Household Hazardous Waste

Americans produce 1,600,000 tons of household hazardous waste every year. The average American home stores about 100 pounds of household hazardous waste.

What is household hazardous waste?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines these products as flammable, combustible, toxic, explosive/reactive, or corrosive. Brake fluid, antifreeze, pool chemicals, and varnishes can be very dangerous if not stored, used, or disposed of properly. Also causing significant damage to humans, vegetation, wildlife, and other environmental resources are common household products such as nail polishes/removers, moth balls, charcoal lighter fluid, and fluorescent lights. Problems occur when these chemicals leak or spill from their containers or interact with other chemicals. If the chemicals interact with other chemicals, toxic gases can form or even explode. When these spills take place outside on the driveway or lawn a simple rain can wash these chemicals into the groundwater or larger bodies of water.

Limiting the amount of hazardous waste in your home is a great way to prevent accidents and make your home safe. Learn more about which types of products are hazardous and about ways to use less, use it up, and use nonhazardous alternatives to help significantly reduce the generation of this type of waste.

  • Read the label before you buy the product to make sure it will do what you want it to do. You are responsible for disposing of it properly once you have bought it.
  • Select the container size that you need and use the product up.
  • Donate leftovers to friends, relatives, churches, community service groups, schools, or theatrical groups.
  • Look for safer alternatives such as vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, salt, borax, olive oil, and cedar chips to get the job done.

  The following suggestions are possible nonhazardous alternatives.

  • To keep drains clear and fresh smelling, mix and apply ¼ cup baking soda and ½ cup vinegar. Let stand in drain for 5-10 minutes. Flush with hot water.
  • To deodorize a rug, mix 2 parts cornmeal to 1 part borax. Sprinkle over rug, leave for 1 hour, and vacuum.
  • To polish furniture, combine 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice.
  • To enrich the soil, use mulch and compost purchased from the store or made from your yard trimmings.
  • To protect clothing, use cedar chips or dried lavender instead of mothballs.
  • Clean copper pots and stainless steel with salt and vinegar.
  • Clean stains from coffee cups and dishes with baking soda and vinegar.
  • To clean, disinfect, and deodorize, use a mixture of ½ cup borax and 1 gallon hot water.
  • Instead of aerosol sprays, purchase products in pump sprays, roll-on or liquid.

For more information go to: EPA Hazardous Waste Information