Whether you've just stained your deck or finished building a homemade bookcase, you may find yourself with leftover wood stain. If you do a lot of woodworking, you can just save it for your next project. If you don't, you may need to dispose of the stain. It's imperative that you do so properly, however, as stain that is improperly disposed of can cause both fires and environmental contamination.
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Give It Away
You may not need your wood stain anymore but someone else might. The best way to dispose of leftover stain is to use it, so try to find someone who can. Talk to a few handy neighbors and see if they need the stain for any upcoming projects. You can also call local charities and discounted building suppliers. Habitat for Humanity, for example, operates several ReStore centers that sell donated building supplies inexpensively. They may be willing to take your leftovers.
Are there no takers? Post a curb alert on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and similar venues advertising your stain for free to anyone who is willing to come and pick it up. It's likely to disappear pretty quickly.
Dry It Out
Wood stain is flammable and potentially hazardous when it's wet, but it becomes inert when it dries. If you dry out the stain, you can simply dispose of it with your regular household trash. You must dry it out first, however. Never toss liquid stain or wet stain rags in the trash and just hope for the best, as both are highly flammable.
Leave the lid off the stain can and set it in a well-ventilated area to dry out. This works well if you only have a small amount of stain left. You can also "paint" small amounts of leftover stain onto newspaper to dry more quickly and then throw the dry newspaper away.
Another way to dry stain quickly is to add cat litter to your stain can and mix it well. Cat litter will start to absorb and dry the stain quickly. Keep adding litter until the stain is all dried out and then throw it away. Alternatively, dry out the stain with a commercial paint hardener if you prefer. When choosing a commercial hardener, read the label carefully. Some work only with latex-based paint and stains.
Remember your rags when drying things out. Allow stain-soaked rags to air-dry in a ventilated area. When they've dried completely, throw them in an old metal can with a lid, such as an old coffee can, and throw the can away.
Call Local Waste Management
Most of America's towns and cities now have hazardous waste facilities designed to help consumers safely dispose of dangerous household waste. They can tell you how and where to dispose of used wood stain. They may ask you to read the label to determine exactly what is in the stain and how to best deal with it, so have the can handy when you make the call.
Ask if your area has a recycling facility for wood stain. If so, take your stain there for recycling. Otherwise, drop off your leftover stain at your local hazardous waste facility during the acceptable drop-off times. Make sure you follow any specific directions or instructions the facility gives you if applicable.