Can You Use Kitty Litter To Get Rid of Old Paint Cans?

Updated: Feb. 07, 2024

What's the best way to dispose of old paint? TikTok says you can dry it out with kitty litter. Does that work?

How many cans of old paint do you have in your garage, basement or shed? When I moved out of my last home, I counted nine, and only two were mine.

Some were completely dried out, so into the trash they went. The rest I dutifully drove to the recycling center. Was there an easier way?

Apparently, yes! The secret is kitty litter, according to a popular TikTok. But does it work? I decided to try it out on some paint the previous owner of my new home “helpfully” left behind.

First, let’s watch the video:


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♬ Storytelling – Adriel

How It Works

The process looks simple enough, according to the TikTok.

Start with an unwanted paint can that’s partially full. Add a couple of scoops of kitty litter. Stir the mixture until the litter and paint are thoroughly incorporated. Wait for the paint to harden — it takes about 10 to 15 minutes, according to the video — and voilà! Now you can dispose of the can in the trash.

The Process

Before trying this TikTok, I did some research. I learned this only works on latex paint. Oil-based paints are considered hazardous waste and can never go in the trash. (We’ll talk about solutions for oil-based paints later.)

I grabbed two paint cans from the garage and pried them open. Unsurprisingly, neither was useable, so at least I didn’t waste good paint on this test. Learn how to store paint to make it last longer.

The paint cans were about a quarter full, so I scooped clumping kitty litter in one can until it was half full. (It looked to me like the TikToker used about a 1:1 ratio.) I did the same for the other can with plain, non-clumping litter. I grabbed a stick from the yard and started stirring. Both versions started absorbing the paint immediately. I set a timer for 15 minutes.

What Pros Say

Major paint brands Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore advise using kitty litter to absorb leftover latex paint before disposal. Dallas County in Texas, where I live, also recommends this method, So do county and state government websites around the country. You can find this method detailed on major retailer websites like Lowe’s as well.

The pros agree. Kitty litter absolutely speeds up the drying of latex-based paints before disposal.

How To Dispose of Paint: Alternative Methods

Instead of throwing away old paint, donate it. Check with local charities and churches to see if they need extra paint. Habitat for Humanity takes building materials and may accept paint. Consult your local ReStore website for more information.

Local trash collection usually takes dry latex paint cans and paint. If you’d rather not mess with kitty litter, just open the can and allow it to air dry. That should suffice. To make it go faster, put down newspapers or cardboard and pour the paint over the surface. Once it dries, just pick it up and throw in the trash.

Oil-based paints, solvents and other hazardous materials can’t be placed in the trash, but your local government likely has a drop-off site for them. Eleven states require paint manufacturers to spearhead paint recycling and collection, so the industry started to give consumers information and locations for dropoff. Check their website to see if you live in a PaintCare state.

The Verdict

Did it work? Yes! Both the clumping and the regular kitty litter absorbed the paint, although my experiments didn’t harden as much as the TikTok versions. Not after 15 minutes, anyway.

After one hour, my clumping-litter paint can was nearly solid, while my non-clumping can had more of a pebbly texture. This may be operator error because I eyeballed the amount when adding. At any rate, this hack definitely works.