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Safely Handling Paints

Paints

It is important for the artist to consider all of the chemicals used in the painting process when disposing of the chemicals.  Paints and paint pigments can involve toxic materials and heavy metal compounds, such as lead, arsenic and chromium some of which may require PPE and may need to be disposed of properly through EH&S.  The application and handling of paints often involves solvents, such as thinners, mineral spirits or turpentine and rags.  Solvent contaminated rags, if left for extended periods of time, can potentially start a fire.  Please be sure that the solvent rag collection container is firmly closed after adding materials to it.

Disposal of paints:

  • Latex – latex paint is water based and often thought to be nontoxic.  However, trace amounts of formaldehyde, isocyanates and ammonia may be present so practice good safety techniques and use caution when applying.  Some of the pigments used in latex paints may contain other metals such as copper and zinc that are not hazardous wastes, but are regulated for discharge in municipal waste waters.  Latex paint and associated debris, if left to dry, may be discarded as solid waste in the regular trash because the paint is bound to a solid media.  However, if large quantities of latex paint remain, consider reuse for making things like signs advertising student events on campus.  If reuse is not practical or unavailable, then submit for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.

  • Acrylic, varnish and oil based paints – acrylic, varnish and oil based paints often containing flammable materials such as methanol, toluene, ketones and naphtha and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury in the pigments.  If reusing the material for other projects is not practical, the acrylic, varnish or oil-based paints – no matter the quantity – must be managed as hazardous waste.  These paints must be submitted for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.  Please refer to our hazardous waste guidelines, the 5Ls, for further guidance. 

  • Aerosols – aerosol paints and any other material that is dispersed as an aerosol, typically contains a flammable &/or toxic component such as propane, isobutane or dimethyl ether.  Used aerosols must be managed as hazardous waste and submitted for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.  Please refer to our hazardous waste guidelines, the 5Ls, for further guidance.

An important safety note regarding aerosols: 

    • Since aerosol cans are under pressure, puncturing the container or altering the dispenser may result in physical harm and or injury even if they are empty, trace materials inside the can still present a hazard.
    • Do not attempt to puncture or crush aerosol cans.
    • Please affix the original container cap to the aerosol can or remove the push button knob prior to collecting multiple cans in a waste collection container for disposal.

Disposal of paint related materials:

  • Rags contaminated with solvents – rags, shop towels, paper towels contaminated with paint thinner, mineral spirits, turpentine or California wash must be collected must be managed as hazardous waste and submitted for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.  Please refer to our hazardous waste guidelines, the 5Ls, for further guidance.

    • All rag collection cans must be collected in one of the provided safety cans. 
    • The rag collection cans must container a plastic liner.
    • The rag collection cans must be stored entirely closed when not in active use.
    • Rags must not be purposely left out to “dry” &/or evaporate the contents.

  • Solvents and thinners – solvents, paint thinners, mineral spirits and turpentine are highly flammable materials.  After the useful life of the solvent &/or thinner, it must be collected must be managed as hazardous waste and submitted for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.  Please refer to our hazardous waste guidelines, the 5Ls, for further guidance.
    • The solvent and thinner containers must be tightly closed when not in active use.
    • Solvent and thinner containers must not be left open to “evaporate”.
    • Paint contaminated solvents and thinners are a hazardous waste and must not be poured down the drain.

The studio areas that have been provided with a drum for solvent and thinner collection come equipped with a safety funnel.  The following must be abided by for solvent and thinner collection (insert drum picture):

  • Safety funnels are not strainers. Please strain your solid paint materials prior to pouring the solvents and thinners into the drum so as to not clog the safety funnel.
  • The safety funnel must be closed when not in active use.
  • When the drum is full, please submit for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.
  • Do not attempt to move the solvent and thinner drum from the current location.

If you have any questions as to how to dispose of your paint related materials, please consult your Safety Coordinator or Environmental Health & Safety at x4-8749.