Project Planner


Step 5: Safety, Clean-Up and Disposal




Ladder Safety

Here are some useful tips about ladders that apply to both interior and exterior use:

  • Inspect ladders before use. Make sure that the rungs are intact and free of dirt and paint buildup that could interfere with footing.
  • When extending or retracting an extension ladder, hold the pulley rope firmly; if the rope is released, the upper section could drop on your fingers, arms or feet.
  • Follow the "four contact" rule: When using an extension ladder, make sure that the tops of both rails make solid contact with walls, and that both legs make solid contact with the floor or ground.
  • Never stand higher than the third-highest rung on a ladder. Make sure that the ladder reaches at least three feet higher than the highest level you need to stand.
  • Place foam protectors or wads of cloth on the tops of extension ladders, to prevent them from sliding and to protect the walls.
  • On a stepladder, make sure the spreader bar is fully extended and locked in place.
  • With a straight or extension ladder, make sure that the base is one foot away from the wall for every three feet of height.
  • Make sure your pockets are empty of knives, scissors or other pointed tools before climbing any ladder.
  • When on the ladder, keep your hips between the rails for good balance.
  • Do not push or pull too hard with a scraper or other tools while balanced on the ladder.
  • Always wear rubber-soled or another type of non-slip shoe on a ladder.

Special Guidelines for Outdoor Ladder Use

  • Avoid working in wet or windy weather, and do not climb a wet ladder.
  • Keep all ladders away from power lines -- especially metal ladders.
  • Make sure that the ground under the ladder is secure -- place plywood under the legs to ensure solid footing.
  • A ladder can be additionally secured by tying it to a sturdy portion of the house or to a large eyebolt in the wall or fascia board.

Power Washers

Power washers, power sanders, spray painting equipment and the like can be a painter's best friend -- but only when they're used properly, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

SPRAYERS and WASHERS work on the principle of pressure -- extremely high pressure (up to 3,000 psi) -- through a tiny vent. As a result, this equipment can be hazardous to both health and home when used incorrectly or at very close range. Never point any power equipment at any person or animal. And be sure the equipment is out of the reach of children at all times.

Wearing the proper clothing when using power sprayers is also important. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and gloves will help protect against accidentally injecting paint under your skin, should you unintentionally hit the trigger while the nozzle is near you.

Also, take care not to damage the building when using a power washer. If the pressure setting is too high, or if the nozzle is too close to the surface, the water can literally bore into wood siding, break windows, sliding doors or other glass.

Power tools should never be plugged into a power source unless you are sure that the trigger is in the "OFF" position. Also, never use power equipment in the rain as an electrical short could result.

Do's and Don'ts When Power Washing

  • DO wear proper eye and hand protection when operating the equipment.
  • DO attach nozzles and/or accessories before turning on the water.
  • DO keep hands and feet clear of the cleaning nozzle at all times.
  • DO let the machine run for several minutes before starting to power-wash.
  • DO consider using a special cleaning agent if the surface shows heavy mildew growth.
  • DO follow the equipment manufacturer's directions with respect to distance between the spray head and the surface -- typically 6" to 10", although this varies with the p.s.i and spray width settings. (Moving too close may harm the surface; staying too far away may be ineffective.)
  • DO work from the top of the wall to the bottom, rather than vice versa. Otherwise, dirt and mildew will run down over the already-cleaned section.
  • DO direct the water at a downward arc when cleaning wood substrates. Spraying wood head-on can damage the siding.
  • DO power-wash the surface thoroughly. Paint adheres best to surfaces that are totally clean.
  • DO turn off water at the source to release pressure BEFORE disconnecting hoses.
  • DO set the safety lock when the equipment is not in use.
  • DON'T fill the fuel tank while the engine is running.
  • DON'T leave the nozzle in a closed position for more than a minute or two while the equipment is running. The pump may overheat.
  • DON'T try to repair a leak in the hose or connection while the system is under pressure.
  • DON'T aim the power-washer at an upward angle when cleaning lap siding. This can drive water behind the siding. Also, the force of the water can lift the siding from the wall.
  • DON'T spray stucco, brick or masonry walls straight on. The force of the spray can cause water to penetrate cracks in the walls and cause damage within.
  • DON'T aim the spray at windows or glass doors. The force is strong enough to shatter them.

Solvent Safety

When spraying oil-based paint or any other solvent-based coating, make sure all sources of flame are extinguished, including cigarettes and pilot lights.

Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when using any solvent-based product, such as oil-based paint, paint thinner, liquid sandpaper, de-glosser, or paint remover. Also, avoid mixing any of these products together; toxic fumes may result.

Rags and sandpaper used to clean up solvents should be spread out to dry, then placed in a fireproof container. If left wet in a pile, they could spontaneously combust and cause a fire.

Dealing with Lead in Paint

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE PAINT IF YOU SUSPECT IT CONTAINS LEAD. This can cause an extreme health hazard. Lead paint was common until 1950, but was not outlawed in the U.S.A. until 1978. If you think you may have lead paint, contact the EPA hotline for information: 1-800-424-LEAD or visit

If you suspect the presence of old paint containing lead, do not sand the area. Contact a local Environmental Protection Agency office or health department for instructions on how to proceed. (Lead paint is most likely to be found in buildings that are more than 25 years old.

