St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office

Household Solvents

Household solvents contain the same chemicals as strictly regulated industrial solvents. Many solvents are poisonous when swallowed or absorbed through the skin and lungs and most are flammable. When solvents are disposed of improperly-in the trash, on the ground or down a drain-the hazardous chemicals may contaminate lakes, streams and ground water. Many chemicals found in landfills contaminate ground water, but solvents are a primary concern.

This fact sheet provides instructions for household solvents 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
· Cleaners, Medications
· Gasoline
· Paint
· Solvents
· Wood Preservatives

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

Solvents are chemicals that dissolve other substances. Common household solvents are:

· Paint thinner
· Septic tank cleaners
· Spot removers
· Paint remover
· Gasoline additives
· Gas-line deicers
· Paint stripper
· Machinery degreasers
· Nail polish removers
· Rubbing, wood alcohol
· Grease, stain removers

The best thing to do with leftover solvents is to use them up or store them for later use! When using solvents be sure to follow safety instructions on the container label.

If you cannot use your solvents, give them to someone who can. Give leftover solvents to:

· Friends, relatives and neighbors
· Graphic arts businesses
· Furniture, antique refinishing shops
· Auto and small engine
· Artists
· Dry cleaners
· Painters
· Body shops


Paint thinner that has been used to clean up paintbrushes and supplies can be cleaned and reused. Follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Work in an outdoor area, away form children and pets. Never smoke while handling paint thinner, and work away from sparks, heat and flame. Wear the protective clothing suggested on the product label for working with the solvent, and avoid breathing solvent fumes.

Step 2: Pour the used thinner into a transparent container with a good seal and store it in an area away form children, pets, and sources of heat or flame. In a few weeks or months, depending on how much used solvent you have, the dissolved paint will settle to the bottom of the container.

Step 3: When the pain has settled, carefully pour the clean solvent off the top. This thinner can be reused, and used thinner can be recycled this way several times.

Step 4: Pour the remaining paint sludge back into your oil-based paint. If you can't do this, you can allow the remaining paint sludge to dry completely-outdoors in an area away form children, pets and flames or sparks-and place it in the trash. Drying out the leftover sludge is not the preferred method because the chemicals are being released to the air; therefore, homeowners should handle the sludge by pouring it back into the oil-based paint.

DISPOSAL: When you can't use it up.

For leftover scrapings from paint-stripping projects:
The dried scrapings from paint-stripping projects can be thrown away in your regular trash, unless you suspect that stripped paint contained lead. If the paint contained lead, the scrapings should be taken to household hazardous waste collection. Call the St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office at (810) 985-2443 for collection dates and times. Until then, store the scrapings in a plastic bag or other sealed container away from children and pets.

For all other solvents:
If you can't use the product up, or find someone to use it up, the only way to dispose of household solvents is through a household hazardous waste collection program. Call the St. Clair County Resource Recovery Office for further information on collection programs.

Disposal of solvents is an environmental problem. And, it can be an inconvenience, too. To avoid future problems with leftover solvents, be a careful consumer now!

Make sure that a solvent is needed for your project before you buy one. Some non-hazardous alternatives are avail-able.

Buy only the amount of solvent you need. Buy the smallest container available.

Buy mercury free latex paint instead of oil-based paint. You won't need a solvent for cleanup.

Always use solvents sparingly. For example, used paint thinner works well for pre-cleaning paint brushes. Then you will only need to use a small amount of new paint thinner to do the final cleaning.

Use up you leftover solvents before you buy more. And, don't mix solvents together, or mix them with other products.

Store leftover solvents carefully in original containers for future use. If stored properly, solvents stay in good condition and are useable for years.

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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