Common cleaners like soaps, solvents, and detergents may become dangerous waste.

We have resources available to help you find "cleaner" alternatives and safely dispose of your cleaners. Try to use the least-hazardous cleaner that will effectively get the job done.

Find information and recommendations on safer alternatives, solvent-based cleaners, floor cleaners, and the permit-by-rule exception.

Before you throw away spent cleaning products, you need to determine whether they designate as dangerous waste. If they do, you need to handle them according to dangerous waste regulations. Water-soluble soaps and detergents are relatively safe before use, but may become dangerous when they pick up contaminants while cleaning.

Alternatives to toxic cleaners

Solvent-based cleaners

Spent solvents may often be recycled. However, they still count as dangerous waste. Sink-type parts washers used for cleaning smaller parts and tools have solvent tanks that usually contain one or more of these solvents:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Stoddard solvent
  • Petroleum naphtha
  • Citrus-based solvent

These solvents can be ignitable, toxic, or may pick up dangerous materials.

Refer to our solvents page for considerations and further handling instructions.

Floor cleaners

Use floor cleaning methods that reduce pollution like dry sweeping of absorbents for small spills or floor-washing machines that recirculate and reuse water. We recommend you use a berm to contain any floor cleaning water. Remember to:

  • Keep floor drains plugged, unless connected to a sanitary sewer.
  • Never allow floor or parking lot pollution to reach storm drains.

Keep wash waters out of storm drains

Prevent contaminated wash waters from going into storm drains. Help protect water quality by following stormwater best management practices. Refer to our stormwater page to learn about requirements.

Can my wastewater go down a sink drain?

In specific cases, treated water waste can flow down a sink drain to the sewer system with a written permit in your facility. Contact your wastewater treatment utility for information. Refer to the dangerous waste rules as they apply to the domestic sewage exclusion.

Shop towels

Used shop towels (towels, wipes, or rags) containing solvents or other chemicals may be ignitable, toxic, or have “listed” solvents that cause them to be dangerous waste. If so, you must manage them as dangerous waste. Find out more about used shop towels.

Dry cleaners

Find guidance for chemicals associated with dry cleaning.