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Ask Dr Dulux: “What can I do with my leftover paint?”

Welcome to Ask Dr Dulux*. In this series, we answer your burning decorating questions and give you all the practical advice you need to take on your next painting project, big or small. Got a question you’d like to ask? Share it over on social using #AskDrDulux and we could be answering your question next in the series.


This week, Serena Gibbs from Godalming asked: “I’ve just finished decorating my home and have a couple of unopened paint tins left. What can I do with my leftover paint?”

Serena, we feel your pain. Working out how many paint tins you need for a big decorating project can feel like trying to guess how many sweets are inside a jar at the fairground, but it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Next time, check out this easy step-by-step on how to calculate the right amount of paint for your space.

The good news is, there are loads of creative ways that you can use up that leftover paint and once you’re done painting, you can easily donate or recycle those leftover tins. To find out more, check our ideas and top tips below.

Ways to use up leftover paint

Here are just a few creative ways that you can use up your leftover paint around the home. If you have different colour paint tins leftover, why not mix them up to create a unique colour? Check out our top tips on how to mix your own paint shades at home, then see how you can apply them in different ways below.

Refresh your furniture

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Colours: Black chair, Denim Drift wall, Rock Salt trim (Left); Minted Glory 1 wall and trim (Right)

You can give old, wooden chairs an instant refresh by painting them with a modern, dip-dye effect. Simply follow this easy, step-by-step for painting a wooden chair. Or why not give your cabinets a makeover with a fresh lick of paint? Painting them in the same colour as your walls can make a real statement, especially if you play around with replacing handles and drawer knobs. Read our useful guide on transforming tired furniture to get started.  

Make your shelves pop

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Colours: Sicilian Summer 6 wall and Sapphire Salute bookshelf (Left); White Cotton, Peppermint Candy, Mineral Mist, Natural Slate and Polished Pebble for shelves (Right)

Shelves are a great place to revamp if you have leftover paint, or even wet testers. Box shelves look great when updated with fun, geometric shapes – all you need is masking tape! Alternatively, painting a bookshelf alcove in a contrasting shade to your wall colour can bring depth to a space. You can also experiment with accent shelves, where you paint the odd shelf on a bookcase in a different colour. Check out our easy step-by-step for painting accent shelves.

Revamp your planters

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Colours: Lemon Punch basket, Tranquil Dawn wall

Make your plants stand out by giving their pots a little love. You can add colourful accents and patterns to wicker baskets – simply use the dipping method to coat the lower half in a vibrant shade, add stylish stripes or get crafty with stencils to create shapes and patterns. Similarly, you can use masking tape to refresh terracotta pots with colourful patterns. 

Paint shapes on a wall

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Colours: Sapphire Salute wall

With just a little paint, you can make a big impact, simply by painting different shapes on the wall. Bring personality to a kids bedroom by painting circles in a mix of colours and sizes – check our easy step-by-step on how to paint a circle – or create an interesting focal point by painting angled stripes around a point of interest. We love this adorable doghouse motif!

Create a feature point

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Leftover paint gives you a great opportunity to add colourful features to your space, and it doesn’t have to involve painting a feature wall. Think about your closets and cupboards. Why not add a shelf that can act as a desk to the inside of a closet (hello, pop-up office!) and give it a colourful backdrop? Or turn that cupboard-under-the-stairs into a fun hideaway for the kids. Follow our step-by-step on how to create an under-the-stairs playroom in just 48 hours.

How to donate leftover paint to a worthy cause

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Before disposing of your leftover paint, think about if someone else can use it. You could pass it on to neighbours or friends, or perhaps a local theatre group, school or community centre could use it. Community projects, such as Community RePaint, are a great option. They will collect ‘half tins’ of leftover paint from donation points at across the UK. To donate your paint, simply head to communityrepaint.org.uk to find your nearest Paint Donation Facility. 

How to dispose of leftover paint responsibly  

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Before you dispose of any leftover paint, check that you definitely won’t need it again in the future. You can easily store leftover paint – simply keep the tins away from direct sunlight and in a frost-free environment. If you only have a small amount remaining, simply pour it into old jam jars and store for future touch ups. Any leftover whites can be mixed together to use as a base coat next time you decorate.

If you do decide to dispose of your leftover paint, just make sure you don’t tip it down the sink, down your drains or put it out with your normal rubbish. For responsible disposal, call your local council and ask for assistance. They should be able to direct you to a special facility for disposing of paint in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

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