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Tiny Choices Q&A: Chemical-Laden Cleaning Supplies?

By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | January 13, 2011

Click for the Tiny Choices Q&A Archives! Welcome to Tiny Choices Q&A, where we open the floor for discussion on questions which y’all have submitted.  Reader Alyssa submitted the following question– please read on, and submit your thoughts in the comments, below:


What is the best way to deal with chemical-infested cleaning supplies and beauty products? I’ve been trying to use all-natural solutions and they work great but now I don’t know what to do with all the Clorox and chemicals I have now. Is it better to use them up and then safely dispose? Or to donate? Because then we deal with the issue of “too toxic for me but not for somebody else”? Or is it safe and environmentally sound to just relegate it to community hazardous waste disposal? Some sites say you should get rid of them immediately and I don’t really want to continue using toxic products. How is hazardous waste managed and is it actually worse for the environment to get rid of it this way rather than using them up first? thanks!


Great question, Alyssa, and a difficult one to answer.  First off, never dispose of chemicals in the trash– as you pointed out, as a last resort they need to go to your local hazardous waste disposal site.  But now comes the tricky part– is it better to dispose of them in this way, where they are contained in one area and presumably (though not necessarily) kept out of the soil and water?   Or is it better to finish what you’ve already bought, which means it then gets swept down your drains and into the water system, where it may or may not get cleaned out by your municipal water-treatment facility?  The third situation you propose is to give these concoctions to friends or family who tend to use them, and are not on the green-supplies bandwagon– this means they’ll get used, but will still end up down the line in the water and soil.

I’ll admit that I don’t actually know which is best, and I face this same predicament in my own life.  So I’m curious what you, brilliant TC family, think about this issue.  How do you handle this situation, and what do you think is best?  Please post your answers in the comments, below!

Topics: General | 6 Comments »

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Comment by Pipp
2011-01-13 07:42:06

Personally I would not just pour them down the drain or give them away. If you don’t want to use them the local hazardous waste does seem like the best option. Maybe you could call them up and ask how they dispose of various types of waste (I would suspect by burning, so you would have to know where they burn it and if the proper scrubers are in place in the smoke stacks). If there is more than one place you can perhaps pick the one that fits with what you feel is the best method.

Just using them up depends on how I feel about the product. We are just using up the last of the ‘window glass cleaner’ because we have decided that the ingredents, while not ideal, are not so toxic to cause a problem. But once the stuff is gone we are not buying more. The weird spray stove cleaner is heading for hazardous waste, we are not going to use this one any more.

I would keep a hold of the bleach though. Although you don’t want to use this on any kind of regular basis it is good to have around. It is one of the safest antibacterial and antiviral you have on hand. If someone does get very sick or picks up some bug that has them holed up in the bathroom, it is an excellent disinfectant to prevent reinfection and/or speading. Just a few drops or half a cap in a bucket of water is more than enough to do the job.

Comment by BethR
2011-01-13 10:56:36

we donate to people who use them already. those people would be purchasing another unit new otherwise.

2011-01-13 13:52:54

Hi! I keep my cleaners and use them sparingly in special cases. For instance, someone is sick and I want to really clean up, I will go over the bathroom after I clean it with Clorox wipes. I was given them as gifts, and 1 tub of them will last, well, a long time. The same thing applies to things like Windex. I use them up in small amounts when the things I made aren’t cutting it.

Comment by Alyssa Lee
2011-01-13 15:30:08

Pipp, thanks so much! Your answer is very helpful. I think I definitely feel okay with getting rid of a lot of it through community disposal because from cleaning out, I’ve found a lot to be expired. I know I won’t continue to use the window cleaner because then when I clean with vinegar, the streaks from the chemicals show through. I will keep some bleach around and the Clorox wipes and just make them last. However, the drain cleaners and stove cleaners are too toxic for me or anyone else. Those go to hazardous waste! Thanks again. :)

Comment by Alyssa Lee
2011-01-13 15:31:33

Tiny Choices Team –
I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat when I saw my name in this Q&A! I feel like a celebrity. :) Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. I feel better about what to do and will leave some to the hazardous waste once I call them. However, I will keep some others and use them as needed so that it doesn’t all go to waste. :) Thanks again and keep up the WONDERFUL work.

Comment by Chris
2011-01-13 17:29:19

Hi all,

Good job TC to start this! I speak as the founder of NaturOli, regarding thoughts that OUR CUSTOMERS have provided us via their feedback. This is a fairly common feedback topic because replacing toxic substances (from personal care to household cleaners is exactly what we do.)

A premise: The reality is that most households have leftovers of toxic products – the vast majority being typical consumer products of average hazard levels. Finding outlets for proper disposal of hazardous substances may not be easy for some, and/or too bothersome for others. Very few have a significant amount of any highly toxic substance (I refer to real “hazmat” substances).

With that stated, one feedback in particular immediately came to mind, and it sums up what I’ve instructed our customer support team to now recommend. I will quote the original feedback:

“Thanks for making products that have helped me find relief from my allergies and just making my life so much more pleasant. I don’t itch, break out with rashes, breathe better, and just FEEL better. You’re a Godsend. (…) I’ve gathered up everything around the house that’s been causing me problems, and given them to friends who wanted them and are going through difficult times. They were so grateful! I know it seems like I’m giving poison to my friends but they would be buying them anyway. They just can’t afford to buy better quality products. I guess it’s not a perfect answer. (…) I feel great to have found solutions for my ailments and helped some wonderful families in need, too! Thanks, again!”
- Caitlin B., Beloit, WI

I highly commended this customer on her good fortune, practicality, thoughtfulness, and good judgment during this financially troubled period. Plus thanked her for sharing this with us.

Hopefully you find the same value in this as I did. It is nice to contribute again.



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