If you’re in the middle of a clear out in your home but you’re unsure as to what you should and shouldn’t toss away with the rest of your rubbish, we’ve compiled this handy list to keep you on the right track.


Whether you’ve recently given your walls a fresh coat of paint or you’ve discovered some old paint cans in the garage that you need to get rid of, you must remember that oil-based products qualify as hazardous waste. They contain chemicals that can damage the environment, therefore, they should never be disposed of in the trash or poured down the drain. Any leftover oil-based paint should be taken to your nearest hazardous waste collection facility. 


 It’s true that you must dispose of different types of batteries in different ways, but none of them should ever be thrown in with the general trash. Many stores have collection points for rechargeable batteries, but those that contain alkaline and zinc carbon should be given to a hazardous waste facility. Lead acid automotive batteries should be taken back to the store when you buy a new one; retailers are required to take it from you.

Motor oil

It is illegal to pour motor oil down the drain in most states because it can damage the treatment of waste water. It can also contaminate waterways, which will ultimately harm aquatic life. The legal way to dispose of your motor oil is to put it in a clean plastic container and take it to a location that can take it off your hands such as car service stations or automotive stores. Remember never to mix motor oil with anything else as it won’t be able to be recycled.

Electronic equipment

If your TV, DVD player, cell phone, computer or anything else electronic has given up the ghost, be a friend to the environment and donate it to a recycling center. There are some companies that will pay you to recycle your e-waste, so check out the EPA website for more information.

Light bulbs

Light bulbs that are fluorescent and high-intensity contain mercury, which means that they must be disposed of correctly. Although compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are much better for the environment when used, they still contain a small amount of mercury when they are broken and should be taken to a hazardous waste facility or a retailer that will accept them such as a Home Depot.

Smoke detectors

By first determining what kind of smoke detector you have, you’ll be able to know how to get rid of it. Ionization chamber smoke detectors (ICSDs) have a small amount of ionizing radiation that can detect the presence of smoke. Because of this, this type of smoke detector is considered a hazardous substance. Remove the batteries and mail the ICSD back to the manufacturer by ground. If your manufacturer doesn't accept it, take it to a hazardous waste facility. Photoelectric smoke detectors use a photo sensor and a light beam to detect smoke, so can be taken to an electronic recycling facility instead.

Mercury thermometers

As we mentioned before in #5, mercury is a harmful substance that should be disposed of correctly. The average mercury thermometer contains 500 milligrams of mercury, which is a health hazard if the thermometer is smashed. Use the EPA website or earth911.com to find out where hazardous waste is collected in your area.


It may seem strange that you can’t throw your old aerosols in the trash, but that’s because some of them will still be partially filled and if punctured, will explode. If you can be sure that your aerosol can is empty, you can put it in the regular trash but to be safe, you should take it to a household hazardous waste site.

Garden chemicals

Garden chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides contain toxic chemicals and should always be treated as hazardous waste. To be particularly environmentally friendly, it’s best to learn ways to reduce the amount of garden chemicals that you use, or at least how to keep them to a minimum.

Unused medication

If you’re tempted to flush unused medications down the toilet or empty them into the trash, think again. Disposing of them in this way can make it easier for them to get into the soil and water supply where they can damage the environment. Websites such as takebackyourmeds.org can help you get rid of them safely.

You can’t afford to take risks when it comes to the handling of such household waste as the above. If you need to dispose of hazardous household waste, it’s important that you know how to do it correctly. Find recycling or safe disposal options in your area by visiting 1800Recycling.com or ask your local government or retailers for advice.