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Acrylics Best Practices

Artists are in a tricky spot. While we prefer archival quality materials that last with minimal degradation, we also want to minimize the environmental impact from our craft.

While acrylic paints are convenient to clean, they often leave the painter with a container of dirty water, and brushes that need to be rinsed out. Pouring this waste down the drain is not the best solution for the environment, even though we may have been taught to do just that.

Overall, it is better to dispose of acrylic paint in solid, rather than liquid, form. If you choose to use acrylics, the following tips will help you be a greener painter (while still using any hue you like).

• Use only what you need, and store leftovers in airtight containers. If you know you won’t be painting again for a long time, let the excess dry before disposing of it in your solid waste rather than pouring it down the drain.

• Wipe your paint off your brushes before rinsing by squeezing out as much paint as you can into an old rag or newspaper (allow these to dry before tossing out). This will keep your rinsing water cleaner for longer periods.

• Alternatively, keep an unwanted canvas aside specifically for wiping off that extra paint. You’ll have a painting that evolves along with you.

• Keep a large open container, like a 5 gallon bucket, where you can dump your dirty water. Cover with a wire cover to keep out kids and pets, and leave the bucket out to evaporate, after which you can peel out the dried paint.

• If you have room, keep a series of buckets going. Let the fullest one settle, then decant the clearer water off the top. Let the remainder evaporate, while using another bucket for your more recent dirty water.

• If you can’t let your water dry, at least strain out what you can before disposing of the water. Pour the dirty water into a bucket lined with pantyhose. Holes in the bucket will let the filtered water through; alternatively, fill the bucket with the dirty water and then pull out the pantyhose.

• Be extra careful when handling and disposing of toxic pigments. Never pour these down the drain. (This applies to oil paints too.)


Golden Acrylic Paint has a detailed instruction sheet online on how to dispose of waste without sending it down the sink. It has explicit instructions on how to floccate and separate out the solids from the water. I haven't tried it yet but the evaporation method that Opus offered doesn't work for me.

Thanks for the comment Nina. I found the instructions you mentioned here. The evaporation method can take a long time, so you might need to manage several water buckets at a time. We appreciate your feedback.

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