If you’ve ever purchased a home or helped a loved one clean out theirs, you’ve inevitably found some items you wanted to get rid of but weren’t sure how to do so responsibly. Recently, a few readers have asked Earth911 what to do with one of those mysteries: kerosene. Here are a few tips on how to properly dispose of kerosene.
What Is Kerosene?
Kerosene is a thin and clear flammable hydrocarbon liquid fuel. In some areas, particularly the U.K., it’s commonly used to heat homes but can also be used to power industrial and commercial engines.
At one time, kerosene was a popular fuel for oil lamps. While that use isn’t nearly as common today, it’s still used in some parts of the world. Kerosene is also a low-cost cleaning agent for removing grease from engine parts, and in the entertainment industry, kerosene is used by fire dancers.
How to Dispose of Kerosene
Since kerosene is a fuel, it’s considered hazardous waste. Never pour it down your drain or into the sewer, and keep it out of your recycling and garbage. Disposing of kerosene improperly is not only harmful to the environment but dangerous for humans. Take it to a facility for household hazardous waste (HHW) facility where it will be disposed of properly.
To find a facility in your area that accepts household hazardous waste, use the Earth911 Recycling Search: enter “HHW” and your ZIP code. Alternately, visit your city or county website for local guidance. Some cities have dedicated HHW facilities open all year long, and many rural areas will have collection events that are held at specific times throughout the year. If you can’t find an HHW facility in your area, check for nearby collection events.
Whenever you dispose of hazardous waste, it’s important not to mix fluids; keep the fuel as pure as possible. Many facilities will ask if your kerosene has been contaminated and won’t accept it if you’ve mixed it with gasoline or other materials. If possible, keep the fuel in its original, labeled container to help the facility with disposal.
If you can’t find a suitable disposal facility or household waste collection event in your area, you can try reaching out to local gas stations and auto shops. Some shops will accept fuels for disposal, but always call and check first.
In rare cases, if there is absolutely no other alternative, you can dispose of kerosene by evaporation. This method is not recommended and should only be used for small amounts, but it is likely better than pouring kerosene down a drain. Leave the container open in a well-ventilated area, away from pets or children. Place a grate or some other cover over it that allows airflow but prevents items from falling into it. Once the fluid has evaporated, triple-wrap the empty container in plastic and dispose of it in the garbage.
Originally published on May 1, 2018, this article was updated in May 2021.