Safe Disposal for Spring Cleaning

By Andrea Davis on May 15, 2020

Updated: 4/8/21

There are few things as satisfying as spending the day cleaning out the basement, attic, closet, shed or garage and seeing those spaces go from dirty and cluttered to clean and organized. When you’re finished, it’s tempting to just throw everything you don’t want in a garbage bag and chuck it in your Curby Cart, but that may not always be the way to go. Some purged items can be dangerous if placed in household trash and should be disposed of in another manner. Here are several materials that can be hazards.

Household chemicals—Many items you use to beautify your home can be a danger. This includes materials that are poisonous or toxic, can catch on fire are likely to explode, can corrode other materials or can mix with other chemicals and cause a dangerous reaction. Examples are bleach, oven cleaner and drain cleaner. These materials should never be put in with household trash. Contact your local municipality about special collection events.

Thermometers—There are a few different types of thermometers. Alcohol thermometers are most commonly used outside because the alcohol in them will not freeze. They usually have red or blue liquid inside and can be disposed of with regular trash. Digital thermometers can be tossed, but you should be sure to remove the button cell battery from them first. (For more information on disposing of the battery, click here.) The last type of thermometer is mercury-containing. As part of our own mercury minimization program, Granger supports efforts to keep mercury out of landfills. Mercury thermometers should be disposed of at special collection events that accept them.

Sharps—Items that can cut or puncture the skin, such as needles and lancets, must be disposed of in a specific manner that protects others from being stuck with them. Go to our sharps post for more information on how to dispose of sharps.

Medications—According to the FDA, you should get rid of expired medications as quickly as possible. The best way to do so  is utilizing a medication take back program. There are both permanent sites and special events. You can find resources for this in your area using the DEA’s website. If no take back is available, you can dispose of medications in the trash, but there are certain precautions that should be taken first. For detailed information on disposing of medications, click here.

Automotive supplies—Many automotive supplies are fine to throw away, but some require special handling. Please don’t throw anything flammable, like oil or gasoline, away, even if it is in a container. Check with your local auto parts store for disposal options. Lead acid batteries, like those used in cars, boats and tractors, are prohibited from going into the landfill. Retailers who sell these batteries are required to have take back programs, so that’s the best option for disposal. Used oil filters can be disposed of with household trash, but should be drained for 24 hours first.

Paint—It’s not uncommon to find old, half-full cans of paint in the garage or shed. Water-based paint can be put thrown away, but it must be dried out first. Oil-based paint should not be in your garbage collection under any circumstances. Other options for disposing of paint include reuse, recycling and donation. For more information on what to do with old paint, read our post about paint disposal.

Rusty Gas Bottle

Propane tanks and other pressurized containers—These are a huge explosion hazard. You definitely don’t want to throw a pressurized container in the back of a compacting garbage truck! Thankfully, there are some great options for reusing these tanks and disposing of them safely. Check with retailers for information on refilling them or disposing of them. As a last resort, you can take them to a Granger Disposal Center, but they will need to be properly prepared first. Details for disposal can be found here.