Hazardous materials cannot go into the trash. Fluids like unused paint and cleaners, heating fuels like unused kerosene, and automotive fluids like dirty oil and transmission fluid pollute the groundwater and soil if they’re disposed of improperly. Dumping used motor oil in a river can harm the fish and wildlife that rely on that river for drinking water.
How you dispose of items matters to future generations. Some products have instructions on disposal on the bottle. What if you can’t find that information? How do you recycle chemicals, cleaners, and paint?
How to Recycle Cleaners
Think about how you use the cleaner. Ideally, you want to use it all up and have an empty container to recycle. You do need to clean containers out, however. If it’s regularly mixed with water, it’s okay to pour it down your drain. If you have a little soap left in a shampoo container, add some water, shake it to mix it up, and pour the resulting liquid down the stairs. You can put leftover liquid fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, hand soap, hair conditioner, and facial washes down the drain.
Cleaners like Windex that contain ammonia are also okay being poured down the drain. What shouldn’t you put down the drain? If you have a flammable item like nail polish remover, you shouldn’t pour that down the drain. The same is true of paint thinner or turpentine.
Look up the item in a recycling directory to get help. If you can’t find an answer, call your local waste district for assistance. You may learn that the best way to dispose of it is to wrap the item up in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. It depends on the services offered in your area.
How to Recycle Paint
Most states have programs for recycling paint. Empty metal paint cans are often thrown in the trash, but your district may have recycling options available. If it’s a plastic paint can, see if the store that sold you the paint takes back the empty containers. Some stores/states set refundable deposits in hopes of getting more people to take their empty containers back to recover that deposit.
What if you have paint that’s still good, but there’s not enough for another room. Have you considered mixing similar paints to create a new color? You can mix a satin paint with another satin paint or a semi-gloss with another semi-glass. Use that new color to paint another room in your home.
If you have paint that’s still good and you cannot use, look for a facility that takes unneeded paint. They’ll combine them to create new gallons that are sold at discounts. It’s an affordable way to get a gallon of paint and it keeps paint out of the trash.
How to Recycle Other Chemicals
What about other chemicals? Your gas grill no longer works, but you still have some propane left. See if a family member or neighbor can use it up. The metal propane tanks must be disposed of at a participating recycling center.
You have a kerosene space heater that’s not going to be used anymore. Try posting that you have leftover kerosene in your community and see if anyone wants it. If that doesn’t work, find a recycling center that accepts hazardous waste.
You’ll do the same with pool chemicals, glues and solvents, and vehicle fluids. Some auto parts stores take back used oil for a fee. Local auto mechanics may also be willing to take it for a fee. When all else fails, reach out to your waste district for guidance.
Use Pantry Items to Clean Your House
Keep chemicals out of the landfills by making better choices. Before buying cleaning agents, think about the chemicals within them. Skip chemical cleaners and help protect the environment. Many household cleaning projects are easily managed with more environmentally-friendly agents that are found in your pantry.
#1 – Baking Soda
Use baking soda as a scouring agent on tiles and stainless steel surfaces. Rinse it well when you’re done. You may have to put some effort into scrubbing stuck-on grime, but the baking soda is a much gentler cleaner that won’t harm the environment.
If you have a kitchen or bathroom drain that’s not smelling fresh, pour some baking soda down it and add a little white vinegar. That mixture will fizz up and freshen the drain. Rinse thoroughly when the fizzing action dies down.
Make a paste of water and baking soda to clean the inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Scrub the surfaces and use a wet sponge to remove the paste. Dry the surfaces with a clean towel when all of the stuck-on messages are removed.
#2 – Bleach
Disinfect surfaces using a mixture of bleach and water. The amount of bleach you use depends on whether food items will touch it. The CDC recommends using a ratio of 1 tablespoon to a gallon of cool water for food surfaces like cutting boards and counters. For floors, phones, remotes, faucet handles, and light switches, 3.2 tablespoons per gallon is best. Moldy or mildewed surfaces like tile showers or backsplashes need a ratio of 1 cup per gallon.
Here’s a tip many kitchen workers know and use every day when washing dishes. Wash the dishes in one sink and rinse them clean in another. Before drying them with a clean towel, dip them in the food-safe solution of bleach and water before drying. That kills bacteria and prevents foodborne illnesses.
#3 – Dish Soap
Wash counters and appliances with plain dish soap. The original Blue Dawn dish soap is gentle and good at removing oils. Rinse it thoroughly and finish up with a coating of bleach solution to kill germs. Rub grease-covered oven racks with some dish soap and set in the tub for a few hours. Rinse with the shower, dry completely, and place them back in the oven.
#4 – Hydrogen Peroxide
Put a cup of hydrogen peroxide into your load of white items to brighten them. Hydrogen peroxide is also good at killing mold and mildew. Apply it directly to stains and wipe after it’s set for several minutes.
#5 – Lemons
Easily clean a microwave or inside of an oven using boiled water and lemon. Bring a pan of water to a boil and add some lemon slices. Place inside the microwave or oven and close the door. Walk away for half an hour.
When 30 minutes are up, use a scrub sponge to remove greasy, stuck-on messes. Rinse the sponge often. Once all of the grime is gone, use a clean towel to dry the surfaces.
You can also use half a lemon that’s covered in salt to clean bronze. Dip the lemon half in salt and buff the bronze bowl or other item. Repeat until the tarnish is gone. Wipe all remaining residue off with a dish towel or washcloth.
#6 – White Vinegar
White vinegar is a handy cleaner. Keep a gallon of it on hand. Use equal parts of cold water and vinegar to remove stains from carpeting and upholstery. Use white vinegar and heavy-duty automotive paper towels to wash windows and patio doors. You can also use ¼ cup of white vinegar in your laundry machine’s fabric softener dispenser and avoid the need for fabric softener.
When you have cleaners and other chemicals to recycle, the online directory at Recycle Nation helps you find the nearest recycling facility. Quickly find out where you need to go to make sure your chemicals, cleaners, and paints are recycled properly.