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Painting a clear path for recycling

What’s the best way to clean used paint brushes? And how do I get rid of old paint?

What’s the best way to clean used paint brushes? And how do I get rid of old paint? – Sandy of Halifax, NS

If you’re using low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, clean up is easy.

Latex paints are water based, so brushes come clean with a little eco-friendly dish soap and water.

Oil-based or alkyd options will require paint thinner.

If you’re dealing with the latter, check hardware stores for less toxic thinners that contain citrus oil-based solvents.

If you’re doing a multi-day job, don’t wash your brushes or rollers at the end of each day.

Wrap them in a plastic bag. They’ll be fine until the next day.

Stopping for longer than a day?

Store the sealed plastic bag in the freezer for a week or two.

Never dispose of half-used paint cans in your household garbage where they could end up contaminating soil and waterways.

Donate leftovers to a local paint exchange program.

Recovery depots across Canada take deck paint, primers, wood stains, oils and varnishes. Most, but not all, also accept empty paint cans.

Nova Scotians can return leftover paint to any of the province's ENVIRO-DEPOT facilities, for free. Check out ReduceYourWaste.ca/paint.asp. Outside of Nova Scotia, see if your province belongs to ProductCare.org.

They list recyclers and disposal drop-off depots for household paint and small appliances, pesticides, CFLs and more.

Earth911.com also lists drop-off depots.

The next time you’re paint shopping, ask the retailer if they take back old paints for recycling.

And check store shelves for recycled paint products. Boomerang, for example, reclaims leftover paint and re-blends.

David Suzuki Foundation
Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to queenofgreen@metronews.ca. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.