Reduce Hazardous Waste at Home

Reduce Hazardous Waste at Home

Reduce Hazardous Waste at Home

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate 530,000 tons of household hazardous waste each year! While proper disposal is essential, it is just as critical to reduce the amount we buy and use. Below is a list of recipes for less-toxic alternatives to common household products. These alternatives are safer, effective, and often times less expensive than their hazardous equivalents.

All-Purpose Cleaner
Use four tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of water.

Drain Cleaner
Pour ½ cup of baking soda, followed by ½ cup of lemon juice (or ¼ cup of vinegar) down the drain. Plug the drain and let the mixture sit for about one hour. After unplugging the drain, add two quarts of boiling water.

Glass Cleaner
Mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in one quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper or clean towel to dry.

Rug Deodorizer
Sprinkle carpets with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.

Mothballs
Use sachets filled with cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, or white peppercorns.

Furniture Polish
Mix one teaspoon of lemon juice in one pint of mineral or vegetable oil and wipe furniture.

Hard Water Stain Cleaner
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then spray it on the stained area. Wait 15 minutes, then wipe it clean. For stains that need scrubbing, make a paste of vinegar and baking soda. Spread it over the surface and after 15 minutes, wipe. 

Removing Greasy Stains from Carpet or Upholstery
Scrape up the excess greasy matter using a spoon or a knife. Sprinkle dry baking soda over the stain. Let that sit for about 30 minutes, then vacuum. Blot any residue with warm water and dish soap. Repeat if necessary.

Silver Polish
In a shallow pan, add one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil to two or three inches of water. Bring to a boil. Completely submerge the silver and boil for two to three more minutes. Wipe away tarnish. Repeat if necessary.

Rodent Deterrents
The key to deterring rodents is making sure they can't get into your home. Seal off any holes or crevices using metal flashing, mortar, plaster, caulk, or spackle. Also, be aware of gaps around windows and doors. Use weather stripping to keep these areas secure. 

Some sources suggest that peppermint oil wards off rodents, but the evidence is lacking. You can consider using it, either sprayed or applied to cotton balls, at entry as an extra layer of protection. 

Similarly, sonic deterrents, like those that plug into wall sockets, are subject to arguments but may help to keep pests away.

For more alternatives to pest control, visit Our Water Our World Fact Sheets.

NOTE: Before you use any cleaner on any surface, be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area to ensure the cleaner doesn't damage the material.

What if you have to use a hazardous product?

Sometimes using a hazardous product is necessary, like paint. Here are a few tips examples to make sure there is as little leftover as possible. Fewer leftovers mean less household hazardous waste to handle.

  • Buy only what you need -- Accurately measure the area to be painted, then consult with staff at the store to purchase the right amount.
  • Properly store leftovers  -- Did you buy a bit too much? If so, be sure to store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for future projects.
  • Use it all -- Don't forget about the leftovers. Use the paint for touch-ups or as an undercoat on a different project. 
  • Share -- Are you over the color, or are you all out of projects? See if a neighbor can use it.

These tips aren't just for paint, they work for everything from motor oil to pool chemicals.