Stormwater Management - Household Toxics and Hazardous Waste

  • Source: Huron River Watershed Council

    HOME TOXICS TIPS - getting the job done right doesn't have to compromise your safety


    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. Call your MSU extension agent for additional information or consult their website at

    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. The Sustainable Communities Network (SCN) website also has lots of information.

    Household Toxics 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 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 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.
    Other Resources:

    SEMCOG's 'Ours to Protect' Resources

    SEMCOG's "Ours to Protect" Resources


    County Health Department Telephone Numbers

    Ingham County
    Jackson County
    Livingston County
    Monroe County
    Oakland County
    Washtenaw County
    Wayne County

    These phone numbers are correct as of 12/2009.


    MSU Extension Agents Telephone Numbers

    Ingham County
    Jackson County
    Livingston County
    Monroe County
    Oakland County
    Washtenaw County
    Wayne County