Household Chemicals

Household Chemical Wastes are waste products produced in our homes that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and state laws. They are typically leftover products that are no longer usable, leftover, or wanted. You can identify a product as hazardous by words such as CAUTION, WARNING, POISON, or FLAMMABLE on the label.

Each person in Pennsylvania produces an average of four pounds of chemical waste each year, which results in a total of about 25,000 tons/yr. statewide. If carelessly managed, these consumer waste products can create significant environmental and public health hazards.

Take a look at PRC’s Household Chemical publication  HHW in the Home to learn more. Check out PRC’s Events Schedule for a listing of PRC’s Household Chemical Collection Events.

What is Household Chemical Waste

Household Chemical Waste generally falls into six categories:

Cleaning Products: aerosols, bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners, chlorine bleach, solvents, spot removers, toilet cleaners, oven cleaners, rug and floor cleaners, furniture polish.

Auto Maintenance: car waxes, starting fluids, solvent cleaners, antifreeze, repair products, batteries, brake fluid, motor oil, and gasoline.

Home Environment and Improvement Supplies: oil based stains and paints, caulking, varnish, paint thinners, chemical strippers, fire extinguishers, flea collars and sprays, insect repellents, insecticides, kerosene, lighter fluid, lye, mothballs, and pool chemicals.

Hobby Products: glues, paints, stains, finishes, contact cement, and photographic chemicals.

Personal Care and Pharmaceuticals: nail polish and remover, hair color, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and mercury thermometers.

Lawn and Garden Care: weed and pest killers, herbicides, fungicides, and other lawn chemicals.

Managing Household Chemicals

The best method of managing Household Chemical Waste is to prevent its generation in the first place. This involves selecting the least toxic item “to do the job” and buying the minimum amounts necessary. Buying large quantities of a chemical product is not a bargain if half of it ultimately needs to be discarded.

If the material is still usable (e.g., undamaged, still within designated shelf life), check with friends and neighbors to see if they can use it. You can also check with community groups such as Habitat for Humanity to see if they can use the product.

While latex paint is often believed to be hazardous, it can be safely managed at home. Click here to learn how to safely dispose of this common household product.

A variety of chemical products found in some homes are not common at all and may be very old, unlabeled, no longer manufactured, illegal to possess or use, or intended primarily for use by business and industry. These unusual materials warrant extra care in handling and disposal. If you have specific questions regarding chemicals in your home contact Michael Stepaniak at PRC at [email protected]  or (412) 488-7452.

PRC accepts the vast majority of household chemicals at several collection events throughout the year. Please visit our collection events page or events calendar for a complete listing of our Household Chemical Collection events held in Western Pennsylvania and detailed program information.


Get answers on where to responsibly recycle and dispose of your household chemicals locally.