How to Dispose of Oil Paint Paper Towels


Oil paint paper towels are, as the name suggests, paper towels that have been soaked in oil and then dried. The artist then uses them like a traditional oil painting medium, similar to how you would use a rag or tissue to wipe up excess paint.

However, unlike other paper-based mediums such as gesso grounds, pastels and charcoal, paste papers, and even homemade baking soda pastes, oil paint paper towels offer the convenience of not needing to mix your own mediums or find equivalent substitutes for each unique application or need.

They can also be used wet with watercolors and gouache while creating an impasto effect — just like real oil paint! In this article, I will discuss how to dispose of oil paint paper towels. So let us get started.

How to Dispose of Oil Paint Paper Towels

How to Dispose of Oil Paint Paper Towels:

Oil paint paper towels are considered hazardous waste. If you are an artist, it is your responsibility to make sure any remaining paint on the paper towel is completely dry before disposing of them in the safe disposal methods below.

Never dispose of oil-soaked rags by putting them into a regular trash can or burning them. This poses a fire hazard and releases toxic fumes that are very harmful to the environment and human health.

As an environmentally conscious art lover, you should be aware of how oil paint paper towels should be properly disposed of so they don’t pose unnecessary harm to our planet earth. Disposing of Oil-Soaked Paper Towels Safely:

Step 1:

Completely drain all paint by placing oil-soaked paper towels into a plastic bag and then squeezing or pressing them until your see that the towels are no longer dripping with paint. This is not only good for the environment, but it can also save you money on cleanup costs.

Step 2:

Place the dirty clothes into a sealable container such as a lidded 5-gallon bucket or box and make sure to cover them completely with water. Leave this overnight and allow the water and any remaining paint (which settles at the bottom of your container) to separate.

Step 3:

Empty any standing water from your waste receptacle and dry both sides of the paper towel thoroughly using a blow dryer if necessary before properly disposing of them as hazardous waste.

Step 4:

If you have a machine that washes oil-soaked rags, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dispose of your first load. Most machines will require you to place the painted paper towels into a sealable bag and tie it before placing them in a larger container with water.

Step 5:

Empty any water from the washer, dry it completely with a blow dryer or wet/dry vacuum and run it through an empty cycle to remove any remaining paint particles from the interior machine parts before disposing of your painted towels as hazardous waste.

Precautions While Disposing of Oil Paint Paper Towels:

Precautions While Disposing of Oil Paint Paper Towels

Turn the paper towels into a wad and wrap it in cling-wrap/aluminum foil. If you use a bin for disposal, make sure you don’t use the one used to dispose of food waste because oil paint contains chemicals that can dissolve in fats and contaminate earthworms.

Metal or plastic bins with tight lids are best suited for this purpose and should always be kept out of reach from children and pets. Some artists recommend incineration for disposing of oil-soaked paper towels, but there is still some controversy surrounding this topic.

However, one thing we do know is that they produce dangerous compounds when burned, so we suggest not burning them yourself – instead, check with your local authorities about what can be done with such waste in your area.

Once you have wrapped up the wad, label it as ‘chemical waste’ and throw it out with the rest of your chemical waste at a community collection point or arrange to have it collected for disposal from a local council office or a similar agency.

Are Oil Paint Paper Towels Hazardous?

How to Clean Oil Paint Paper Towels

Oil paint paper towels are not hard to discard. They are considered biodegradable materials since they are made of cellulose fiber. Cellulose fibers typically consist of about 40 percent lignin, a brown substance that provides much-needed structural integrity for the plant. This makes oil paint paper towels strong enough to withstand water and oils in paints because they can absorb these without falling apart easily.

The Hazardous Rating System:

Cellulose-based oil paint paper towels have been classified as nonhazardous materials. This is because they don’t contain any harmful particles such as lead or mercury that may cause contamination or pose health hazards to humans and/or animals who come into contact with them.

Thus, oil paint paper towels are safe to be thrown into the regular garbage can. Thus, there is no need to worry about carrying them over to the hard waste collection days.

How to Clean Oil Paint Paper Towels?

Take a sufficient amount of paper towels and put them on the surface that you will clean. Then pour acetone or methylated spirits onto the towel. Make sure it is enough to make the towel wet but not dripping wet. Next, take some paper towels with your hands, saturate them with acetone/methylated spirits or paint thinner (if paint thinner is used, then make sure there is no more paint on the brush), and rub off all the excess oil paint from the painting board/canvas/panel using a circular motion.

You can rub for 10-15 minutes, but don’t rub too much as it will also take off fresh paint below. You will see that most of the oil paint has come off now.

Take a dry piece of paper towel and wipe off acetone or paint thinner from the board/canvas/panel. Next, remove all the white spots and oil paint powder from the panel using a dry paper towel.

After this step is complete, your painting should be completely free from oil paint. If you still see some faint tint of oil paint left on the surface, then take a clean brush with very soft bristles and dip it in methylated spirit or acetone, and carefully rub over that area again until there is no more visible trace of oil paint on/near that area.


I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how to dispose of oil paint paper towels. Always ensure proper safety while performing the process. Thank you and have a nice day

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