Sometimes, simply separating your waste into items that can be recycled and items that can’t be recycled is not enough. Once items have been separated, it may be necessary to rinse some of them out before they are placed into the recycling bin. How do you know if you should rinse a recyclable? Here are some basic guidelines to follow:

Items Containing Soap

Are you recycling shampoo bottles, hand soaps, dishwasher detergents, or laundry detergents? If so, then there may be some soapy residue clinging to the sides of the bottles. Don’t worry about rinsing these bottles out to remove the soapy residue. In fact, it may benefit some recyclers if you leave the soapy residue in the bottle. Many recyclers rely on this soap to clean the plastic products that are being processed at their facilities. Therefore, rinsing these products before putting them in the recycling bin may be a waste of time.

Items Containing Sticky Residue

On the other hand, items that contain sticky residue should be rinsed before they are tossed into the recycling bin. This includes jars of peanut butter, icing, condiments, or anything else that contains a thick, sticky substance. You don’t have to spend a lot of time making sure that every speck of the substance is removed before putting it in the bin. But, you should do your best to remove most of the sticky residue inside the jar or bottle. 

Items That Are Tough to Open

Rinsing an item before putting it in a recycling bin may not always be an option—especially if it is too difficult to take the lid or cap off of the item. For example, it’s practically impossible to rinse the inside of a plastic squeeze bottle that may contain condiments, shampoo, or other products. If you run into this problem, try to remove as much of the product as possible by continuing to squeeze on the bottle. Once the product stops coming out, it’s ok to toss in the recycling bin even if there is still some residue on the inside.

Look at the Label

When in doubt, look at the product’s packaging to see if it has a How2Recycle label. If a product has a How2Recycle label, it will tell you if the item needs to be rinsed before it can be recycled. For example, it may say “Rinse & Insert Lid” or “Rinse & Replace Lid” if the item needs to be rinsed. Items that need to be emptied but don’t need to be rinsed may say “Empty & Discard Pump” or “Empty & Replace Cap.” Unfortunately, you may find an item that does not have a How2Recycle label. In this case, reference the tips above and use your best judgment when deciding whether you should rinse or not.

What happens if you forget to empty out or rinse a product? It could mean that the item will end up in a landfill—even if you placed it in a recycling bin. Items that are not properly prepared for recycling are removed so they don’t contaminate other recyclables at the facility. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that you follow these rules closely to ensure your items can be recycled.