I’ve been painting the rooms in my grandfather’s little country house, a hand-me-down that’s been in the family for several generations. Painting has been a weekend project for a dozen or more weekends this summer! I couldn’t help but notice painting is quite costly and wasteful.
Then, while sitting in traffic the other day a Sherwin-Williams truck passed by and I noticed the logo: a paint bucket pouring paint over a globe with the caption “Cover the earth.” What a depressing image, I thought.
In the past several weeks I’ve been doing my best to streamline the painting process to reduce the huge amount of waste it creates. And it has not been easy! But I’ve gathered a few tips and thought I’d share them here, and see if anyone has any more tips for me.
1. I purchase lots of samples. Sample jars only cost a few bucks each and can save a lot of time, energy, money and waste by helping point to the color that’s actually going to look best on the walls. I purchase 4-5 options for each color that I want, and I’ve been shocked at how different a color looks on the wall compared to the little paint squares in the store. Often my “top pick” on the square is way off from my top pick on the wall. You can get paint color recommendations from the specialists at Strosniders Hardware.
2. I now buy decent rollers. Discount rollers didn’t cover evenly and I ended up needing to do more coats, plus I had to make a second trip to purchase an additional gallon to make up for the multiple coats needed. Better rollers = fewer coats.
3. I’m not great at hand-painting so I use painter’s tape, but I’ve noticed it will pull up the paint underneath it, which is a huge hassle and costs more time and paint to correct. Plus it rips easily during removal which requires picking and shredding it off the wall. The delicate surface painter’s tape, which costs more, does a much better job and ends up costing a lot less in the long run (although I still need to remove it almost immediately in order to avoid damage to the paint). I haven’t had good luck with edging tools either.
4. When I’m done painting for the day/night, but I’ve got more painting to do (touch-ups, 2nd coat, etc) with the same color, I do not rinse out the brush or roller. Instead, I wrap the roller or brush tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. It will keep for several weeks, and it will save the hundreds of gallons of water needed for rinsing. Not to mention the time it ends up taking to rinse brush after brush, only to submerge them in the same paint the next day. And rollers can get costly to replace unnecessarily. I reuse the plastic wrap as many times as I can, too.
5. When I’m done with my brush, I don’t put it under running water. Instead, I swish it rigorously in a bucket of water. If I have a little bucket that I was using I pour out as much paint as I can and then fill it with water and use that to swish my brush around until I can get most of the thick paint out of it, and loosen the paint on the inside of the bucket at the same time. After that, I resort to running water (rain water or grey water is a great option for this) to clear out the last bit. It doesn’t sound like much benefit but it actually will save several dozen gallons of water.
6. I use water-based paints, and when I’m done painting I don’t throw out my tray liners and buy more. I just reclaim any puddled paint so there’s only a thin layer left in the tray liner and then I let it dry overnight in a ventilated spot. The next day I just peel the paint right out of there and use the liner over and over again.
Well, that’s about it. Painting, even using these tips, is incredibly wasteful and the whole project has convinced me that I won’t be painting my little home anytime soon. The flipper’s French Vanilla walls will do just fine, thank you.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned low-VOC paints and such. Well, there isn’t a ton of data supporting a dramatic environmental benefit of low-VOC over regular paint (opinions aplenty). The up side is very evident, though, in the absence of fumes you and your family will experience. I only use low-VOC paints, which can be purchased everywhere in nearly every color these days. Milk paint is apparently the most environmentally-friendly option but I have not acquired it yet.
I have several more rooms to do so just holler back at me if you’ve got some suggestions (in the Comments)!
Alyssa works in multiple locations.