Reduce household hazardous waste

You can take simple steps to decrease exposure to toxic chemicals at home. Learn how to read labels and choose the least toxic products, how make your own non-toxic cleaners and how to properly use, store and dispose of hazardous products, to lessen your exposure to chemicals. You can keep yourself and your family safe, potentially save money and reduce the amount of household hazardous waste that you have for disposal.

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Learn to read labels

These days it seems like every product comes with a warning, so you may not pay much attention to the words on the label. However, reading labels is the easiest way to identify hazardous products. When shopping for household products, choose the least hazardous product for the job.

Signal words

Descriptions on labels will tell you how hazardous a product is.

  • Caution - mild to moderate hazard
  • Warning - moderate hazard
  • Danger - extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic
  • Poison - Highly toxic, harmful or fatal if swallowed

Characteristic words

Other words indicate the type of hazard pose by a product. They usually are found after the signal word on the label.

  • Flammable/Combustible - Product can easily catch fire and support a flame.
  • Corrosive - Product can burn the skin or eyes. It can also deteriorate other materials with which it comes into contact.
  • Toxic - The product is poisonous and can be harmful or fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
  • Reactive - Product may react violently or produce toxic gas if combined with other substances.

For more information, see Ways to Reduce Harmful Chemicals in Your Home (PDF)

Make your own cleaners

Many common household products, such as baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and liquid dish soap, can make effective, non-toxic cleaners. Making your own non-toxic cleaners can reduce the amount of hazardous products in your home and save you money.

To get started, see these nontoxic cleaning recipes (PDF).

If you do make your own cleaners, make sure to label the containers with the ingredients.

Safely use, store and dispose of products

Use up your products

  • Buy only what you need.
  • Use all of the product or give it to someone who can.
  • Read and follow label instructions. Use the right product for the job and use the only the amount that you need.

Store products properly

  • Store out of the reach of children.
  • Store in a dry place. Don’t let products freeze.
  • Store away from heat.
  • Store away from food.
  • Store in original container and make sure the original label is intact.
  • Do not mix products together.

Properly dispose of household hazardous waste

Household hazardous wastes should not be thrown in the trash. Household hazardous waste can cause harm to the environment and human health if not disposed of properly.

If products are unusable or you don’t know anyone who can use them, take them to a Hennepin County drop-off facility for proper disposal. See the A to Z How-to-Get-Rid-of-It Guide for more disposal options.

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