Is Oil-Based Paint Legal in California?

Oil Based Paint

Are you wondering if it’s legal to use oil-based paint in California? The vastness of the state means different areas will have differing rules. 

Oil-based paint is legal in some areas of California and illegal in others. As of September 2021, some Home Depots in California still sell oil-based paint. However, the labeling of oil-based paint as a hazardous material has caused some areas in California to stop selling it. 

Here’s your safest bet: Contact your local city hall or county building and ask them if oil-based paint is legal in your area. Most local governments also have a website listing information about hazardous material and their proper disposal. 

Can Google answer all our questions? Maybe someday. However, when you’re looking for legal advice, it’s always best to go directly to the source: your local government. 

Can I Buy Oil-Based Paint in California? 

A Home Depot located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles lists paint for sale on their online store. However, to accurately determine if oil-based paint is sold in your area, you’ll need to call your local hardware store and talk with an employee. 

From my research, some areas in California sell oil-based paint, and some don’t – it all depends on the location. 

Also, some DIYers and builders say you need to visit professional paint sellers to obtain oil-based paint. So, if your local hardware store doesn’t have any oil-based paint in stock, you could research a local paint seller. 

If you find any oil-based paint within California, let us all know where you found it and the process for obtaining it within your area.

Can I Use Oil-Based Paint in California? 

I am unaware of any blanket law prohibiting the use of oil-based paint in California. However, some regulations are in place within California to reduce their use. Eventually, we may see no oil-based paints whatsoever.  

Why? Well, California is on the cutting edge when initiating environmentally responsible regulations. A long time ago, oil-based paint was used everywhere. However, oil-based paint began to receive increased scrutiny over some dangerous components. 

Oil-based paint contains VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds. Unfortunately, researchers have determined that VOCs are harmful, especially in high concentrations. 

Here are several reasons why VOCs are unpopular: 

  • VOCs often cause people with asthma to have reactions 
  • Some VOCs are known carcinogens 
  • VOCs don’t go away after the paint dries; they continue to off-gas 

Later on, we talk more about the dangers of VOCs. For now, let’s look at oil-based paint in more depth.

Is Oil-Based Paint in California Any good? 

If you find some oil-based paint in California, you may wonder – is it any good? Some painters have reported oil-based paint being of lower quality. 

Why? Though oil-based paint has some harmful additives, these components help the oil-based paint produce super-paint qualities. 

For instance, oil-based paint is known to be durable, long-lasting, and smooth setting. However, when these properties are reduced, you end up with less potent oil-based paint. You may be better off with an alternative.

Thankfully, water-based alternatives offering similar benefits are now available – more on this later. 

How Do I Dispose of Oil-based Paint in California? 

You don’t want a bunch of old paint cans cluttering your garage. You have other DIY projects to finish. 

Here are several steps for disposing of your oil-based paint if you live in California: 

  • Use the paint on a project 
  • Contact your local government 
  • Contact your local landfill 

Let’s look at these steps in more depth. 

Use Old Paint 

If you’re allowed to use oil-based paint in your area of California, then one of the best ways to dispose of old paint is using it on a project. 

If you have a shed, a barn, or some fence posts that could use some paint, go ahead and consider applying your old paint there. 

However, if the paint contains a high concentration of VOCs, you may want to weigh this risk against the necessity of using the paint. 

Finally, paint goes bad over time, and it may not be possible to use up the rest of the paint – this leads us to our next step. 

Contact Your Local Government when Disposing of Paint in California 

Your local government will usually answer your questions regarding laws and ordinances. Your local city hall should offer information about how you can get rid of your oil-based paint. 

However, if your local government has no laws surrounding how to dispose of oil-based paint, then there’s one more place you can contact. 

Your landfill. 

Contact Waste Management Department 

Who’s the expert on toxic waste? Your local dump. To determine your waste management company, just look outside at your trash cans. The name is usually on their trash bins. 

Once you’ve determined your local waste management organization, you can contact them regarding how to dispose of your oil-based paint. 

In Shasta County, California, the city of Redding has specified they will accept up to 20 gallons of oil-based paint if that is the only thing you’re trying to throw away. 

However, remember: this is the specific regulation to Redding, CA. Other areas will have different guidelines and capabilities. 

What Makes Oil-based Paints Dangerous? 

After all this talk about safely using oil-based paint in California, you’re probably wondering: what makes this paint so dangerous? Is this like asbestos? 

Well, there are some dangers. Below, we discuss them in more depth. 

The dangers of oil-based paint: 

  1. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) 
  2. Inhalation damage 
  3. Damage to the nervous system 

Let’s look closer. 

VOCs in Oil-based Paint 

VOCs are known to be harmful. Most places will explain that VOCs are harmful in “high concentrations” and less harmful at “low-concentrations.” Of course, this makes sense; however, it’s rather unclear and homeowners are trying to stay safe. How do you know what a is high concentration?

Oil-based paint has a higher rate of VOCs than water-based paints (also known as latex paint). However, even water-based paint has some level of VOCs. 

If you have an indoor project, always try to use paint with the lowest possible rate of VOCs. Some manufacturers create paint with no VOCs at all. 

Other reasons oil-based paint has become much less popular are VOCs’ negative effects on certain people. 

If you have a child who struggles with asthma, steer clear of this paint, especially indoors. 

Asthma isn’t the only concern. Some experts state there’s a link between certain VOCs and cancer. However, it’s important to realize that many things release VOCs (even some beauty products), and some VOCs are more harmful than others. 

Like any potentially poisonous substance, the amount you’re exposed to plays a big part in the likelihood of long-term defects. 

Nervous System Damage from VOCs 

Potential damage to the nervous system is yet another reason areas are shying away from VOCs. 

There are also reports that exposure to VOCs could negatively affect a developing baby before birth. There is enough data to support suggesting holding off on painting during the first trimester of pregnancy.

What Can I Use Instead of Oil-based Paint in California? 

Let’s discuss several alternatives to oil-based paint. Of course, oil-based paint has its benefits. But, thankfully, the painting world is adapting for the better. 

Here are several alternatives to oil-based paint: 

Let’s take a closer look at these paints. 

Water-Based Paint in California 

Water-based paint is one of your best bets in California. However, even if you don’t live in California, you don’t want paint with a high amount of VOCs inside your home. It’s just not safe. 

Instead, reach for water-based paint. With this category of paint, it’s important to buy quality. 

ECOs Paint 

If you’re looking for interior paint with virtually no VOCs, ECOs paint might be your thing. ECOs paint produces safe paint that doesn’t harm the environment and doesn’t cause reactions in sensitive people. 

There are several companies offering paint with no VOCs. Check them out and see which one fits your needs. 

BEHR Premium Exterior Paint 

This exterior paint from BEHR has an important feature – it’s acrylic, and the paint has very low VOC concentrations.

People are already using mostly water-based paint for indoor projects. But what about the outdoors? What about my fences and my garage? 

Well, BEHR is trying to meet this need. If you live in California, or one of the five states that virtually banned oil-based paint entirely, you still have options. 

Final Words on Using Oil Based Paint in California 

Some areas of California allow oil-based paint, and others don’t. The best thing you can do is contact your local government and ask if oil-based paint is prohibited. 

Even if oil-based paint is legal in your area, you should consider the cost-benefit. If you can use a safer formula around your home, perhaps it’s worth jumping in with water-based options. 

For disposal of oil-based paint, check with your local city or county government. If the city doesn’t have information, you’ll need to check in with your local government. 

Overall, it’s important to do the work upfront in researching the rules around your area. Also, if you need to, make it safe and use low VOC paint. It’s better for the world, and it’s better for you.