How to Dispose of Waste Water After a Paint Party Safely

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If you have ever been to a paint and sip party, you have probably noticed that at the end of the evening, there are several cups filled with water that has been used to clean paint brushes

So, what should you do with that water waste after a paint party?

When it comes to painting cleanup and disposal, it is never a good idea to pour this water down the drain, or even outdoors.

Acrylic paints may be fun to work with and easy to clean up, but you still have to take some care when getting rid of any extra paint and the water used to clean brushes.

When I first began painting, I didn’t know any better, and I would clean my brushes under the tap. I would also dispose of the water in my brush cup by dumping it down the drain or pouring it out in my backyard.

These days, I know better than to do either of these things. Keep reading to learn how to properly dispose of wastewater after a paint and sip party.

Why Shouldn’t Acrylics be Poured into a Drain?

So, can you wash paint down the sink? The short answer is no. You cannot dump paint water down the drain.

Water that has been used to clean brushes that are covered in acrylic paint should never be poured into any drain. This includes street drains or even in a garden or wooded area.

Why shouldn’t you pour this paint water into the drain? Well, first and foremost, it is a pollutant, and it can cause harm to the environment.

I was a lot like most painters when I first started and didn’t see any reason to not pour this dirty water down the drain. After all, it’s only water, right?

More than Just Water

Let me tell you a little story. When I first began painting, as I mentioned, I would dump the water out in my backyard.

After a while, I noticed that my grass and plants weren’t growing as they should. I couldn’t figure out what the problem could have been.

I mentioned this to a friend who loves to garden, and who also just happens to be a fellow artist. I figured if anyone would have the answer, it would be him.

The first thing he asked me about is how I was disposing of the wastewater after painting. I told him, and he said, “There’s your problem right there”.

Acrylic Paint is Like Plastic

He told me that acrylic polymers are a type of plastic. Even the tiniest particles of acrylic polymers can end up in our waterways. They are also harmful to plant and animal life!

Looking back, I should have known better than to use this water in my garden, because it wasn’t clean water. I just figured that water was water, and I had to learn my lesson the hard way.

Treat Wastewater Like Solid Waste

As I mentioned, acrylic polymers are a type of plastic. Most acrylic paints are non-toxic, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t do damage to the environment.

My friend told me that I need to treat waste water as if it were a solid waste. I kind of laughed, because how can water be solid?

He then explained that I needed to allow the excess paint to harden and dry. So, I asked how I can get paint water to dry other than by evaporation, which would take forever.

Let it Evaporate

The evaporation process is slow enough. When you add acrylic paint to the mix, it takes even longer.

This is because the acrylic paint forms a layer of scum on the surface of the water. This slows down evaporation.

Speeding Up the Evaporation Process

There are going to be a lot of water cups to empty following a paint and sip party. Rather than leave them sitting out for a few days so the water can evaporate, there is a way to speed up the process.

Absorb the Water with Newspaper or Paper Towels

One method of disposing of wastewater after a painting party is to stuff each water cup with old newspaper or paper towels. If some of the cups are too full for this, pour some of the water into other cups.

Allow the paper to fully absorb the water, and place it in another area to dry. Then you can throw it out with the rest of your garbage.

Using the Right Containers For the Seasons

If painting parties are held in the colder winter months, I suggest using glass jars that can be left near a heat source, such as a radiator. 

When it is warmer out, you can use plastic paint containers that are more shallow, placed outside or near a window where there is a breeze.


Thankfully, I learned about the hazards of improperly disposing of paint water before I started teaching at paint and drink parties. There are usually at least 15 to 20 water cups that need to be dumped.

Quite often I pour all of the dirty water into one container that can be tightly sealed. Then, I can take the wastewater home and dispose of it properly, and the paint party host doesn’t have to worry about it.

Whether you are painting on your own or having a painting party, be sure to properly dispose of all waste after the party is over. You will be getting rid of the waste in a safe way that is going to help to preserve the environment.

Up Next: How to dispose of oil paints

*image by Krakenimages/depositphotos