Solvent-contaminated wipes

Wipes such as shop towels, rags, paper towels, or cotton swabs can be dangerous waste if they become contaminated with flammable or toxic solvents. If improperly managed, solvent-contaminated wipes can be dangerous to employee health and the environment.

We adopted two new exclusions for solvent-contaminated wipes as part of the Dangerous Waste Regulations. If you handle wipes or rags according to these management practices, they do not have to be counted as a dangerous waste.

What counts as a solvent-contaminated wipe?

Common examples of materials that could be considered "wipes" include paper towels, cloth rags (like the ones below), cotton swabs, and shop towels. These wipes may meet the definition of a "solvent-contaminated wipe" once they are contaminated with flammable or toxic solvents when used to clean up a spill or clean machinery, equipment, or parts. 

Example of reusable rags (or shop towels)

What are the exclusions?

We adopted new conditional exclusions for solvent-contaminated wipes, effective April 28, 2019, as part of the Dangerous Waste Regulations. These new rules apply only to wipes contaminated with solvents that designate as dangerous waste.

What qualifies under the exclusions?

Wipes that qualify under the exclusions

Any solvent-contaminated wipe that meets one of the following criteria can qualify for the exclusions:

  • Contains one or more of the F001 through F005 solvents listed in WAC 173-303-082 or the corresponding P- or U- listed solvents. These include:
    • Acetone 
    • Benzene
    • n-Butanol
    • Chlorobenzene 
    • Creosols 
    • Cyclohexanone 
    • Tetrachloroethylene 
    • 1,2-Dichlorobenzene 
    • Methyl isobutyl ketone 
    • Ethyl acetate 
    • 1,1,2- Trichloroethane 
    • Ethyl benzene 
    • 2-Ethoxyethanol 
    • Isobutyl alcohol 
    • Methanol 
    • Methyl ethyl ketone 
    • Toluene 
    • Methylene chloride 
    • Xylenes 
    • Trichloroethylene (reusable wipes only; disposable wipes contaminated with TCE do not qualify for the exclusion and must be managed as dangerous waste)
  • Exhibits a dangerous waste characteristic of ignitability or toxicity found in WAC 173-303-090 resulting from a solvent listed in WAC 173-303-080.
  • Exhibits the characteristic of ignitability (D001) due to non-listed solvent(s). 
  • Designates only for dangerous waste criteria of state-only toxicity and persistence.

Wipes managed as dangerous waste

Disposable versus reusable wipes

How do I manage each type under the exclusions?

Disposable wipes

Container management

Collect, transport, and store disposable solvent-contaminated wipes in closed, non-leaking containers. These containers should be:
  • Compatible with the materials stored in them.
  • In good condition.
  • Labeled with the words “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.”
  • Free of liquids.
Wipes must contain no free liquids prior to being sent off-site for disposal.

Free liquids removed from the wipes or from the wipes container must be managed as dangerous waste. 

Accumulation time limit

Wipes may be accumulated up to 180 days from the start date of accumulation prior to being sent for disposal.

Recordkeeping

Maintain documentation that includes:
  • Name and address of the dangerous waste landfill or dangerous waste combustor.
  • Documentation that the 180-day accumulation time limit is being met.
  • Description of the process the generator is using to meet the “no free liquids” condition.

Eligible handling facility

Disposable wipes must be sent to a dangerous waste combustor, boiler, or industrial furnace regulated under 40 C.F.R. Parts 264, 265, or 266 Subpart H. You also have the option to send solvent-contaminated wipes to a permitted dangerous waste or hazardous waste landfill.

Reusable wipes

Frequently asked questions