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Latex/Acrylic Paints & Stains


Since May 1, 2012, Island County has not accepted latex/acrylic paints and stains in our Household & Business Hazardous Waste Program.

When thickened to a non-pourable (oatmeal like) consistency, latex/acrylic paints may be safely disposed of at any of the County Solid Waste disposal facilities (municipal solid waste fees apply).  Dumped illegally, liquid latex paint can damage or clog septic drain fields, overload municipal sewage treatment plants, create an environmental hazard in ground waters, and create an unsightly mess.

How can you tell if it's latex paint?

Look for key words on the label ("Latex," "Acrylic," "Water base").  Latex paints may be called acrylic or water based paints.  Latex paint cleans up with water, dries on walls in about an hour and may come in a plastic paint can.

How can you tell if it's not latex paint?

Look for key words on the label ("Flammable," "Combustible," "Petroleum Distillates," and/or "Keep away from heat or flame").  Oil based paints are also called "alkyd" paint.  Oil based paints clean up with paint thinner, mineral spirits, or some other type of solvent.  Oil based paints are sold in metal paint cans, dry slowly (overnight), and are hazardous substances which must be brought to a hazardous waste collection facility for proper disposal.

What about other stains, wood finishes, and solvents?

Labels on stains, wood finishes and solvents will use the same key words as described above.

How do I safely dispose of leftover latex paint and latex stain?

Solidify or thicken latex paint to a non-pourable (oatmeal like) consistency.  Dispose of dried or thickened latex/acrylic paints in the trash or at any of the County Solid Waste disposal facilities (municipal solid waste fees apply). 

Why does latex paint need to be solidified or thickened?

 When solidified, latex paint is not environmentally hazardous and can be safely disposed of in a landfill.  All solid waste in Island County is compacted for hauling to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill.  Containers of liquids, such as latex paint, rupture during compacting.  These liquids contact other wastes and can leak from both compactors and trailers onto our roads and eventually find their way into our waters.  For this reason, Island County Solid Waste does not accept any free running liquid for municipal solid waste disposal and local trash collection services will not pick up unsolidified latex paint in your curbside collection service.

How do I thicken my latex paint or stain to a non-pourable consistency?

If there is one inch of paint (or less) remaining in the can, remove the lid and let the paint dry out.  Protect the can from freezing temperatures, rain fall, curious children, and animals.  This only works when an inch or less of paint is left in the can.

Mix latex paint with an equal amount of clay kitty litter.  Stir in completely and let stand until dry or thickened to a non-pourable consistency.  Add more cat litter if the paint is still runny after 10 minutes.  Repeat until the material is non-pourable.

Mix latex paint with saw dust, dry pine needles, bentonite powder clay, floor sweep, or other absorbent material to the point that it is no longer pourable.

Mix latex paint with a commercial paint hardeners, available at most paint supply stores.

Pour latex paint over an absorbent material such as old carpet or carpet padding and let it dry.

If you have questions about drying or thickening latex paint, contact the Island County Moderate Risk Waste Facility at 360-679-7386, 360-321-5111 ext. 7386, or 360-629-4522 ext. 7386.

Preventing latex paint and stains waste:

Buy only what you need.  Know the dimensions of your painting project and ask the sales staff for assistance to buy the right quantity.

Save leftover paint for later use.  Follow this easy tip to make the paint last longer. Cover the opening with plastic wrap.  Fit the lid securely to the can so the paint doesn't leak; then turn the paint can upside down.  This creates a tight seal and keeps the paint fresh to use again.

Try to use up all of your latex paint by applying an extra coat to walls, fences, sheds or the doghouse.  Extra coats can be extra protection!

Ask neighbors and friends if they want free paint or donate it to a school or other organization.  Usable paints are accepted by some thrift stores.  Always call first!

Island County's Moderate Risk Waste program for households and small businesses continues to accept oil based paints, stains, solvents, automotive fluids, rechargeable and lithium batteries, fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lamps, pesticides, pool and spa chemicals and other hazardous materials.