What do you do with all that leftover paint once your walls are looking fresh and fabulous? House paint – the unsung hero of home sprucing – can pile up pretty fast. We’ve got a saying: ‘Paint is like money in a can’ because it’s a great ROI for home sellers. But how do you keep from turning into a paint hoarder? Let’s dig into some tips on how to stash, manage, and dispose of house paint sensibly, plus, ways to remember those awesome colors you’ve used in your home.

Storing Paint: The Basics

First things first, always store your paint indoors, in a cool, dry place, away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. Use airtight containers, preferably the original paint cans, to prevent air exposure. Let’s say you finish painting a room and are left with only a quarter of the can. Instead of placing the mostly empty can on a shelf, use a funnel or strainer to pour the remaining paint into a smaller jar. Mason jars are an excellent option but any glass container, such as air-tight Weck jars, will do.

According to a new study from All Star Home, the most popular paint colors in the United States tend to skew a little more neutral, with grays, whites, and beiges topping the list. Neutral colors generally offer homeowners a clean, blank slate to build around while also complementing most decor styles. The study found the most popular color in Missouri is Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black.

How Long Does Paint Last?

The lifespan of house paint depends on various factors, like the type of paint, storage conditions, and seal tightness. Generally, unopened latex and oil-based paints can last up to 10 years, while opened cans typically remain viable for 2-5 years.


When you repaint, dispose of the previous paint you were holding on to for touch ups if you are no longer using it anywhere else in the home. It is better to manage your inventory after each project than holding on to every can of paint you’ve ever used. Trust us on this one. We’ve had to help home sellers move LOTS of paint last minute when the buyers wanted it removed before moving in.

Kitchens awash with color, including Tricorn Black SW 6258 (251-C1) in this St. Louis home, convey a warmth that feels particularly welcoming. Check out the full color palette on this remodel.

When to Toss It?

Toss expired, dried, or separated paint. Signs of spoilage include a rancid odor, a thickened or lumpy texture, mold or mildew around the lid, or a separated liquid. Never use deteriorated paint as it can result in an uneven finish or color mismatch.

How to Toss Paint Responsibly

Check Local Regulations

Research your local laws regarding paint disposal. Some areas have specific guidelines and recycling options. We recommend Earthbound Recycling in Eureka to many of our clients. They are one of the few recycling centers in the St. Louis region to accept unwanted paint six days a week. Interior and exterior paint, along with household chemicals are recycled for a fee of 30¢ a pound, can and all. The items must be in their original container with the label intact. New or used motor oil and antifreeze can be in any container. St. Louis Household Hazardous Waste is another option, however you have to make an appointment and the hours are different at the two locations. The cost is 50¢ a pound.

Reduce and Reuse

If there’s only a small amount of paint left, consider using it for touch-ups or mix it with similar colors to create a new shade.

Donate Unused Paint

If the paint is in good condition and you don’t need it, consider donating it to local charities, schools, or community projects.

Dry It Out

To dispose of water-based paint, open the can and let it dry out completely. To speed the process you can add kitty litter or sawdust. Once solidified, it can be thrown away with regular household waste. Oil-based paints require professional disposal; contact your local hazardous waste facility.

Tracking Paint Colors

To keep track of the colors used in your home, follow these tips:

  1. Label Your Paint Cans: When you purchase paint, label the cans with the room and date of use. Include any specific color codes or names provided by the manufacturer.
  2. Keep a Digital Record: Take photos of painted areas with the paint can and label visible. Create a digital folder for these images.
  3. Maintain a Paint Journal: Start a journal or spreadsheet where you record paint colors, brands, and finishes. Include information about where each color was used.
  4. Save Paint Samples: Cut out small portions of dry paint from each room and attach them to a card with room details. This provides a tangible reference.

Want to know more about paint and paint trends. Check out our Color of the Year feature.