It's not always easy to figure out what to do with household chemicals like mineral spirits when you don't need them anymore. You can't dump them down the drain, but knowing how to dispose of mineral spirits is actually pretty straightforward.
Mineral spirits are a clear petroleum derivative (in English, this just means they're made from oil). People use mineral spirits for various cleaning projects, especially cleaning paintbrushes and thinning oil paints because they work as a paint solvent. As a petroleum product, they can pollute groundwater and the environment if you don't dispose of them the right way. Not to worry, though. All it takes is a trip to the hazardous waste facility to get rid of mineral spirits in a guilt-free way.
How to Dispose of Mineral Spirits at a Hazardous Waste Facility
In a sealed container, mineral spirits can last a long time. You may have them around the house from a painting project or from degreasing or cleaning something. As long as the cap is on the container tightly, they basically have an indefinite shelf life. We're talking years. Still, there are times you need to get rid of them. Because mineral spirits are a hazardous waste material, you need to take them to a facility that can dispose of them safely.
Rags with mineral spirits on them are also hazardous waste, so you should take them with the container of mineral spirits. After ringing out all the excess liquid, put them in a sealed plastic bag for transport.
1. Find the Closest Facility
Every major city and county has a hazardous waste disposal site. In many places, it's actually free to dispose of mineral waste at these centers, so it's really just a matter of finding one nearby.
Fortunately, you can find a place to dispose of mineral spirits by searching a database maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All you have to do is put in your location information.
2. Store the Mineral Spirits Safely Before Disposal
Until you're ready to dispose of the mineral spirits, storing them properly is important. Keep them in their original can or container, which is actually designed to keep them from reacting with the air and with other chemicals.
Keep the mineral spirits in your garage or shed before disposal, rather than storing them in your house. Ideally, the storage space you use will not have a heat source.
Are mineral spirits flammable? The quick answer is yes. Exposure to too much heat (104°F or 40°C) can cause them to combust. Keep them below 100°F or 38°C whenever possible.
3. Safely Transport Mineral Spirits to the Hazardous Waste Facility
Because of their flammability and potential for spilling and evaporating, you can't just toss them in the back of a truck and head to the hazardous waste facility. Instead, keep a few tips in mind:
- Don't mix mineral spirits with anything else in a container. If you have multiple things to dispose of, just bring them in separate containers.
- Keep the mineral spirits container and any rags away from sources of sparks (including metal scraping on metal). Put them in a box in your trunk.
- Drive directly to the hazardous waste facility to dispose of the mineral spirits. Do not drive around with them in the back of the car while you're doing other errands.
What Not to Do When Disposing of Mineral Spirits
The hazardous waste facility is the only good way to get rid of mineral spirits. There are a few things you should never do to throw them away:
- Do not dump this chemical (or any chemical) on the ground. It can leach into groundwater and harm the environment.
- Don't throw the container in the trash. Mineral spirits are flammable and dangerous to people handling the garbage, and they can pollute the groundwater once in a landfill.
- Do not pour them in your sink or toilet. Mineral spirits cannot go down the drain because they will harm septic systems and sewer facilities and pollute the groundwater.
How to Reuse or Recycle Mineral Spirits
As you use them for projects, mineral spirits can get mixed up with paint, stain, and other materials. If you place them in a clear container with a tight seal, you can wait for the contaminants to settle out and fall to the bottom of the jar. This leaves the clear mineral spirits near the top, allowing you to decant them into their original container.
It's important to note that this process can take some time, especially if the mineral spirits have a lot of other gunk in them. If you need them sooner, you can use a filter or several filters to separate the mineral spirits from the other materials. You can buy filters for this process at a home improvement store or simply use several coffee filters. Either way, wear gloves and do the filtering in a well-ventilated space.
Keep the Planet Safe
From cleaning paint brushes to degreasing your fridge, there are a ton of ways to use mineral spirits. Once you're done, reusing is always a good plan. If you need to dispose of mineral spirits, though, the key is doing it in a way that won't harm the planet.