Paint & Aerosol Safety

Safe Use of Paints and Aerosols   

Cleaners, paints, lubricants, and polishes come in aerosol cans (spray cans.) All aerosols have a pressurized propellant that helps to distribute the product. That propellant may have hazardous characteristics such as being flammable (spray paint and lubricating sprays) and/or toxic (e.g. chlorinated solvent sprays or cleaning products). 

Most propellants in spray cans are mixtures of ignitable gases, such as propane and butane.  Due to their flammability, these gases can cause fires and explosions if they are sprayed or are released unintentionally due to puncture or damage to the can, or if the contents are exposed to an open flame, pilot light, spark, or static electricity. 

Proper Disposal of Aerosol Cans

To ensure compliance with hazardous waste regulations, non-empty aerosol cans are collected and managed as hazardous waste. Follow the Chemical Waste Management instructions.

Oil Based Paint vs. Latex Paint

There are two basic types of paint. They include oil-base (alkyd) and water-base (latex).

Oil-based paints use thinner (petroleum-basel distillate) as a solvent. Solvents keep the paint flowing and act as a "carrier" for the binders and pigments.

What is the hazard?

Solvents in paints can be hazardous due to their toxicity, flammability or both. Linseed oil, tung oil or alkyd resins are also used as primary binders for oil-base paints and are hazardous by inhalation. Always use oil-based paint in a well ventilated area.

Linseed oil has its own unique hazards. There is also a risk for spontaneous combustion if linseed oil is absorbed by a porous organic material , such as paper towels or cotton rags, and can give rise to heat through oxidation even at room temperature. A raised temperature increases this risk. Debris, such as rags with linseed oil on them, must be collected as chemical waste debris. See UVM Chemical Waste Disposal information.

Latex and acrylic paints use water as the primary solvent which helps to make them a bit less hazardous.There are three (3) main ingredients that influence the quality and use of paint: pigments, fillers and binders.

  • Pigments provide the texture, color and the hiding properties of the paint. The most important pigment is titanium dioxide. Inorganic pigments may include carbon black and iron oxide.  There are also clay and silica pigments that are used. 

  • Fillers add bulk to the paint product and enhance its performance. Solvents are an example of a filler.

  • Binders help the paint solidify into a dried paint film. Binders can be made from synthetic or natural resins such as acrylics, polyurethanes, polyesters, melamines, oils, or latex.  100% acrylic or vinyl acrylic are the binders for water-base paint.