How to Dispose of Wood Stain

Last Updated on July 21, 2022 by Ernest Godia

When you’re done with your wood staining job, you may find yourself with leftover stains that you no longer need. In such cases, knowing how to dispose of wood stain will be handy.

Disposing of wood stains can be challenging if you don’t know the correct way to do it. Wood stains have chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and humans. It is, therefore, necessary to dispose of wood stains in an environmentally friendly manner to avoid polluting the environment or harming yourself and others.

In this article, we’ll review the five safest and most effective ways to dispose of wood stains.

What You May Need to Dispose of Wood Stain

  • Cat litter
  • Newspapers
  • Commercial paint hardener
  • Garbage bags
  • Cloth hangers

How to Dispose of Wood Stain: 5 Safest Ways

Different wood stains may need to be disposed of differently owing to their chemical components. Nevertheless, all stains contain hazardous chemicals likely to harm the environment when disposed of carelessly.

Before you learn how to dispose of your leftover wood stain, there are certain things you’ll need to do first to make the process more efficient.

What to Do Before Disposing of Wood Stain

  • Confirm the Ingredients on the Label

The first thing you’ll need to do is to check the label on the product container to confirm the ingredients in it.

All paint manufacturers indicate a list of ingredients on the label. The procedure you will use to recycle or dispose of your stain should depend on the materials used to manufacture it. 

For instance, if your stain has highly volatile materials, exposing it to dry may be the easiest way to dispose of the leftover. Knowing the ingredients is the best way to avoid common waste disposal accidents like explosions. Furthermore, you’ll get to know whether it’s safe to reuse the empty stain cans or not.

  • Contact Your Local Waste Management

After confirming the ingredients, the next step is to contact the local waste management department. 

Every state and city has a waste management department responsible for collecting waste and disposing of it accordingly. 

They provide the guidelines and stipulate laws and regulations governing waste disposal and will guide you accordingly. Following these guidelines is essential to avoid penalties associated with poor waste disposal.

You can always find the contacts of your local waste management department on their websites. Follow their guidelines to dispose of your wood stain the right way.

That said, here are five tried and true ways to dispose of the stain yourself.

How to Dispose of Stain Yourself

1. Drop Off the Leftover Stain at Your Local Hazardous Waste Facility

The easiest way to dispose of your leftover wood stain is to drop it off at a waste collection facility. There’s always a waste collection facility near you, and a quick Google search can help you identify them.

These facilities have well-laid, eco-friendly procedures for processing hazardous waste like stains and paint. Sometimes, you may need to pay a small fee, so ensure you inquire about such policies beforehand.  

Incidentally, there are also local non-profit waste disposal organizations that collect waste from their neighborhoods at absolutely no cost.

2. Give Away the Leftover Stain as a Donation

Another easy way to dispose of wood stains is to give them away as a donation. 

If you’re not anticipating any other wood project, why not give away the stain to fellow woodworkers or youth organizations to supplement their wood project expenses?

A neighbor or friend would be a good place to start if they are equally enthusiastic about DIY wood finishing. Alternatively, you can drop the leftover stain at a non-profit organization since they can always identify people who need it.

3. Dry and Throw the Stain in the Garbage

The most common method woodworkers use to dispose of stains is to dry them and throw them in the garbage. 

Stain is only hazardous in its liquid form, so it’s advisable to dry it before disposing of it. You can use various techniques to dry your stain before throwing it away. These techniques include:

  • Using Cat Litter

Cat litter is highly absorbent and will help your stains dry faster. Drop a good quantity inside the stain container and let it sit for a few minutes. Once it absorbs all the wood stain, expose it to the open air and wait for it to dry.

You can then dispose of the dry stain-soaked cat litter and the stain container in the garbage. Alternatively, you can use cement, sawdust, or shredded paper to absorb the wood stain and dispose of it the same way once dry.

  • Air-drying the Stain

If you don’t have cat litter, you can simply leave the leftover stain out in the open air with the container lid open to dry. The stain solvent will evaporate, and the stain will solidify. Once it’s in solid form, you can safely dispose of the stain by throwing it in the garbage. 

Air drying may take too long if you have a lot of stains left. However, the stain will dry up quickly if it’s only about an inch or less in the container.

  • Using a Stain Hardener

Another convenient way to dry your wood stain is to use a commercial hardener. Mixing the stain with a commercial hardener is suitable for drying large quantities of wood stain. You can always buy stain hardeners online or get them from your local hardware. 

The hardener will make the stain solidify in a few hours. Then you can throw away the solid stain in the garbage.

  • Soaking Up with Newspapers

Soaking up your stain with newspapers will also help it dry faster. Like cat litter, newspapers are highly hygroscopic and will suck up your stain for quick disposal. Once dry, you can throw the stain can along with the newspapers into the garbage. 

This method is quite cost-friendly and will save you the money you’d use to buy cat litter or a commercial stain hardener.

4. Dry Out Any Stain-Soaked Items

While disposing of your leftover stain, don’t forget that your wood project also left other stain-soaked materials behind. These include your paint brushes and the cotton rags you used to wipe the excess stain. In addition, the drop clothes you used to cover the surface are also likely to have some stains.

