How to Recycle Household Cleaners

An Overview On Recycling Cleaning Products

Cleaning your house should make it safer, right? Not necessarily! Some cleaning products, as you’ll find out by reading our guide to cleaning naturally, contain toxins that are harmful to your body and harmful for the planet, too. So if you’re ready to green your cleaning routine by getting rid of toxic cleaning products, our guide to safe household cleaning product disposal is the perfect place to start.


Which toxic household cleaners to recycle

Spotting a toxic household cleaner can be a bit tricky if you don’t know what to look for. Here’s a sure-fire way to identify those cleaners you should be getting rid of:

  • The product packaging contains a label with one or more of the following terms: "DANGER," "WARNING,” "CAUTION," "TOXIC," "CORROSIVE," "FLAMMABLE," or "POISON."
  • Products that contain one or more of the following dangerous ingredients:
    • 2-Butoxyethanol
    • Ammonia
    • Ammonium hydroxide
    • Butyl cellosolve
    • Ethoxylated nonly phenols
    • Formaldehyde
    • Percholorethylene
    • Phenol
    • Phosphoric acid
    • Phthalates
    • Silica
    • Sodium hydroxide
    • Sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach)
    • Tetrachloroethylene
    • Toluene
    • Trisodium nitrilotriacetate
    • Xylene


The conventional cleaning products most likely to fit the above toxic characteristics include:

  • Ammonia-based cleaners

  • Chlorine bleach

  • Disinfectants

  • Drain openers

  • Furniture polish

  • Grease removers

  • Metal cleaners

  • Mold and mildew removers

  • Oven cleaners

  • Rust removers

  • Spot removers

  • Toilet bowl cleaners

  • Tub and tile cleaner

  • Wax stripper


If you want to do a thorough household hazardous waste audit to determine what you should throw away, go through this Home Hazardous Product Survey. And for a very thorough list of products that may contain hazardous ingredients, see the Purdue University Glossary of Products with Hazards A to Z.


Avoid having to dispose of cleaning products

Precycling is the best way to avoid the hassle of having to dispose of household cleaning products. In order to reduce the pile of wasted, toxic cleaners in your recycling bin, try following these steps to a greener cleaning closet:

  • Buy only what you need
  • Choose eco-friendly products that fit Ecolife’s characteristics for greener cleaning
  • Give unused products to a neighbor or friend if they are non-toxic
  • Make your own cleaning products out of household ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Learn more about DIY household cleaner recipes. 


Properly disposing of cleaners

Let’s be clear, toxic household cleaners cannot be recycled technically speaking. Instead, you’ll take them to a household hazardous waste collection facility where they will properly dispose of the product so that it can’t contaminate soil and water supplies. But this is a much safer method than simply dumping toxic cleaners down the drain or toilet, or throwing them in the trash can.

  • Use it up: In some cases, the best way to “dispose” of a toxic cleaning product is to just use it up (and then vow to never purchase it again). This applies to products that are lower on the toxicity scale such as tub and tile cleaners or spot removers.
  • Find a HHW collection site: Collection programs are becoming more and more available. Often a community will hold an annual event for gathering all kinds of HHW, including toxic cleaning products. Larger towns and cities will collect these types of materials year-round. Just contact your local solid waste or sanitation department to see what’s available and when. If your community lacks a HHW collection day, start one yourself!
  • Gather products: Go through your closets and take out any toxic products that you want to get rid of. Once you’ve got them all together, put them in a safe place (out of reach of children and pets) until you’re ready to take them to the disposal site (especially if your HHW event isn’t for another month or two).
  • Don’t mix: Though you may be tempted to, generally it’s not a good idea to mix several cleaning products together in one container because of the potential for the chemicals to react, creating something more toxic still. Many community recycling centers won’t accept containers that held toxic cleaners, so it’s best to just leave them in the original containers.


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