St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office

Household Cleaners

Certain household cleaners can be an environmental hazard when disposed of improperly. Others can be poured down a drain or flushed down a toilet connected to a sanitary sewer without harming the environment. When disposing of these items, it's important to know what you have in order to choose the correct disposal method.

This fact sheet provides instructions for household cleaners disposal. The St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office also has fact sheets on how to dispose of other common types of household hazardous waste:

· Adhesives
· Aerosol Containers
· Antifreeze
· Gasoline
· Paint
· Personal-Care Products
· Pesticides
· Solvents
· Wood Preservatives

For more information on household hazardous wastes and collection programs:
St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office
(810) 985-2443

Although many household cleaning products can be disposed of at home, it is better to use up leftover products than to wastefully throw them away. If you can't use them, friends, relatives, neighbors and community organizations may have a use for your leftovers.

DISPOSAL: When you can't use them up.
If you can't use a product up, find someone else to use it up, proper disposal depends on the type of cleaning product. The first step is to decide what type of cleaning product you have:

Solvent-based cleaners: Spot removers and some floor and car waxes, furniture polishes, and degreasers are solvent-based cleaners. Look for these signal words on the label: "Flammable", "Combustible", or "Contains Petroleum Distillates".

Corrosive cleaners: Drain cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, concrete cleaners and naval jelly are common corrosive cleaners. Look for these signal words on the label: "Contains acid", Contains lye", "Avoid skin contact", "May cause burns to skin".

Other cleaners: Laundry and dish detergents, rug shampoos, window cleaners, windshield solutions, scouring powders and liquids, and floor cleaners, waxes, polishes and bathroom cleaners are not hazardous wastes.

Once you have determined the type of cleaner you have, follow the disposal instructions for that type of cleaner.

DISPOSAL: Solvent-containing cleaners.
Cleaners containing solvents should not be disposed of down a drain, in the trash or down a toilet. Very small quantities of these cleaners-less than one cup (8 ounces)-can be evaporated and disposed of in the trash following the instructions below.

Step 1: Find an outside area away form children and pets. A locked screen porch or balcony will work well.

Step 2: Pour an absorbent material such as cat litter or sand into a cardboard box lined with plastic.

Step 3: Mix the cleaner with the absorbent materials and the box into the trash.

Step 4: When the cleaner has evaporated, you can throw the absorbent material and the box into the trash.

Spot removers, because they contain chlorinated solvents, should not be evaporated because inhaling the chemical can be a serious health hazard. Spot removers should be disposed of following the instructions below.

DISPOSAL: Spot removers and larger amounts of solvent-based cleaners.
Spot removers and more than one cup of their solvent-based cleaners should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection for proper disposal. Call the St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office at (810) 985-2443 for collection dates and times. Until then, store the cleaner carefully in an area away form children and pets as well as sources of spars or flames.

DISPOSAL: Corrosive cleaners.
Very small quantities-less than one cup (8 ounces)-of corrosive household cleaners in liquid form and toilet bow crystals can be flushed down the toilet with lots of water if your house is connected to a sanitary sewer system. When flushing the corrosive material, pour it very slowly and be extremely careful not to allow the chemical to contact your skin or eyes. Wear rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt, long pants and goggles for eye protection.

If your house has a backyard septic tank, take small quantities of liquid corrosive cleaners to a house that is connected to a sanitary sewer system for disposal.

Larger quantities of corrosive cleaners and solid forms of these cleaners-like drain cleaner crystals-should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection for proper disposal.

DISPOSAL: Other cleaners.
Cleaners that are not corrosive and do not contain solvents can be flushed into a sanitary sewer system if they are liquid, or thrown in the trash if they are solid. Never mix cleaners containing ammonia with those containing bleach-a very toxic gas will be produced.

Disposal of some household cleaners can be an environmental hazard. Other cleaners, although not an environmental threat, are expensive. You can help protect St. Clair County's environment and save money by being a smart consumer.

Use up leftover cleaners before you buy more.

Buy only the cleaners that you really need. You don't need a different cleaner for each job.

Try using non-hazardous alternatives for household cleaner. Mixed with water, common kitchen ingredients like vinegar or baking soda, are effective general-purpose cleaner. The St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office has brochures with various alternative recipes available upon request. Or check with your local library or bookstore for further resources.

Please note: If you have a septic system, be advised that you should not dispose of any household cleaners down the drain because of the risk of destroying the bacteria that makes the system function instead, dispose of these non-hazardous liquid products by taking them to a relative, neighbor or friend's house that is connected to a sanitary sewer system.

Contact Information

Environmental Services Department
6779 Smiths Creek Road
Smiths Creek, MI 48074

Phone: Smiths Creek Landfill (810) 985-2443
Household Hazardous Waste     (810) 985-2443
Recycling (810) 985-2443
Fax: (810) 367-3062
Email: Environmental Services
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Solid Waste & Recycling Status: 

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