skip navigation
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Oil Paint

Identification and Disposal

Oil-based paint accounts for approximately 15 percent of paint sales in United States. It is preferred by most do-it-yourselfers for exterior paint jobs because of its durability in outdoor conditions. Oil-based paint is more detrimental to our environment than latex paints because it contains hazardous ingredients.

Oil-based paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other flammable or hazardous constituents that can result in environmental problems if poured down the drain, into a storm drain, or if the liquid is disposed of in the regular trash.

How Do I Tell If The Paint is Oil-Based?

Oil-based paint can be identified in the following ways.

  • Read the label: The product is solvent or oil-based if the instructions are to clean with mineral spirits or turpentine. If cleanup instructions say you can clean your brush with soap and water, it is typically latex or water-based paint. If you can’t read the label, assume it is oil-based for disposal purposes.
  • Water test: If the paint is water-based, it will dissolve in water easily. Place a small amount of paint in a small clear container with some water. Latex paint will mix with the water while oil-based paint will separate and form layers similar to the layers formed when oil and vinegar are mixed.

What Can I Do With Leftover Oil-based 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 away paint only if it is of good quality and in its original container with the label intact.
  • Swap It: Some communities have events known as "paint swaps" in conjunction with their household hazardous waste collection days or on a regular basis at their facility. The paint can must have never been opened, the label must be legible and the paint must still be useable in order to be placed in the reuse area.
  • Recycle It Some communities have recycling centers in their area that accept leftover paint. Some hazardous waste collection programs may accept oil-based paint for recycling or disposal. Contact your local recycling coordinator for more specific information.
  • Do Not Dry it Up: Liquid oil-based paintcannot be placed in your regular trash. Drying up oil-based paint can release toxic fumes that can be hazardous to the environment and your health. Cans that are completely empty can be safely disposed of in the municipal trash or recycled.
  • Household Hazardous Waste Collection: If you cannot identify paint as latex, or if it is old or improperly labeled, not in its original container or potentially contaminated, NHDES recommends it not be dried out and disposed of with the trash. Safely store the paint until it can be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection event or facility. Call (603) 271-2047 for more information.

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

copyright 2017. State of New Hampshire