Making paint dry

September 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

The house was painted excrement brown, with darker trim. That may be one of the reasons why, in the booming Seattle housing market of 1999, it had been on the market for a month. And the paint faux pas didn’t end with the exterior; the smallest bedroom was painted a deep gray (Battleship gray? In Seattle? Or anywhere other than a battleship?), and the dining room had pastel blue walls and a pink ceiling.

We bought the house anyway. Despite the colors, and a bit of bad remodeling, the house had good bones.

When we moved in, we found in our basement a stack of half-empty paint cans, the remnants of all the bad color choices the previous owner had made. Those cans had to go. We learned that Seattle residents could take their excess latex paint to a city hazardous waste drop-off; the city blended the lighter colors together and sold the paint to institutions as “Seattle beige.” So that’s what we did.

And then we repainted. We used three colors on the exterior. The walls of each room are painted a different color, and there are two ceiling and interior trim colors. Of course, it took a few sample quarts to get some of the colors right. We bought a lot of paint, and didn’t use all of it.

When I started unstuffing our basement, I gathered paint cans from a couple of dark corners. I remembered that we’d moved some paint to an old cabinet in our garage, so I pulled those cans out, too.

And then I counted. All told, there were 31 quart cans, 39 1-gallon cans, and six 5-gallon cans. More than a dozen were empty. Several had never been opened. Most were 1/4 to 1/2 full. Sadly, much of the paint stored in our unheated garage for several years was ruined — some of it oddly lumpy and smelly. Temperature extremes aren’t good for paint.

(Let me pause to say that these numbers were startling. And embarrassing. Most of the unstuffing I’ve done has been of items whose utility doesn’t change over time. My having held onto them for longer than necessary didn’t change whether they were trash or treasure-for-someone-else. But, like shelf-stable foodstuffs, paint eventually goes bad. We had a lot of bad paint. Such a waste.)

I was set to deliver a car full of paint cans to the city drop-off, but surprise! Seattle no longer takes back latex paint. Current research shows that dried latex paint is not hazardous; the city now requests that you dry out the paint, either by leaving the can open so it dries naturally, or by mixing in clay cat litter or paint hardener. The dried paint can then go in the trash.

Several big bags of kitty litter and a handful of stir sticks later, I’ve dried out the paint remaining in 18 quart cans, 17 1-gallon cans, and 3 5-gallon cans. I don’t understand why we had so many empty paint cans, but they did come in handy for the drying-out process. I still have 13 quarts and 5 gallons to go.

(One of Paul’s coworkers shared the method he uses to dry out paint: Pour a thin layer of paint in a Rubbermaid or similar container. When it has dried, pull the paint slab out of the container (it won’t stick), roll it up, and put it in the trash. The let it dry, then peal it up approach worked pretty well when one of the old paint cans leaked a puddle of paint onto our driveway, so I’m going to try it in plastic this weekend.)

I’ve freecycled one full 5-gallon can of exterior paint (a trim color that didn’t work with our main color).

We have 3 1-gallon cans from oil-based paints that will go to the King County hazardous materials drop-off next week.

In total, that’s 59 paint cans gone or going soon.

And, in a corner of the basement, there are 14 1-gallon cans and 3 5-gallon cans of interior paint and primer. All are colors currently on the walls/ceilings of our house, and we have some painting to do this fall, so at least for now, they get to stay.


§ 2 Responses to Making paint dry

  • Marianne says:

    When we bought our house in Austin, one of the bedrooms was painted a color that we think was supposed to be burnt orange but was closer to brown. It took two coats of “Saltine” to cover it.

    • Kimberly says:

      Oh, Marianne, burnt orange is even worse than battleship gray! As it turned out, the battleship gray was on top of wallpaper, so removing the wallpaper removed that paint as well.

      I hope that the next owner of our house won’t be telling people, “And the dining room was painted dark red! Took us four paints of coat to cover it…”

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