Sources of Lead Paint: Lead carbonate was used prior to World War II. A white powder, it was used as a primary white pigment in oil-based paints. During the 1940's and early `50s, "white lead" was replaced by titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is more efficient in providing whiteness and hiding. In the early 1970s, the use of lead compounds began to be phased out. In 1978, legislation eliminated them altogether.

All interior and exterior house paints and primers are now made without lead. Some buildings, especially those built before this legislation was enacted, may contain lead paint. These paints present potential health hazards, especially for infants, small children and pregnant women.

A booklet entitled "Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home" (Publication No. EPA 747-R-94-002) has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency. It provides information concerning:

  • Testing for the presence of lead paint
  • Steps to take to minimize exposure to lead where lead-containing paint may be present
  • Removal and in-place management of lead-containing paint

Personal Protective Equipment

Painting isn't an inherently dangerous activity, but it always pays to follow good safety practices. Carelessness is the quickest way to get into trouble when doing any project, and painting is no exception.

Personal Protective Equipment: Good painting practice dictates that the skin, eyes, and lungs be protected at all times. This can be accomplished by purchasing GLOVES, SAFETY GOGGLES and a DUST MASK or RESPIRATOR.

FABRIC OR LEATHER WORK GLOVES are necessary when scraping, wire-brushing, sanding and patching. Wear them at all times when working around splintered wood.

RUBBER GLOVES should be worn when working with bleach solution, paint thinners and removers and any type of acid. Also wear them when cleaning painting equipment using paint thinner or mineral spirits. (NOTE: Be sure that the gloves are the kind of rubber that will not be softened when exposed to lacquer thinners or other harsh chemicals.)

EYE PROTECTION is recommended when wire-brushing, scraping, sanding or painting overhead. SAFETY GOGGLES are a must when handling acids, bleach or other chemicals.

It is also a good idea to wear a DUST MASK when sanding. And, if you are doing any painting with a sprayer, wear a MIST FILTER plus an ORGANIC VAPOR RESPIRATOR to avoid breathing paint spray into your lungs.

Finally, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing when doing any type of painting.

Clean Up/Storage

Brushes and Rollers

Latex Paint -The best practice is to clean your brushes and rollers after each use. If you have used latex paint, rinse your brush or roller under warm running water with a little dish washing detergent until all the paint is out of the brush. Be sure all the soap is also rinsed out. Press excess water out of bristles or nap with a rag.

After cleaning, wrap brushes in original package or aluminum foil. Stand rollers on end to dry.

Tip -If you’re stopping your latex paint project for only a few hours, wrapping the brush or roller in aluminum foil and placing in the refrigerator will allow you to resume painting without the cleaning process.

Oil or Alkyd Paints - Pour the appropriate solvent into two small cans. This should be the solvent recommended on the paint can. You can use mineral spirits if that information is not provided. Dip the brush into the first container, pressing down on the bristles until most of the paint is removed from the brush. Dip into second container to clean out remaining paint. Remove excess solvent from bristles using a rag.

After cleaning, wrap brushes in original package or aluminum foil. Stand rollers on end to dry.

Tip - Be sure to dispose of these rags and any leftover solvent in the proper way.

Storing Leftover Paint

  1. Clean out the groove or "chime" of the container. Make sure that the rim of the lid is clean, too.
  2. Cover the opening of the can with plastic wrap.
  3. Close the lid tightly, tapping with a hammer.

Oil based or alkyd paints have more of a tendency to ‘skin’ during storage. Follow the procedure above. An extra measure would be to VERY tightly close the lid and turn the paint can upside down. The paint will help seal the can.

A few tips for storing paint:

  1. Paint a swatch of the paint on the label of the can so you know exactly what color you have.
  2. Write date and which room was painted with permanent marker on the lid.
  3. Don’t store your paint in sunlight or next to a heat source
  4. Don’t let paints freeze.


Latex Paints – Since latex paint is not hazardous, it can be solidified and put out for regular refuse collection. It is important to solidify latex paint to avoid environmental or water contamination problems.

Solidifying Latex Paint:

  1. Remove container lid(s) and place open container (s) in a safe well ventilated area away from children and pets.
  2. Depending on amount of paint, this can take up to several days for liquids to evaporate. If you have a large amount of paint to dispose of, pour liquid paint into a container with kitty litter or another absorbent material like sawdust. When paint is ‘dry’, it may be disposed of in regular trash.
  3. Replace lids and dispose of in regular trash.

Disposing Solvent Paints

Oil-based or alkyd paints and solvents, including mineral spirits are considered hazardous waste materials. Precautions and steps must be taken for proper disposal.

Never dispose of liquid oil-based paints or solvents in regular trash or pour them down the drain. Most communities have special hazardous waste collection for liquid paint. Check your local regulations to ensure proper handling.

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