FAQs about Cleaning Product Disposal

Q: Do I need to save my household cleaning products for household hazardous waste collection days?

A: Generally, no. Cleaning products do not typically contain ingredients that would harm the environment in the quantities that are disposed of by households. The vast majority of cleaning products are water soluble and are formulated for safe disposal in either municipal or home wastewater treatment systems. Household hazardous waste programs are intended to handle products that may cause a problem if disposed of by common methods, such as down the drain or in the trash.

Q: What’s the best way to dispose of a household cleaning product?

A: The way that makes the best environmental and economic sense is to use it up! If you can’t, consider giving the product to a friend or organization that can. Just be sure to keep the product in its original container with the label intact.

Most household cleaning products are designed to go down the drain as part of normal usage. They are then treated by the same systems that treat other wastes from your home.

Q: What should I do if I can’t use the product up or give it away?

A: The key to smart use and disposal of any cleaning product is to read the label and follow the directions. If there are no special disposal instructions on the label, then thinking about how you use the product will help you make the right decision.

For example, water soluble products (those mixed with water for cleaning), such as laundry and dishwashing detergents; multi-surface cleaners; bleaches; disinfectant cleaners; and liquid metal cleaners/polishes, drain openers and toilet bowl cleaners, can be flushed down the drain with running water. Powders should be disposed of in small quantities at a time so they don’t form lumps in the drain. Solid cleaning products, such as bar soaps, toilet bowl cleaners and soap scouring pads, can be safely disposed of in the trash. Remember, just as you shouldn’t mix cleaning products together when using them, you shouldn’t mix unused products during disposal.

For disposal recommendations on other products, such as oven cleaners, crystal drain openers and furniture polishes, call the manufacturer’s toll-free number or check with your local waste disposal facility.

Q: Is disposing of cleaning products down the drain safe for my septic tank system?

A: Under typical household use and disposal conditions, cleaning products won’t eliminate the bacteria that make properly maintained septic tank systems work effectively.

Water-soluble cleaning products are designed to be compatible with a wide variety of wastewater treatment systems. For example, research has shown that a homeowner could pour up to a gallon of laundry bleach or disinfectant into a standard septic tank system in one day and not destroy the septic tank’s bacteria. A gallon of bleach represents more than 15 wash loads per day.

Q: What about recycling aerosol cans?

A: A growing cumber of communities accept empty steel aerosol cans as part of their recycling program. Read the disposal instructions on the can and check with your local recycling coordinator for details.