Household Toxics and Hazardous Waste

Source: Huron River Watershed Council


You'll save time and money by planning your projects in advance and purchasing only the products you need to get the job done. You'll also reduce unwanted home toxics, helping to keep your home safe while protecting the environment. Consider the following tips as you plan your projects:
Learn to identify home toxics. Check labels carefully, including precautionary handling statements. Some examples of home toxics include:

home & hobby products automotive products yard & garden products
asphalt or roofing tar
drain cleaners
mildew removers
oil paints
paint thinners and solvents
photographic chemicals
varnishes and refinishers
brake fluid
engine cleaners
motor oil
transmission fluid
herbicides (weed killer)

Less is more

The next time you are tempted to "save money" by purchasing the jumbo-sized container, remember that you will have the long term "cost" of proper home toxics storage and disposal. Follow the manufacturers' directions for use and do not over-apply home toxics of any kind. You can reduce the likelihood of harm to yourself and environmental contamination by carefully following the guidelines and minimizing the frequency and amount of any applications.


Your grandparents were right! Vinegar, baking soda and elbow grease will clean most of the surfaces in your home. Look below for safer alternatives to a variety of home toxics.

  • Mildew remover
    Spray undiluted vinegar on surface. Wait 1/2 hour. Scrub with hot water.
  • Drain cleaner
    Put 1/4 cup of baking soda into your drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Repeat if necessary.
  • Floor cleaner
    Mop floors with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and hot water. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Wipe clean with a water dampened cloth or mop.
  • Scouring powder
    Sprinkle baking soda on surface and scour with damp cloth. Rinse. Or... Sprinkle salt on surface and scour with cloth dipped in lemon juice. Wipe clean.
  • Whitening agent
    Instead of chlorine bleach, use Borax with your regular laundry detergent.
  • Insecticide for ants and roaches
    Place a 50/50 mix of Borax and powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Place out of reach of animals and children.
  • Insecticide spray
    Spray plants with a mixture of one teaspoon of liquid dish soap per liter of water. Rinse when insects are dead. Repeat every two weeks. If the plant sprayed is a vegetable plant, make sure to wash vegetables before eating them.
  • Antifreeze
    Traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze is highly toxic. It is especially hazardous for children and animals, who are attracted to its sweet taste. Antifreeze made of propylene glycol is safer for children and animals (it has no sweet taste), and safer for the environment (it is less toxic). Plus, it is just as effective as traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze. Propylene glycol antifreeze is readily available at most auto stores and repair shops. If you can't find it in your area, call Sierra at 1-800-289-7234. Keep out of reach of animals and children.

For more information

Check your library, local book store, or the internet for more information on home toxics alternatives. A suggested book is "Clean & Green - the complete guide to nontoxic and environmentally safe housekeeping" by Annie Berthold-Bond.

Household Toxins and Hazardous Waste Cleanup and Disposal

Make a clean sweep

Use a broom, not a hose, to clean up spills

Maintain your car

Repair any automotive fluid leaks right away. Use a drip pan to catch leaks if repairs are delayed. Collect and dispose of fluids from routine maintenance properly (motor oil, antifreeze, brake and transmission fluid). Call your County Health Department [see below] or a local service center if you need assistance.

Store home toxics properly

Select cool, dry storage areas. Always keep products in the original container. Store solvents outside your home if possible, in a secure storage area. Protect products from freezing when necessary. Check containers periodically for leaks. Make certain animals and children cannot access home toxics.

Dispose of home toxics properly 

Call your County Health Department [see gray box below] for guidelines. Do not pour toxics down household drains. Do not pour anything down a storm drain or into a ditch. Do not place home toxics in the trash. Improper disposal of home toxics contaminates ground and surface water, and jeopardizes drinking water supplies. Remember: Don't dump it if you wouldn't drink it."

Community Household Toxic and Hazardous Waste Recycling Resources

Helpful Website Resources:


 Resource Recovery and Recycling of Southwest Oakland County: Serving the communities of Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Southfield, South Lyon, Walled Lake and Wixom.



Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority: 
Serving the communities of Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, and Troy.

North Oakland Household Hazardous Waste Consortium logo 
North Oakland Household Hazardous Waste Consortium:
Serving the communities of Addison, Commerce, Groveland, Lake Angelus, Lake Orion, Leonard, Oakland, Orion, Oxford, Oxford Township, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Waterford, White Lake and Wolverine Lake.

Other Resouces:

SEMCOG's "Ours to Protect" Resources


County Health Department Telephone Numbers

Ingham County - (517) 887-4312
Jackson County - (517) 788-4433
Livingston County - (517) 545-9609
Monroe County - (734) 240-7000
Oakland County - (248) 858-1312
Washtenaw County - 734) 222-3950
Wayne County - (313) 326-3936

These phone numbers are correct as of 12/2009.

MSU Extension Agents Telephone Numbers

Ingham County - (517) 887-4588
Jackson County - (517) 788-4292
Livingston County - (517) 546-3950
Monroe County - (734) 240-3170
Oakland County - (248) 858-0902
Washtenaw County - (734) 997-1819
Wayne County - (313) 833-3268