How to Dispose of Hazardous Chemicals

Items like spray paint should be disposed of carefully.
Items like spray paint should be disposed of carefully. (Image: spray image by Dragana Petrovic from <a href=''></a>)

Many items around your house can be defined as hazardous waste. Hazardous waste can be a liquid, a solid, or a gas and contain materials that can be damaging to the environment or human health. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages you to reduce your purchase of products that contain hazardous chemicals, and to recycle items like paint and motor oil when possible. Disposal regulations vary by community, but there are some basic rules that everyone should follow before throwing out chemical waste.

Things You'll Need

  • Garbage bags
  • Sawdust, cat litter or similar absorbent material
  • Rags
  • Newspaper

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Read product labels on any item that may contain hazardous chemicals. Some products contain specific instructions for safe disposal. Follow the instructions for disposal if they are provided. If you are trying to determine if an item is hazardous, look for clues on the label. Flammable products, warnings to wear gloves or warnings to use in well-ventilated rooms are all indications that the item contains one or more hazardous chemicals.

Use an absorbent material such as sawdust, cat litter or paper towels to solidify any liquid chemical waste. Sweep up the material once solidified, if necessary, then put the solidified waste into a garbage bag and seal it. Dispose with other household waste.

Open any cans of latex paint you wish to throw out. Leave the paint can open in a well-ventilated area until it solidifies. Wrap the paint can and the solidified contents in a few layers of newspaper, then place in a garbage bag. Dispose with other household waste.

Empty the contents of aerosol containers containing hazardous waste. Turn the can upside down and spray into an old rag, paper towels or other similar material. Wrap the empty can in a few layers of newspaper and dispose with other household waste. Allow the towels or rags to dry and put them in a sealed garbage bag to be disposed of with other household waste.

Empty chemicals designed for cleaning tubs, showers, sinks or toilets down the drain. Slowly pour the material into the sink or tub with the water running. Leave the water running and rinse out the container. Leave the water on until all traces of the chemical are gone from the sink or tub. Let the empty container air dry, then wrap it in a few layers of newspaper and dispose with other household waste.

Contact your local waste management authority for specific instructions on where to dispose of other hazardous materials such as automobile batteries, pesticides, oil paints and oil. Many communities have special collection days to pick up items that cannot be thrown out with regular household waste.

Tips & Warnings

  • Attempt to use all hazardous chemicals if possible.
  • Donate leftover items like paint or paint thinner to local theater groups, building projects or art clubs.
  • Never attempt to burn hazardous waste or dump it into the ground.
  • Do not mix multiple hazardous chemicals into one container.
  • Never pour pesticides or oil into water systems.


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