Safety Measures and Best Management Practices for Household Hazardous Waste

From Savannah Fire & Emergency Services:

Handling Household Waste

Acids (hydrochloric, muriatic, sulfuric) and alkalies (ammonia, lye) are typically the main ingredients in cleaning compounds and drain openers. Always use these materials according to the manufacturer's directions. These products are usually usable even when a few years old. However, be sure not to mix products together or dangerous fumes could result.

Be sure to empty aerosol containers completely before disposing to prevent an explosion hazard. Better yet, purchase pump sprays instead of aerosols.

Used antifreeze can be diluted thoroughly with water and poured down the drain. DO NOT pour antifreeze into an outdoor storm sewer where it may go directly into a waterway without treatment. Animals and children are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze, so store or dispose of it where they won't be tempted to drink it.

Outdated bleach can be used according to label directions as a cleaning agent and disinfectant. If you can't use it, dilute with large amounts of water and pour it down a drain. NEVER mix bleach with ammonia or with acidic products such as some drain, toilet bowl, and metal cleaners. Toxic fumes will result.

Under State law* you must take old car batteries" to a retailer for recycling. Check your yellow pages under "batteries" for stores that sell new batteries and take used batteries to be recycled.
*O.C.G.A. 12-8-28

Butane, propane, or other pressurized gas cylinders should not be disposed with other trash because of the serious explosion hazards. Contact a retailer to have the cylinder refilled or disposed of properly.

Avoid buying more than you can use in six months and store in a cool dry place. Gasoline less than one year old can be safely used as fuel in your car, lawnmower, etc. when first strained through a paint filter and then "regenerated" by mixing it with fresh gasoline.

Mercury is highly toxic and can be absorbed through the skin. You should remember two important things: DON'T TOUCH MERCURY and DON'T THROW MERCURY IN THE GARBAGE. Your local high school or university laboratory may be interested in taking it. Otherwise you can send mercury to a recycler. Contact Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) for assistance in locating recyclers.

Small amounts of paint can be hardened by taking the lid off the can or pouring it over old newspaper or absorbent material to dry. Once paint is solid, you can place it in the trash. Paint that is still usable should be donated to a neighbor, school, theater group, or community organization.

Use pesticides and herbicides according to label directions. Avoid disposal whenever possible. If you can't use the material, see if a neighbor or local garden club can. Never reuse containers. Empty containers should be rinsed three times and then spray the rinse water on your lawn or garden. Contact the local extension agent or State department of Agriculture for handling of large amounts that can't be used.

You can clean used solvents (paint thinner, turpentine, varnish, stripper) by allowing the paint or dirt particles to settle out in a glass container. Gently pour the cleared solvent into another container and reuse. Discard the sludge in the trash. DO NOT dump onto the soil, or down sewers, drains or the toilet. Solvents may also be solidified (See paint). Large amounts (over 10 gallons) should be taken to a recycler. Contact Georgia EPD for additional assistance.

Motor oil should be recycled. Check with local service stations for assistance.

Common household products containing hazardous materials pose a threat to people and the environment, especially when handled and managed improperly. This brochure is intended to serve as a guide for safe handling and management of many household hazardous products and wastes.

When managing household hazardous products, there are two basic principles to keep in mind:

  1. Whenever possible, use up a product or donate it to someone who can. In many cases, even products that have been stored for a few years can still be safely used according to label directions. In addition, some wastes can be regenerated or recycled, such as motor oils, solvents, and car batteries.
  2. Buy the smallest amount of material needed to get the job done. Better yet, substitute a hazardous product with a less hazardous alternative.

For additional assistance contact:

Savannah Fire & Emergency Services (912)651-6758


Georgia Environmental Protection Division (912) 353-3225

If you are saving material for a collection event, keep in the original container. If necessary, store the material in a leak-proof container that is labeled and dated. Keep out of the reach of children and pets.


  • Buy and use less hazardous substitutes whenever possible.
  • Buy only what you need.
  • Wear gloves and protective clothing to prevent skin contact.
  • Handle the substance gently, especially if you don't know what it is.
  • Follow directions carefully when using any hazardous product.
  • Keep hazardous substances out of the reach of children and pets and away from heat sources or open flame.
  • Always read labels before you buy a product; to be sure it will meet your needs.
  • Use non-aerosol products in reusable containers.


  • Mix materials or wastes together.
  • Dispose of large quantities of any toxic substance in a septic system.
  • Bury or burn containers of leftover substances.
  • Dispose of materials into the storm sewer.
  • Breathe fumes from toxic materials.
  • Buy aerosols; use pump sprays instead.