Household Hazardous Wastes

Household hazardous waste is the discarded, unused, or leftover portion of household products containing toxic chemicals. These wastes CANNOT be disposed of in regular garbage. Any product which is labeled WARNING, CAUTION, POISONOUS, TOXIC, FLAMMABLE, CORROSIVE, REACTIVE or EXPLOSIVE should be considered hazardous. You can't treat hazardous wastes like other kinds of garbage. For example, buried wastes can filter down through the soil and contaminate groundwater. Plumbing systems can be damaged when corrosive chemicals are put down the drain. Burning hazardous wastes simply distributes them over a larger area and releases them into the air. Pouring hazardous liquids on the ground can poison soil, plants and water (1).

Some examples of hazardous wastes you may find around your house include(1):

  • antifreeze
  • batteries
  • brake fluid
  • chemical strippers
  • chlorine bleach
  • contact cement
  • drain cleaners
  • fire extinguishers
  • flea collars and sprays
  • herbicides
  • insecticides and insect repellent
  • kerosene
  • lawn chemicals
  • lighter fluid
  • lye
  • mothballs
  • nail polish remover
  • old propane tanks
  • paints
  • pesticides
  • pool chemicals
  • prescription drugs
  • solvents
  • spot removers
  • stains and finishes
  • toilet cleaners
  • used motor oil
  • oven cleaners

If you do find these products around your home, there are proper ways to dispose of them. It is important to remember that bottles and containers that may be empty should still be disposed of in a safe manner because of residue that remains in the container. The easiest and perhaps best way to deal with household hazardous wastes is through reducing and recycling. It is best to try and reduce the number of hazardous chemicals you have around your house at one time. It is also best to recycle as much as possible by giving leftovers to friends or community organizations. There are many less toxic alternatives to the hazardous materials you may have around the house; please see the links below for some of these alternatives.

Many communities have organized household hazardous waste collection events where these materials are collected and disposed of by local authorities free of charge. Check with your local waste management facility, fire department, or county extension office for more information.

These are some very informative external links that pertain to Household hazardous wastes:

EXTOXNET FAQS IndoorAir Pollution Home


1. Household Hazardous Wastes, Environment Canada, Atlantic Region. 1997. URL:

This Page prepared by B.T. Johnson, November 1997 UCD EXTOXNET FAQ Team.