Since the wet stain is highly flammable, storing or disposing of these materials with wet stain increases their risk of spontaneously catching fire. Spread them out in the open to completely dry off before disposing of them.

If you want to store the rags for future use, put them in a metal container with an air-tight seal and store them away from a fireplace and out of reach of children.

5. Take It for Recycling

Alternatively, instead of destroying wood stain, why not drop it off at a nearby waste recycling company for recycling? Start by checking if your area has a wood stain recycling company.

If the stain is not degraded, chances are that it can be recycled and used to make a new stain or other related products. Professional waste recyclers always know what to do with any form of waste.

Therefore, consider dropping your leftover wood stain at a waste recycler to save the environment from hazardous damping.

How to Handle Wood Stain Rags After Use

Stain-soaked rags are environmental hazards that must be disposed of carefully. This step-by-step guide explains in detail how to handle stain-soaked rags in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.

Step 1: Take the stain rags from your workstation.

The first thing you do with your stain-soaked rags after you finish staining is to carry them away from your workstation. 

Since the stain contains highly flammable chemicals, you don’t want to leave the rags with wet stain lying around as they can catch fire spontaneously.

Take the rags out to a safe area, preferably outdoors, away from potential ignition sources. Ensure you place them on a cool, dry surface that is out of reach for children and pets.  

Step 2: Hang them to dry without stacking

After taking the stained rags out, hang them to dry or spread them on a flat surface without staking (spread on single layers). For quicker drying, let the rags lie flat on the surface to increase the surface area exposed to the air for drying. 

Alternatively, you can hang them out on cloth hanging lines without placing them so close to each other.  

Step 3: Place the dry rags in an airtight container for disposal or storage

Once the stain rags are completely dry, they are safe for reuse or disposal. Pack all the dry and stiff rags in an airtight metal container. After sealing the container, you should be able to throw the rags in the garbage or store them for reuse. 

How to Dispose of Wood Stain: Dos and Don’ts

This section looks at some things you should and shouldn’t do when disposing of your leftover wood stain. Let’s dive right into the dos and don’ts of wood stain disposal.

The Dos:

  • Do follow the local waste management department’s safe waste disposal procedures and guidelines. This should be the surest way to avoid heavy penalties.
  • Do let the leftover stain dry first before disposing of it. Liquid stain is highly flammable and potentially hazardous to people and the environment.
  • Keep the dried stain cans in a cool and safe place out of reach of children, pets, and any ignition source. Store the cans safely before dropping them off at a waste management facility or recycling company.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t pour leftover stains into a drain as its volatile chemicals can contaminate the water supply and corrode the water pipes.
  • Don’t throw the wet-stained rags into the trash to avoid the risk of fire.
  • Don’t pour your leftover stain into the ground to avoid polluting the soil. 
  • Don’t let the stain stay long if it spills or splashes on your skin. Clean it immediately to avoid the risk of skin irritations. 

Wood Stain Disposal FAQs

how to dispose of wood stain

What do I do with old stains?

Dispose of old wood stains by drying them up before throwing them into the garbage. Dry them using cat litter, newspaper, stain hardener, or air before disposing of them. You can also drop off the old stains at your local hazardous waste collection facility.

What do you do with wood stain rags?

Spread out stain-soaked rags on a flat surface or hang them on cloth lines to air dry. The stain solvent will evaporate, leaving the rags dry and safe for disposal or reuse. When completely dry, you can place the rags in an airtight metal container for disposal or storage.

Is wood stain flammable when dry?

Wood stains become inert when dry, making them inflammable. Dry wood stains or stain-soaked rags are less likely to pose a fire hazard. Therefore, it is always advisable to dry wood stains before disposing to avoid the risk of spontaneous combustion.

Can wood stain go down the drain?

No. It’s not advisable to throw wood stains down the drain. This is because wood stains contain highly volatile organic compounds, likely to damage your drainage pipes. The stain is also likely to leave chemical traces which can contaminate the water supply. 

How do you dispose of oil-based deck stains?

Like any other stain, you dispose of oil-based deck stain by drying it out before throwing it into the trash. Leave the stain in the open to air dry if it’s a small amount. However, if it’s a lot, you can make it dry out faster using stain hardener, cat litter, or newspapers.

Will rags with wood stain combust?

Absolutely! Rags soaked with wood stain are likely to combust, especially when the stain is still wet. Wet wood stains are highly flammable, causing stain-soaked rags to catch fire easily. 

Are wood stains toxic waste?

Yes. Wood stains are toxic wastes. Oil-based wood stain contains toxic ingredients like formaldehyde, petroleum, glycol ether, sodium hydroxide, and alcohol. These ingredients are carcinogenic, toxic, or corrosive and must be disposed of appropriately.  

Final Thoughts on How to Dispose of Wood Stain

As you can see, several simple, fast, and convenient methods exist for disposing of leftover wood stains.

Once you check the label and know the materials that you are dealing with, deciding which stain disposal method to use should be a walk in the park. 

Did you enjoy the tutorial? Let’s know what you think in the comments section. 

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