Paint Spillage Guidance from The BlackBeltBarrister

Paint Spillage Guidance from The BlackBeltBarrister

Over four thousand people per year visit an article I wrote giving advice about what to do if you spill paint in your car. That's a lot of people, a lot of spilled paint, and a lot of heartache.

It's not what you budgeted for when deciding to redecorate the hall.

So there I was watching a legal YouTube channel which I find highly addictive, and it occurred to me that maybe I should shoot him an email about this subject. And so I wrote to the internet's top legal mind, the BlackBeltBarrister.  Unbeknown to me, he had already encountered this issue and made a VideoTube about just this very thing. I would like to think this is a happy coincidence and not social engineering by an algorithm. 

And so, he made this video offering guidance, which I will post above. 

It was my intention to post this here without much comment because I am not in any way qualified to give legal advice. However, I changed my mind, as there was quite a lot of discussion and argument in the comments section, some of which, I felt, was useful should anyone visiting our website for guidance find themselves in a dispute with a paint store. It would be useful to be aware of the opposing arguments and arm yourself with information.

However, our favourite legal expert made a follow-up video which partly addresses much of what I wanted to say, and adds additional context.

More than just a Wickes problem.

As I indicated at the beginning, Google Analytics (which is hindered by VPNs and adblockers) tells me, that my article about paint spillages gets around 4,500 visits from searches, every year. Cloudflare would suggest the number is significantly higher. The vast majority of these visits are from the UK.

This would indicate, this is a problem, that, as I said in my email, effects hundreds, possibly thousands of people and not just those shopping at Wickes. It's easy to find more examples in the media:

Although there is some overlap in these stories due to syndication, there's enough individual examples here to demonstrate it's an issue. There are also plenty of examples to be found on social media websites.

According to various environmental activist organizations (who don't cite their sources, so I won't link to them), around 350,000,000 litres are sold in the UK every year. More reliable sources such as the BCF say, 703 million litres of paint and other coatings of all kinds are sold every year, so 350 million sounds to be in the right ballpark.

According to trade magazine European Coatings, 10.5 litres of paint are sold for every person in the UK (although they didn't mention if they count the boat people).

I have tried some back of the envelope calculations, and can't reach any definite conclusions, but suffice to say, millions of 5 litre, 7.5 litre and 10 litre tins and tubs of paint are sold in DIY stores every year.  Hardly surprising, then, that if even a tiny percentage of them are improperly sealed or explode, it will impact significant numbers of people and cars.

Are these "stupid people"?

Obviously not. In fact, by raising the issue of people putting shopping in their cars, Mr Fleming has provided us with a self-defeating argument.

They are patently not up to the job of carrying paint
The issue of specific brands of paint bursting in cars has been covered in The Guardian.

I don't know anyone who visits Asda or Tescos, and secures their shopping with a bungee, or locks it in a strong box bolted to the floor of the boot. I am being a bit hyperbolic, but people do generally just throw the shopping in the boot of the car. Glass bottles of wine, eggs, yoghurt, cream and bottles of milk, and I think it's fair to say that the British public do this far more frequently than they purchase paint, so as a business that is the first port of call in such matters, we should see orders of magnitude more such mishaps than we do paint. We don't, it's not even close.

Don't get me wrong, accidents happen and nobody would know better than us because we specialize in things like decontaminating spilt fuel and ridding cars of rotten milk odours.  We do it for insurance companies, and for private customers who sensibly want to avoid making a claim. We see the very worst of it, so I would suggest that we have a better handle on the scale of the problem than most.

If the paint spillages were just a matter of not storing the paint properly, then we would expect to see many more examples of spilt milk splashed or exploding all over cars.

The fact is, we actually see relatively few. It does happen, cartons do occasionally burst, more often they are punctured by sharp objects, but currently, most of our milk clean-ups are due to spilt take-away coffee and milkshakes.

Can anybody suggest to me, any other product that you would buy, that has a lid, that you couldn't put on it's side, or up-side-down, that would leak?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I put it to you, that if the lid of a paint container, cannot contain the paint when stored on its side, is there really any point in having a lid at all? They may as well hand you an open can.

"These are all rich people with fancy cars"

Definitely not.

I have several folders of photos and videos of paint spillages in cars, and the simple fact is, that when adding photos to a website, white paint splatter on black leather upholstery, taken on a bright summer's day is a lot more dramatic and aesthetic, than... this mess... 

This is a problem that happens to people from all walks of life with all kinds of cars. Very many people have very little savings to cope with an unexpected cost like this, and it will cause them hardship. It certainly seems to cause great upset, as some of them arrive to us close to tears -- overcome with emulsion.

And to address some of the sillier, nastier and resentful comments on these videos, not everybody who has an expensive car has money to burn. For many, a luxury car is just that, a luxury. It's the dream car they always wanted, and they will make sacrifices, put in extra hours, scrimp and save to get it. Gawd bless 'em. 

And anybody who thinks this is a scam, obviously has little experience with car insurance companies. There is nothing to gain from this, an insurance company is not going to give you a new car, and a DIY centre certainly won't. In the unlikely event your car is written off, you will pay an excess, increased premiums in future, and end up out of pocket.

That's assuming they own the car. A great many people lease their car or van, which adds another layer of aggravation.

Do paint tins actually explode?

