How to Reduce Waste While Painting

By Arashi Young

We’ve all been there–looking at a wall, thinking it could use a fresh coat of paint and wondering how “Avocado Green” from the 70s got so popular.

Painting is a great way to brighten your space and cover up the regrettable color choices of yesteryear. Some extra planning can cut down on waste, save money and allow your paint to stay fresher, longer. 

Before you put your tape up and drop-cloths down, read this primer and your next painting project will pass with flying colors.

Buy only the paint you need

The best way to know how much paint you need is to calculate the square footage of space. To do this, take measurements of the walls and multiply the length by width. A 10 x 8 foot wall is 80 square feet of surface. One gallon of paint will cover about 250 square feet if you are spraying and 300 square feet if you are rolling.

In general, a gallon of paint will cover a smaller space like a bathroom or laundry room. Two gallons of paint will cover a standard bedroom. Plan on needing three gallons for a large bedroom or living room.

We suggest using two coats of paint. In that case, double the number of gallons you’ll buy.

Pick the right weather

Painting under the right conditions saves time and resources. Apply paint when surface and ambient temperatures are 50-90 degrees and relative humidity is 30-80 percent. Look for when these conditions will hold steady for 24-48 hours. Avoid painting in direct, hot sunlight.

To prime or not to prime?

A best practice is to prime every time. Priming helps paint stick to the surface and covers the current color. Glossy paints, in particular, should start with a coat of primer. Check product guidelines on whether to prime before painting; in some cases, skipping primer can void a manufacturer’s warranty on paint.

There are some instances when you can avoid priming. If the surface is painted and in good condition, make sure it is clean and go straight to painting. If you are making only a small color change color, like going from white to cream, for example, you may not need to prime.

Paint waste disposal

After all the fun of watching paint dry, then comes the cleanup. Metal paint cans that have thin coat of dried paint go in the recycling bin. If the dried paint is at least an inch thick, it needs to be tossed in the garbage. For plastic containers, let the paint dry, remove the lids and then toss in the trash.

If you have leftover paint, see if someone else can use it. Try posting on Nextdoor or a local buy nothing group to see if anyone needs paint for a small project. You can also donate latex paint at Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations. For donation information call 971.229.8888.

Paint recycling

In Oregon, paint recycling is paid for by a product stewardship program called PaintCare. Paint manufacturers are responsible for creating an environmentally responsible program to manage paint waste. Visit the PaintCare website to see where you can drop off paint for free. In greater Portland, paint is recycled through the MetroPaint program.

PaintCare also accepts leftover deck coatings, floor paints, stains and more. The program does not accept paint thinners, auto, marine or craft paints, aerosol cans, glues, adhesives or resins. When in doubt, take them to a Metro household hazardous waste facility or neighborhood collection event.

If you have questions about paint and household hazardous waste disposal, ask Metro’s waste prevention experts at 503.234.3000.

This article was originally posted on the Metro website,

How to Reduce Waste While Painting

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