Storing and disposal of paint thinner

By Catherine Haug, July 6, 2015

[OOPS, please forgive the typo in the original title: ‘pant thinner.’ I have corrected it and I hope that it gave you a chuckle.]

I have a plastic gallon container about half-full of paint thinner in my cool basement. Today when I went to the basement I could smell the fumes. It wasn’t strong, but it was there. Considering all the heat we’ve had and can probably expect for the rest of the summer, and the flammability of paint thinner, I was concerned. So I looked it up on the web to learn what to do and thought I’d share my learnings with you.

Paint thinner tips

#1 advice: Avoid buying more paint thinner than you need. (3)

The following is from eHow (1) unless noted otherwise:


  • Store paint thinner in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from sources of ignition, pets and children.
  • Recycle used paint thinner by pouring it into a glass container and sealing it tightly. Clearly label the container as “Paint Thinner: Toxic” and place it in a dry, well-ventilated area for several months. After the paint sludge settles to the bottom, pour the clean solvent off the top into the original solvent container and reuse. Use kitty litter or newspaper to absorb and dry the paint sludge before disposal.
  • Donate unwanted paint thinner to a local theater group, religious organization, school, home rehabilitation program, friend or family member. These groups usually accept extra paint, too. [I’ll bet the Bigfork Summer Playhouse or Children’s Theatre would appreciate such a donation.]
  • Dispose of unwanted paint thinner at a hazardous materials collection facility. The following is from WasteNot Project website (2): “Hazardous Waste Drop-off Center for Homeowners

    Located at the Flathead County Landfill. Open third Saturday of each month by appointment only so you don’t have to wait in line!

    Accepting: Oil based paints; solvents; strippers; pool/spa chemicals; pesticides/herbicides; fertilizers; cleaners/ poisons. Must be in original, clearly marked, closed containers only. Please do not mix wastes.

    Call Flathead County Landfill, 758-5910, to schedule drop-off.


  • If no hazardous waste collection site is available, you may have to discard the paint thinner in the garbage. Before doing this, take the lid off the can, stir an absorbent material like sawdust or cat litter into the paint thinner, and leave the can sitting out in a well-ventilated area [I don’t recommend doing this on a 100° day]. Wait for the paint thinner to completely dry into clumps, then seal the whole can in a plastic bag before putting it in the trash. (3)

You can find more tips on using, storing and disposing of paint thinner on Do It Yourself (4).

Lacquer thinner tips

Basically, the advice for any solvent that comes in a metal can (some now also come in plastic cans), is the same as for paint thinner. Although a theatre group may not be as welcoming to lacquer thinner, as they do not often use it.


  1. eHow:
  2. WasteNot: 
  3. WikiHow:
  4. Do It Yourself: on paint thinner: and on lacquer thinner:

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