How to dispose of acrylic paint waste water

Acrylic Paint Waste Water Disposal

I use water based paints like acrylics and watercolors in my work. If you paint, you know that you’re left with a jar of yucky, mucky  paint waste water from washing out your brushes and tools. So the question is: How are we supposed to dispose of this waste water? If you’ve been dumping it down your sink, you’ve been doing it wrong. No worries! You can turn it around starting today!

The problem is acrylic paint waste water disposal, and after tons of research and testing I’m going to show you the easy eco friendly method that works for me and I’m hoping it will work for you too.

The first thing I want to make clear is this is a no judgement zone. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to pour my acrylic waste water down the drain of my sink. For years. I truly thought that because the paint was non-toxic, it was ok to do this. It wasn’t until 8 months ago the drain in my sink clogged and I had to take it apart to unclog it. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun experience. I never wanted to do that again, but more importantly it got me thinking about where this water goes, what’s in it, and just how non-toxic is it?

It’s understandable why we’re all confused. When you buy paints at the art store, nowhere on the label does it tell you how to dispose of your paint. After studying the websites of all the different paint brands that I use only a few had resources on proper disposal. I even emailed all the brands that I use, and got I mixed responses. 

Then there’s the nasty legal business of trying to decode the level of toxicity of your paint. One company provided me with a webpage linking all the MSDS sheets containing the toxicity level of each of their paints. Some have cadmium and lead which are more hazardous.  Not only do different paint manufacturers have different recommendations, but each state has a different set of rules and regulations. 

The EU and California seem to have the most strict rules as to labeling paints, but no matter what the label says there’s one thing that all acrylic paints contain that is known to be harmful to the environment and that is MICRO PLASTICS. It’s a huge problem and I’ve linked a few websites on that down below.

Bottom line, don’t put micro plastics down the drain. The problem is they can get into our waterways and into our plants and fish and then eventually into us. Guaranteed we all have some form of micro plastics already in our bodies. 

How to solve: evaporate the micro plastics out of the water, dry them and throw the dried crusty bits away. “semi-dry acrylic residue are sufficiently chemically inert to be classified as ‘non-hazardous waste’

Golden paints has a webpage, printable, and videos describing the whole process. With their permission, I’ve linked the printable with all the instructions down below. Now, I’ve been doing this for the past 8 months and I can tell you, this is one of those things where the hardest part is getting all your materials and starting. Once you’re set up, it’s easy peezy. It’s on the level of using reusable grocery bags, or recycling, or banning single use plastics. Super easy. Plus you get the added benefit of a super shiny clean sink forever. 

I really hope you give this a shot, if you’d like to clean up your studio you can find all the links here:

Thank you to Golden paints for supplying the resources we can use to treat our own paint waste water at home. Link provided with permission from Golden paints. Removing Water-Based Paint Solids from Rinse Water

DOWNLOAD Golden Paints supply sheet and instructions here:

Watch Golden paints video on this process for more details:

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Hydrated Lime

Aluminum Sulfate

Gallon bucket with lid

pH test strips

Also needed:

Funnel, coffee filters, gloves, face mask, stirring stick

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Video by MITK12Videos on YouTube

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