Although the Black Belt Barrister had done a wonderful job in addressing the issue, he may have overplayed the exploding part somewhat. It isn't usually like a bomb going off, but I am not sure how else to describe it, maybe an eruption?

Money Saving Expert
A search of Google seems to turn up plenty of examples such as this one from Money Saving Expert. It's an interesting thread worth the read as it mentions paint in cars.

There appears to be a lot of contention in the comments sections about if a can of paint can explode, with objections based on physics which usually neglect the more relevant topics of polymer-chemistry and microbiology.

I am little doubt paint tins do explode, and although we only see the aftermath and weren't there when it happened, there are few examples I have seen that can only be described as an explosion, with paint splatter covering the windows and headlining.

Researching the interwebs, you would be amazed at the things that do explode in hot cars, obviously pressurized rattle cans, but even cans of sparkling water can go bang.

However, this isn't what we usually see. I have an anecdote on the other end of this where I was shown a can of paint which had been placed behind the driver's seat. The lid was loose but still on the top of the can. It looked a little as if the paint had boiled over, pushing the lid off in the process. When I removed the can of paint, there was a perfect circle underneath, untouched by paint, suggesting the tin had never moved. It wasn't rolling around or fallen over. It had just popped open and overflowed.

One tin exploded nearly causing a crash.
Many people report hearing a pop or describe it as an explosion.

Most of the examples we see may be somewhere between these two extremes. It may not be secured properly, it may fall over or even roll around in the boot. I don't recall anyone every saying they had to brake hard, but I do recall people saying they heard a pop. Certainly, many people describe it as an explosion, as in an example reported in the Daily Mail.

What's the solution?

As I mentioned further up the page, millions of tins of paint are sold in the UK every year. And while it seems this problem is happening to hundreds and possibly thousands of people every year, it is a tiny percentage. So it's likely to come down to money.

Are they likely to change the design of the paint tins, probably making them heavier, more complex and more expensive, to solve a problem relatively few people have? Probably not.

We are very glad that many suffering this problem found our advice page and have access to good information:-

Don't panic, don't try to scoop it out or mop it up, cover it with damp towels or sheets to stop it drying, until you can get it to somebody with a shampoo extractor.

Proofify App

We recommend that you take photos and video and document everything. Log your phone calls, make notes of what was said, and put things in writing with emails.

You can upload all this to which will help you organize it all ready for a court case should one arise. You can find out more about it here, and this useful video might give you a greater understanding of why it is so important to carefully document the facts.

It is a paid service, and we are not affiliated with it. We just think it's a good idea, and I am happy to explain why.

We often get people come to us who have damage to their cars which is the fault of others, whether that be an individual or business. Maybe a building contractor smothered their car in concrete splatter, or their next-door neighbour was painting the fence on a windy day.

We see it all, firework damage (because what goes up, must come down), smoke damage from fires, cargo ships blowing their stack to limescale contaminated water in underground car parks. And then there are kids on skateboards and bikes or egging cars on Halloween.

One of the most common complaints we see is rain water ingress caused by improperly fitted replacement windscreens or after market electronics.

Most people, don't want to get insurance companies or solicitors involved, so they try to resolve the issue themselves, which is precisely what you should do. 

Things tend to go rather well at first. The culprit is apologetic, agrees to make good on the damage, and that's when you let your guard down. It's only when they get an estimate that the arguments begin.

So often, "They agreed to pay for the whole thing" turns into "They aren't answering my calls" and months later you are considering taking the matter to the small claims court, trying to dig out emails and wishing you hadn't deleted all those videos to free up space on your phone.

I am in absolutely no doubt that many larger companies have a strategy of dragging things out until you give up out of frustration. 

Prevention is better than cure

We are very grateful for BlackBeltBarrister for covering this issue because at the time of writing this article, 100k people have watched his video. That's 100k who are now aware this is a problem and have the opportunity to take precautions.

There is something you can do today. Right now. We recommend that every car has a blanket and a couple of sturdy black bin liners. There are dozens of other things I could recommend you keep in your car, but these two top the list.

A large blanket can be used to help you to secure luggage. You can use it to wedge things in so they don't move about, or should you have happened to buy a couple of picture frames while you were in the DIY store, you can use the blanket to separate them so they don't bang together or wrap them up so sharp corners don't dig into your upholstery. And of course, it is useful to have a blanket to keep you warm should you break down on a cold day, or you can use it as a towel should you get wet.

If you have sturdy bin liners in the car, you can put the tins of paint in there, and should the lids pop off, hopefully the bags will contain the paint. And of course, there are many other uses for a bin liner. You can put your muddy boots in there, cover your leather upholstery when the dog decides to jump in the lake, etc.

You would be amazed how many people borrow a car when doing a big DIY project. They may borrow Dad's estate car because they can't fit a set of stepladders in their Fiat 500.  If this is you, I'd go the whole hog. Consider ordering the paint online and having it delivered. Buy plastic sheeting, and use blankets to cushion sharp edges and protect seats and carpets. Don't take chances.

7Ps ~ Better safe than sorry. 

Danny Argent

Not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV.


Q: Do you know anyone in my area who can clean this up?
A: No, but we can recommend the PDVTA approved directory. Call until you find somebody who has an extractor, can fit you in the same day, and is willing to do the work.

Q: I'm from the press, can I contact you?
A: Absolutely, please use our contact page.

Q: I'm a mediator. Can you provide expert opinion and/or vehicle condition reports?
A: Yes. Give us a call.



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