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The Paint Exchange


Winter 2012 Paint Collection

We are now collecting usable interior latex paint at our North Scituate location. Paint must be in its original container with a readable label. We charge $2 per container for collection. Any quarts must be full. Call or email to schedule an appointment. (, 781-545-1272)

Green Paint, Many Times Over




 I have been thinking about paint (go figure… I own a paint store) and what makes some paints “greener” or more environmentally-friendly than others.

 Well it seems paints that claim to be green are environmentally-friendly for a number of reasons. First, a paint might be considered green because it is made from recycled materials, like our paint is. Secondly, a paint might have specific properties that make its impact on the environment low. For example –and you’ve probably heard this term thrown around in some of the bigger paint stores in town –a paint might have a zero or low VOC (volatile organic compound) content. What is VOC? – It’s the bad stuff you don’t want to go pouring down your sink if you can help it.

 Confused? Let me explain …

Because the paint we use to make our paint has already been exposed to air and/or has been sitting around for a while, chances are it has already given off or lost some of its VOCss. Make sense? Although we can’t make any specific claims with respect to our paint until we have it properly tested, our paint should in theory have a very low voc content based on the mere fact that it is recycled paint.

 Furthermore, because we don’t add anything to our paint (this is what makes it 100% recycled) like a colorant/tint or the likes, which contain and contribute to, the VOC content of a paint, our paint likely has an even lower VOC content than tinted paints.

 Which makes us green a couple of times over.

 To find out more about VOC content in paint go to

 Turns out our paint is even greener than we thought!!! Go figure that one Mary!

Painting is Easy

People always think of painting a room as a major project, but it doesn’t have to be.  In the middle of a recession, you probably can’t swing an overhaul of your bathroom, but you can paint it a soothing spa color.  New appliances and cabinets might be out for your kitchen, but a fresh color could make a huge difference.  Come by the shop and we can show you step-by-step how to undertake a simple, cost-efficient painting project.  We’ll even help you out with color choices.

Don’t Let Color Bully You

A bedroom painted in Uh-oh Blue.

A bedroom painted in "Uh-oh Blue."

Color should make you happy.  It should relax and soothe you, it should bring you joy and peace.  It should never, ever cause you stress. 

Yet so often we hear: “I hate picking colors.” 

“I can’t do this!” 

“Picking colors is overwhelming.” 

Part of the problem may be the fact that big paint companies offer literally thousands of color choices.  While this fact in and of itself is awesome and wonderful, when it comes to choosing a color to put on your walls, less can definitely be more.  Do we really need 1,300 blues to choose from?  Probably not.  A few great colors should be enough for most of us.  Keep it simple.

New Orleans Whorehouse Red and Other Hazards of the Job

Ever just sit around and flip through a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams fan deck?   Such gorgeous colors, such great names.  Everyone seems to think that whoever’s job it is to name all those colors has the greatest job around.

 I did, anyway.  But now that I mix and sell paint all day, I’m seeing what a challenge it can be to name all those colors….  And we don’t have nearly the selection that the big companies do.

 Sometimes we just look at a new batch of paint and know exactly what to name it.  It speaks to us.

 Other times, we really need to think it through.  We try to be creative, unique, different.  We try to keep a sense of humor.  We especially try to give our paint colors a name that might make someone want to buy it!  I believe we even named one color “Delicious.”

 In the beginning it was easy, but the more paint we mix the tougher it is to come up with great new names.  We’ve used our kids names, we’ve let customers in the shop name colors, we’ve had “drink wine and name paint” parties.  We’ve even held paint-naming contests where the winner goes home with a gallon of their choice.

 For a while I was naming paints after Grateful Dead songs, but I stopped short when I got to “Wharf Rat.”  I also get really literal at times.  For example, last week I mixed a green that was supposed to mimic King Sage.  Unfortunately, it looked more like an herbal mud mask; so that’s what I named it.  You have to be careful when you do that, though.  It’s all well and good to name a color by exactly what it looks like, but you do limit your customer base when you call something “New Orleans Whorehouse Red.”  Other poor choices include “Newborn Baby Poop” and “Nursing Home Taupe.”

 Think you’d like to try out for that dream job?  Come on in and give it a shot!

Chaos, Spatter and Lasting Evidence — It’s Not a Crime Scene, It’s Our Shop

As we’ve said, we double strain all the paint we mix to remove any lumps and chunks of old paint – or whatever else is in those cans.  Occasionally we will find an old paint roller, bits of a foam brush or even painters’ rags in a can; and I swear one time I think there were bacon bits…  but I digress.

 Our straining process has evolved the most of all our work, and we are quite proud of our current state-of-the-art sieve technology.  Those familiar with our business would probably agree that we’ve come a long way from our primitive beginnings.

