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How to Get Rid of Household Cleaning Products Safely

written by: heatherschulte•edited by: BStone•updated: 1/12/2011

Many cleaning products contain toxins that end up polluting the environment. Wondering how to get rid of household cleaning products properly? Use these tips for a more eco-friendly cleaning experience.

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    Why Is It Necessary to Safely Dispose of Cleaning Products?

    Cleaning products are among the most toxic substances in the average home. Because of the hazards of cleaning products, they must be regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission under the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act passed in 1960. This act was passed in an effort to disclose the extent to which the chemicals in these products can harm you or impact your health with warning labels. Cleaning product-warning labels are commonly required to contain the following words: "Toxic, Flammable, Corrosive, Sensitizer, Danger, Warning, or Caution."

    The risks and exposures associated with using cleaning products may strike you as unnecessary when you consider that baking soda, salt, vinegar, lemon juice and a little soap can effectively clean almost any surface. In the event that you have cleaning products to throw away, don't forget that you may be endangering the environment as you do this. Proper disposal will protect the land, air, and water around your home, as well as your septic tank if you have one.

    If you get rid of household cleaning products by throwing them in the trash or flushing them, you create hazardous waste. Many municipalities have created hazardous waste pickup days to prevent residents from simply disposing of this waste in the trash, cleaning which goes to the municipal landfill. The cleaning products collected at these hazardous waste pickups go to a designated area for toxic waste, rather than the local landfill.

    If you dispose of chemical cleaners by flushing them in the toilet, you will contaminate the wastewater at the local municipal treatment facility. While it's true that many of these products are put down the drain in small quantities over time, disposing of a large quantity of product at one time is much different and you create an unnecessary burden on local rivers, streams, or lakes after the sewage treatment plant releases the waste water.

    If you are wondering how you can get rid of household cleaning products safely, you are not alone. It isn't an easy question to answer, but this is the method that will create the least amount of burden on your environment.

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    TIps for Proper Disposal

    Buy less hazardous cleaning products; if you need a small amount of spot-remover, chlorine bleach, tile cleaner, drain opener, etc. first look for natural solutions. If a natural solution to the product can not be found, purchase only as much of the hazardous chemical as you absolutely need.

    When you have finished using the product, give the unused portion to neighbors or friends that can use it rather than disposing of it. This reduces the amount of chemicals that they need to purchase and in turn reduces the amount of chemical waste disposed of.

    Dispose of the products through your municipalities' hazardous waste pickup. These are usually planned events for pickup of hazardous waste once or twice a year in your community. While you wait for the pickup date to arrive, place the toxic household cleaning products in a safe area away from pets and children. Be sure that the hazardous cleaning chemicals are in their original packaging, or labeled as hazardous waste.

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    Reduce the amount you use, meaning use less and purchase less of toxic cleaning products. Share the unused products with friends and neighbors, hopefully limiting the amount of toxic cleaning products they need to purchase. Finally, get rid of household cleaning products safely by using your local hazardous waste pickup day intended for these products.

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    References

    Green Clean by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin [Melcher Media, 2005]

    Home Safe Home by Debra Lynn Dadd [Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1997]