How to Safely Dispose of Cleaning Products

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Sometimes cleaning products have to be cleaned out, too. What’s the best way to do so? Some people assume cleaning products need to be disposed of with unused paint, oil and other similar items through your city’s hazardous waste collection program. The truth is, though, in most cases household cleaning products don’t need this kind of special treatment. You do need to follow instructions, but doing so should be pretty easy. Let’s take a look at your options:

Use It Up or Give It Away

The best and easiest option for dealing with unused cleaning products is obviously keeping them and using them up. Sometimes this isn’t possible, though — perhaps you’re moving a long distance and can’t take the cleaners with you — and in those cases, your best bet is giving unused cleaning products away. Most people need things like dishwasher detergent, surface cleaners and bleach, so find friends or neighbors who live nearby and offer them your cleaners. They will likely be happy to take them off your hands. Make sure, though, that the products are in their original containers.

Alternatively, you can see if any local organizations could use the cleaning products. If no one you know needs what you have left over, try a site like Freecycle.org.

Read the Label for Proper Disposal

Can’t find anyone who wants your household cleaners? In these situations, turn to your products’ labels. Typically, cleaning products can be disposed of just like other types of waste. Be sure to read the label to see if there are any specific instructions for disposal (like antibacterial cleaning products, for instance).

If the manufacturer did not provide this type of information, the American Cleaning Institute  suggests thinking about how you typically use the product to help you make the best disposal choice. For example, if you have extra laundry detergent or a liquid disinfectant, it’s safe to pour it down the drain with running water. Because these products are water soluble and usually mixed with water when used for cleaning anyway, your municipality will treat these cleaners the same way they would if you used them for cleaning.

One commonly asked question about disposing of cleaning products down the drain is whether they will negatively impact a septic tank. In almost all cases, the answer is no. Septic systems commonly used in homes can process water-soluble cleaning products.

Do consider how much of a cleaner you pour down the drain at once, though, if the cleaner isn’t in liquid form. When poured all at the same time, powders can clog your drain.

If you have household solid cleaners or wipes, you can safely dispose of them in your trash. For less-common cleaners like furniture polish or oven cleaner, check with your local waste disposal facility for any special instructions.

Always Recycle (and Precycle)

Once you’ve disposed of your extra cleaning products, it’s time to recycle those containers. Most household cleaning products come in containers that should be easy to recycle in your curbside bin. Common plastics used for cleaning product containers are PET and HDPE (commonly labeled as plastic #1 and #2), which are some of the easiest plastics to recycle. Aerosol cans, which are often used to hold spray disinfectants, glass cleaners and furniture cleaners, are accepted by a growing number of local recycling programs. Cardboard containers like those used to hold powdered dishwasher or laundry detergent can easily be recycled with other paper products.

You can also further reduce waste from cleaning products by precycling. Choose products that use recycled packaging and consider selecting cleaners that use less packaging, like concentrated detergents. Selecting easy-to-recycle or concentrated products when you make your purchases helps reduce waste at the source — and that’s the best option of all.

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