Spring cleaning season is right around the corner. Stay green when you clean: learn about household hazardous waste — found in many household products — and ways to reduce it while keeping your home safe and clean.
What is household hazardous waste?
Some products we have in our homes contain hazardous materials that can harm our health or the environment if not disposed of safely. This includes unwanted chemical products that are flammable, toxic or dangerous when combined with other products.
So, what products are hazardous in my home? Common household hazardous waste materials include:
- Automotive fluids: antifreeze, carburetor cleaner, brake and transmission fluid, degreasers, fuels and oil
- Household, lawn and garden products: cleaning products, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paints, stains and thinners, pesticides and herbicides
- Personal care products: hair spray, nail polish remover, perfume
According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, only a fraction of registered products have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. You can protect your health by identifying and reducing hazardous materials in your home, storing them safely and properly disposing of them.
Identify harmful products in your home
Federal law requires the labeling of hazardous products by using these signal words that you can use to determine how hazardous a product is. Look for these signal words on labels when you are cleaning and getting rid of unused or unwanted products.
Signal word “caution” — hazard level: mild/moderate
Signal word “warning” — hazard level: moderate hazard
Signal word “danger” — hazard level: extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic
Signal word “poison” — hazard level: highly toxic
If you have hazardous products that you need to keep, use the following tips for storing hazardous products safely in your home:
- Keep products out of reach of children and animals.
- Store all hazardous products on high shelves or in locked cabinets away from food.
- Store products that say “prevent freezing” (such as latex paint) indoors.
- Never mix chemicals together (such as bleach and ammonia).
- Keep products away from heat, sparks, flames or other sources of ignition.
- Only buy the amount of product you will use.
- Keep products in their original containers and make sure you can read the label.
- For long-term storage, place waterproof transparent tape over product labels to prevent them from falling off.
Dispose of household hazardous waste properly
Residents can dispose of hazardous waste year-round at Hennepin County’s drop-off facilities in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington. See what materials are accepted at www.hennepin.us/dropoffs.
Hennepin County also hosts hazardous waste collection events in various cities throughout the county each year. You can find upcoming collection events at www.hennepin.us/collectionevents. Some hardware stores and electronics retailers also accept certain hazardous wastes, including electronics and fluorescent light bulbs.
For more detailed information about disposal options for household hazardous waste, visit www.hennepin.us/greendisposalguide or call 612-348-3777. Do not place any household hazardous waste materials in the trash.
Tips for reducing household hazardous waste:
- Avoid buying hazardous products. Look for non-toxic alternatives, such as vinegar or baking soda for cleaning.
- Avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides.
- Avoid using aerosol containers because they contain high pressure that can be explosive. Use pump sprays, refillables or liquid concentrates instead.
- Use mercury-free thermometers such as alcohol or digital ones. Take mercury thermometers to a hazardous waste collection site.
Make your own green cleaner
You can also protect your health and the health of your family, pets and the environment by making your own cleaning products with simple, less-toxic ingredients. For an all-purpose cleaner for use around your home, add one-fourth cup white vinegar to a 16 ounce spray bottle and fill with water. Add one one-half cup anti-bacterial liquid dish soap last. Add lemon juice if desired. Find additional green cleaning recipes and tips for making your own cleaner with Hennepin County’s Green Cleaning recipes guide.
Learn more about household hazardous waste by ordering Hennepin County’s How to Identify and Reduce Hazardous Chemicals in Your Home brochure. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-348-3777 with questions or for additional information about household hazardous waste.
—Information provided by Hennepin County Environment and Energy, Environmental Education & Outreach.