Is dirty latex safe?
September 30, 2008 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Compost & painted wood walls, is it a good mix?

I have a number of narrow louvered doors from a remodel, that I think would be great to use as walls for a compost pile. I would configure it myself, such as something similar to this. The doors I would like to use are covered in latex paint. I'm positive there is no lead paint on them. Do you think the latex paint covered doors would contaminate my compost pile? I would imagine in a few months the paint would start to flake.
posted by pokeedog to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Latex paint is water-soluble. I don't know much about compost microbe biology, but this has two implications: (1) whatever is in the paint will be in the compost after precipitation or otherwise hydrating the compost and (2) the doors should be pretty easy to strip of (nearly all of) the paint but that doesn't give you a pass on leaching from any finish under the paint.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:59 PM on September 30, 2008

Do you intend to eat the plants which receive the compost?
posted by aramaic at 8:11 PM on September 30, 2008

Painted louvered doors + Triangular power sander + ~30 minutes per door to remove paint = Wonderful compost bin
posted by mudpuppie at 8:46 PM on September 30, 2008

Dried latex paint is pretty innocuous. Dry paint in general really, as long as it isn't lead based. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by electroboy at 9:03 PM on September 30, 2008

I suspect that if you build your compost bin out of old doors, there won't be enough air circulation to ensure good composting. When building a compost bin, you want to have a lot of gaps in your sides between boards so that your compost remains well aerated and decomposes aerobically, rather than anaerobically (i.e. stinkily).
posted by ssg at 9:33 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

But they are louvered doors, which should ensure good air circulation.

I probably wouldn't worry about it. However, you could rent a pressure washer for an afternoon and use it to eradicate any loose paint before using them. Or if you get a particularly paint-chippy batch of compost, shovel it into a yard waste bag and have your trash company pick it up. Then start anew.
posted by Ostara at 9:44 PM on September 30, 2008

Indeed, the air circulation should be fine. Sorry, I should have read the question more carefully.
posted by ssg at 10:01 PM on September 30, 2008

Don't worry about it even slightly. No lead: no problem.
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 AM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: The only downside to using these doors for this application will be than in four years the louvres are going to rot out and spill compost all over. Until then you're golden.
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 AM on October 1, 2008

Disagree with Inspector Gadget on this one; latex paint is water based, but it's not water soluble after it's dried. Flabdablet's got it -- perfectly safe, but don't expect them to last very long.
posted by jon1270 at 2:46 AM on October 1, 2008

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