 We started out by covering the cans with old panty hose held in place with a rubber band.  Sophisticated?  That’s us.  This method had some drawbacks, though…  such as the fact that the hose could only stretch so far and we frequently had to pour paint from a big heavy bucket down into a much smaller one; and again, this smaller can is covered with panty hose.  Know how hard that is?  I do.  So does my friend Kim, who made the mistake of coming in to visit that day.  The blue paint I was pouring out of the big bucket spilled out all over the entire shop and it took three hours to clean it up.  We sold the one can of strained paint we salvaged, but if you want to see the color, you can check out our floor.  Or you can check out Kim’s cashmere wrap, ‘cause it’s still there, too.  I believe I named that batch “Uh Oh Blue.”

 Eventually we ran out of both good reusable hose and patience, so we tried cheesecloth, tulle, and lord knows what else that could be cut large enough to fit over a wide-mouthed bucket.  The problem with all these strainers was the rubber band.  Every time we tried to get it off to remove the filter, the rubber band (covered with paint) would shoot across the room and leave splatter everywhere.  We tried taping the filters onto the bucket, but all too often the tape (covered in paint) would get wet and slip off, so the whole filter would end up in the bucket.

 Resourceful geniuses that we are, we finally did figure it out.  Well, Katharine and Tania did, anyway.  We make our own frames from paint sticks or use circular embroidery frames to hold multiple layers of screen.  They rest on top of the bucket, so they can be removed easily; they can be smooshed down in the middle so the paint pools into the bucket instead of running off over the top; and they can be washed and used many times, which makes us recyclers happy.

  I think we might be filing with the US Patent Office.

Why I Love What We Do

Seventy five million gallons, or 10% of all of the paint sold in the US goes unused EVERY year.  This paint is filling people’s garages, basements and closets.  It is the half gallon left over after painting the living room, it is the three test quarts bought before finding the right color for the kitchen, it is the full gallon that was bought because somebody over estimated the amount necessary to paint the bedroom. 

What happens to this paint?  Sometimes it is dried out with cat litter or paint hardener and thrown away.     Sometimes it just tossed, still liquid, into the trash where it seeps into the groundwater.  Most often it just sits, taking up space and collecting dust.  Why should this valuable raw material go to waste?  It shouldn’t and legally (unless it is dried) it can’t. 

Paint recycling is a new idea, but it is a vital idea.  It brings us back to the idea of wasting nothing, of making use of what we have and protecting our environment. 

What do I do for a living?  — I help people fill their houses with color, while making the Earth better and saving money.  Awesome.

Yes, We Basically Make Paint in Our Basement

Since the whole paint recycling concept is still new to most people, everyone asks us what it is we do exactly.  We were always deliberately vague in our answers in the beginning, as we hadn’t really figured it out yet ourselves.  But after a solid 6 months in operation we are now proud to give you all a snapshot of our work.

 The most important thing we do is check any paint coming in to make sure it’s usable, and if not explaining to people how to dispose of it.  (As in, dry it out and recycle your cans, do NOT drive around Route 3A late at night looking for open Dumpsters).

 Next we log it in so we can report back to the DEP about how much paint we are keeping out of landfill for them.  We haven’t had any spot checks or other communication from them since they gave us the okay to open shop, but we are sure they would be thrilled with our efforts. 

 Once we’ve stockpiled enough reusable latex paint to completely crowd us out of our little store, we start mixing.  This procedure is quite simple, seeing as how we started this business on a shoestring and have yet to invest in complicated machinery and equipment.  Who needs to put a bundle into cap-ex when you have an endless supply of reusable plastic paint pails and nifty home-made strainers? 

All the paint we take in is double-strained and then mixed according to the colors we have or the colors we need.  Usually, the result is gorgeous batches of fresh latex paint in the most desirable hues.  Occasionally things go less well (i.e., we have one 5-gallon bucket of paint under our worktable labeled “Premium Strained Stupid Color”).  Then we call it primer and sell it cheap.

 No matter how much we tell you about the process, it’s much more fun in person.  We love company, so come on by.  We also welcome field trips from schools and youth groups, but you’ll need to call ahead and definitely bring us snacks.

We’re Up!

The official launch of The Paint Exchange website seems like an appropriate time to thank everyone who has been so supportive of this venture.  Starting a new business in such a bad economic climate may have seemed questionable, so we particularly appreciate the fact that no one told us we were crazy, even if they thought we were.

 There are not a lot of paint recycling companies out there – none in this area certainly – so very few people knew what we were proposing at first.  They were just so thrilled to have someplace to dump their crusty old paint cans, they didn’t care what we actually did with them.  But as the word gets out, more paint goes out, and the feedback has been great.

 I hope our customers will leave feedback here on the website, too.  Let us know what you like, let us know what you need, and keep painting!