10 Tips to Reduce Waste When Painting

Reducing waste when painting can save money, time, and storage space. It also means less leftover paint to be collected, reused, and recycled, or placed in a landfill. Read PaintCare’s 10 tips to plan the right amount of paint and keep it fresh longer to avoid waste.

Tip 1: Consult with a salesperson to buy the right amount

A paint retail salesperson helps a customer measure their project to buy the right amount of paint and reduce waste.

A paint retail salesperson helps a customer measure their project to buy the right amount of paint and reduce waste.

Homeowners and DIYers who paint only occasionally may not have the experience of a professional when estimating how much paint is needed for the job. Paint retailers and painting contractors can provide expertise on how best to plan and reduce leftover paint. There are many choices when painting and it’s worth investing a little time before you purchase to learn the type and amount of paint best suited to the job.

Tip 2: Search online for advice & guides

There are many useful online guides provided by paint manufacturers, retailers, DIY experts, and others that provide tips for planning out paint projects to minimize waste. Look around and get inspired before you purchase paint. For example, try paint planning guides from This Old House.

Tip 3: Use a web-based paint calculator tool

Many manufacturers and retailers have automated calculators to help painters estimate the amount of paint they’ll need. If you don’t have time to speak with a professional, this is another quick option for planning to avoid waste. Check out PaintCare’s list of online paint calculators that help reduce waste and save storage space.

Tip 4: Take measurements before painting

You can also do some of the math yourself. Determine the area of the surface you want to paint. To calculate the area of the space yourself, measure the width and height of each wall. For each wall, multiply the width times the height to get the square footage. Add the square footage of each surface together to get the total. Don’t forget to measure any windows, doors, or other breaks in the wall and subtract their square footage from your original total. Now you have the project area—the number of square feet you need to cover.

Tip 5: Follow instructions on the label

Paint can labels provide important information such as the coverage rate of your paint. Most coverage rates are between 300–400 square feed per gallon. If you don’t know the coverage rate, use 350 to get a rough estimate. Divide the total project area by the coverage rate. For example, the square footage of a 10’x10’ room with a ceiling height of 10 feet is about 400 square feet. If the coverage rate is 400 square feet per gallon, you need one gallon. If the coverage rate is 300 square feet per gallon, you’d need 1.33 gallons.

Tip 6: Use a paint can key or opener tool to avoid damaging the can rim and lid

When opening a paint can, use a paint key instead of a screwdriver or other tool. Screwdrivers will bend, distort, or otherwise damage the lid, making it difficult to put back on. You can pick up a paint key, or paint can opener, wherever you purchase paint. It will help preserve the paint to reduce waste.

Tip 7: Clean the container’s rim for a more airtight seal

If you wipe the edge of your brush on the rim of a paint can, you will end up with a rim full of accumulated paint. That may prevent getting the tight seal needed to maintain freshness during storage. Here are some ways to avoid a bad seal:

  • Wipe out the rim regularly with a cloth while you work and before putting on the lid.
  • When using a brush, pour paint from the can into a paint tray. This will also allow you to close the original can while you are working and keep air from drying out the paint.
  • Tape the rim of a paint can into the shape of a “V” or an arrow, to provide a cleaner pour that leaves the rim clearer during clean-up. Or purchase a reusable spout.
  • Try strapping a rubber band around the top of the paint can. This can be used to clean the edge of a paint brush, making a more efficient painting experience.
  • Poke holes in the inner rim with a medium size nail or awl so that paint drips back into the can and doesn’t accumulate.

Tip 8: Use a rubber mallet when sealing paint can lids to avoid damage

When putting the lid back on the can, tap it with a rubber mallet instead of pounding it with a hammer. If you don’t have a mallet, place a piece of wood or a book between the hammer and the lid and then carefully tap it down.

Tip 9: Store paint away from dampness to preserve it longer

When metal cans get wet rust develops, and the labels fall off. Rusty cans and lids make a mess and fall apart when handled. The rust may fall into the paint, making it unusable. If the label falls off, you won’t know what type of paint or color is in the can. Storage of paint containers in a dry area will protect them and reduce waste.

Tip 10: Keep paint away from freezing temperatures

Water-based paint labels normally read “keep from freezing,” but did you know that paint may still be usable even after it freezes once or twice? If you can stir paint into a smooth consistency, it’s still good. If it freezes and thaws several times, its condition will worsen each time. If you stir paint and it stays lumpy and doesn’t get smooth, it’s spoiled. Keeping paint from freezing during storage will help reduce waste.