Or give your paint to a friend who's a die-hard junk-shop junkie, to slap on the next curbside treasure or garage-sale steal.

Or do what I did: donate the paint to your local school. I had a hunch the public elementary school down the street might welcome the paint. It's a happy place with all sorts of hand-painted things:

Sure enough, with one phone call, I found they were thrilled to have my leftovers. The ladies in the office said their teachers like to repaint their bookshelves and such.

So Pao the Pug and I filled up the red wagon with our leftovers and trotted right over to the school. I was so tickled with the arrangement, I forgot to take a photo of the wagon loaded to the brim with cans. Instead, on the way out, Pao kindly sat in the wagon in front of the school:

[Did you notice the "No Dogs Allowed" sign? Heh.]

As for the dried-up cans of paint, they'll go to my city's next hazardous household-waste (HHW) roundup. To find out where and when your local HHW roundup is, Google "Household Hazardous Waste" followed by your city or county name. You should quickly find all you need to know about where, when, and how to dispose of leftover paint.

Whatever you decide to do, PLEASE don't pour paint down the storm drain, onto bare ground, or toss it in your regular trash.

That's illegal in most places. And insensitive everywhere.

And it's so much fun to imagine that, down the street, the Kindergartners are pulling books off a shelf that's the same color as our powder room!


  1. Who, but you, could make a report on paint cans in the garage so interesting, informative and helpful (to say nothing of colorful)!



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