Latex & Oil Based Paint

Posted in Hazardous Materials

What is the difference between Latex and Oil-based Paint?

Latex paint is the most popular paint on the market. The main solvent is water. It can be used indoors or outdoors and on many different surfaces. It is preferred by most do-it-yourselfers because of the ease of clean up with soap and water. It consists of four parts: a resin that forms the coating on the surface being painted, a solvent (water) that keeps the paint in liquid form, pigments, and additives, such as biocides.

Oil-based paints, stains and varnishes are always hazardous to our environment and should never be disposed of in the household trash. The IRC holds an annual household hazardous waste collection every year. These materials and other toxic chemicals can be safely disposed of at this event. To learn more about this event, please visit our special collections page or call us at 814-942-7472.

 Is Latex Paint Hazardous?

Latex paint is less toxic to our environment than oil-based paints because it contains less hazardous ingredients. However, latex paints do contain acrylics, vinyls, and epoxies and can damage your septic system, pollute the water supply or contribute to leachate problems in landfills if they are not disposed of properly.

Indoor water-soluble latex paints may be of low toxicity unless ingested in large quantities. Some interior latex paint can emit different VOC’s, volatile organic compounds, when it is drying. Latex paints that give off high levels of VOC’s when drying can give you a headache and irritate eyes, nose and throat. The VOC’s can come from different biocides or fungicides that are added to latex paints to extend the shelf life, for color, or spreadability.
Latex paint is usable for up to ten years, if it has not been repeatedly frozen or thawed. If paint will still mix when stirred, it is probably usable. Store paint with lid tightly closed and label with color and date of purchase. Professional painters recommend storing tightly sealed cans upside down. Be sure to always follow label directions for storage and use of latex paint.
In the room that is being painted, open the windows and doors fully. Put a box fan in the window directing the air and fumes out of doors. Keep the fan on while painting and for about 48 hours thereafter. Keep small children and pregnant women away from the room where the painting is being done and away from the open cans of paint. Do not use paint that is labeled for "exterior use only" indoors.

How Do I Dispose of Latex Paint

• Use it up: This is the easiest and safest way to get rid of your leftover paint. Store small amounts for touch-up or for use on a small project. Once you use up the paint, dispose of the empty paint can in the regular trash or recycle it if possible.
• Give it away: If it isn’t possible to use it up or store it for later use, give your leftover paint to someone who can use it. Churches, high schools, recreational groups, camps, or other charitable organizations may be interested. Give it away in the original can and with the label intact.
• Dry it out: Liquid latex paint cannot be placed in your regular trash. However, once it is in a solid form latex paint can be disposed of with your household trash. If the hardened paint can be removed from the can, you can recycle the metal can in your curbside recycling bin. Leave the lid off the can so your trash hauler can see that the can is empty or that the paint is hardened.

Better Yet... Use this 4 point plan from to save money and protect the environment....

Buy Right. Be a wise consumer and buy only what you need. Your local paint retailer can help you buy the correct volume of paint for your project or you can use the Paint Calculator.

Store Properly. When you store paint properly it will last longer. For best results, cover the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap and securely seal the lid so it won’t dry out. Write the room name on the lid for future touch ups. Store cans indoors where they won’t freeze or get wet. Be sure to choose a safe location out of reach of children and pets.

Use It Up. Leftover paint can be used for touch-ups or for smaller projects. You can also use the extra latex paint as a base coat on larger jobs. If you can’t make use of the paint yourself, ask a neighbor or local community organization if they can use it.

Dry and Dispose Properly. In many states, the only option for disposing of latex paint is to dry it out.

4 Ways to Dry It Out

  • The liquid in paint cans up to one-quarter full can be easily hardened using an absorbent such as kitty litter, newspaper, or sawdust.  You   can mix it directly in the can.
  • Small amounts of leftover latex paint can also be dried by removing the lid and allowing it to air dry in a safe, well ventilated space.
  • Purchase a paint hardening agent at your local hardware store, such as, Lowe’s. These are fast working and can generally be used on cans   up to 2/3 full.
  • If the can is over half-way full, you can pour thin layers (about 1”) into a cardboard box lined with plastic and containing shredded paper. Allow the paint to dry one layer at a time until all of the paint has hardened. This process may take up to several days and can then be disposed of with your household trash.

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