Is It Possible to Recycle Old Cleaning Solutions?

It is common knowledge that many of the cleaning solutions found in our homes and businesses contain chemicals that can be potentially harmful to our health and the environment. This raises the question of what to do with these products when they’ve become too old or are no longer required. Can we pour them down the sink, or it possible to recycle them? Or are we doomed to hang onto them for all eternity?

It is important that you are aware of how to properly dispose of such substances.

Can I put empty bottles and containers in the recycling?

When it comes to cleaning solution recycling or disposal, the most important thing to note, the industry stresses is that it doesn't happen very often. Usually, people use the product up!

Left with the empty container, the very first thing you should do is check the label to ensure that the manufacturer hasn’t specified any other disposal instructions. If they have, you should follow these carefully. If they haven’t, you should check what kind of plastic the container has been made from and compare this wit the kinds of plastic that your local council accepts. If the plastic type is accepted, you can safely place it into your recycling bin.

Do these sorts of products have an expiry date?

Some homeowners mistakenly believe that their cleaning solutions will last forever.

The reality, however, is that many can (and do) expire. Check the label or packaging for an expiration date and for instructions regarding proper use (as this will help you to maximise the product’s lifespan). If you find yourself with a solution that has passed its expiry date, it is not recommended that you dispose of it accordingly (as the chemicals may have strengthened).

Can I pour left over or expired products down the sink?

You should check the label to see whether disposal instructions have been provided. If there aren’t any, think about how you use the solution – liquids, gels and powders that are water-soluble can be safely poured down the drain with running water. Most solid cleaning products (such as soap scouring pads) can be placed in the bin. Note that some (such as oven cleaners and furniture polishes) will need to be disposed of alternatively.

Are there any laws regarding safe disposal?

Some cleaning solutions are considered hazardous to the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly. Though laws vary from state to state, it is generally illegal to simply discard of hazardous waste. You should always check the label for proper disposal instructions. If there aren’t any, either contact the manufacturer for advice or contact your local hazardous waste facility to learn about the various options available. If you do bring old cleaning products to a depot to ensure proper disposal, follow these tips from the David Susuki Foundation:

  • Keep materials in their original containers, or ensure that the containers are well labelled
  • Do not mix different products together
  • Tightly cap all containers

What if I don’t want to simply throw the product away?

If you find yourself in possession of a solution that you no longer require but feel like pouring it down the sink is a waste, you could always see whether someone else wants it. Ask around family and friends to see whether they use furniture polish or bleach and whether they would be interested in taking this particular item off your hands. Generally, you are not able to donate these sorts of products (particularly if they have been opened).

So, while it is possible to recycle some cleaning solutions, this is not achieved in the way one would think. No matter what sort of product you no longer have a use for, it is important that you have carefully and properly disposed of it to ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact the environment.

If you are ever in any doubt about the best way to dispose of a product, contact your local waste authority and have them outline your options.

Marie Safel wrote this article on behalf of Cedar Hospitality.