- It's safe to pour bleach down the drain as long as it's properly diluted.
- Do not pour bleach in the yard or in the garden as it can kill plants and introduce harmful chemicals into the environment.
- You can take bleach to a hazardous waste facility if it's available in your area.
Bleach has been a household staple for cleaning and disinfecting for many years, but it has recently developed a less than squeaky clean reputation. Contact with bleach can result in skin and eye irritation and may trigger asthma symptoms. Bleach is also corrosive and can damage some metals and other materials. Many are trading in this disinfectant for less toxic cleaning products that are better for the environment and your health. If you used bleach for a tie-dye clothing project or cleaning mildew on outdoor furniture, you might have a lot leftover that's just sitting around.
In any case, figuring out how to dispose of bleach safely and responsibly is important. Bleach is hazardous, and when mixed with other chemicals, it can produce fatal fumes, so getting rid of it isn't as easy as dumping it down the nearest drain. Here are a few disposal options to get rid of your bleach safely and responsibly.
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Bleach Is Bad for Septic Systems
It’s not advisable to make a habit of pouring bleach down any drain in your home if you’re connected to a septic system. Too much concentrated bleach in a septic tank can destroy the bacteria balance, causing the whole system to stop working properly. However, a moderate amount of bleach dilution, about the amount you would use in a load of laundry in a single day, should not impact your septic tank system.
How to Dispose of Bleach
The best way to get rid of bleach is to simply use it up or give it to someone who can use it. However, if you must dispose of it, there are safe ways to get rid of bleach and some methods you should never follow.
Dilute the Bleach and Pour It Down the Drain
Bleach gets poured down the drain during everyday household use, whether you're whitening a load of laundry or scrubbing the toilet. This type of use is allowed by most municipal wastewater authorities, but it's important to note it involves bleach diluted with plenty of water. So as a general rule, it's safe to pour bleach down the drain as long as it's been properly diluted. The standard dilution rate for regular chlorine bleach is 1/3 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.
Here's how to dilute bleach for safe disposal down the drain:
- Move to a ventilated area, such as outdoors or a room with an open window.
- Put on rubber gloves and protective eyewear. If desired, don an apron or other cover to prevent splashes from discoloring your clothing.
- Fill a bucket with one or more gallons of water. Add 1/3 cup bleach for each gallon of water.
- Pour the bleach-water solution into a sink, tub/shower drain, or toilet, being careful not to splash yourself of the surrounding areas (to prevent discoloration or damage to materials).
- Rinse the bucket to flush away any bleach residue.
If you pour a lot of water into the toilet bowl, it will flush itself due to the increased water pressure. If the toilet doesn't flush on its own, stop pouring and flush as needed so you don't have an overflow.
Take Bleach to a Hazardous Waste Facility
Some wastewater authorities prefer that residents do not pour bleach down the drain. Jaylen Schmitt, Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist with Oregon Metro tells Hunker that "[Our] water bureaus and treatment facilities highly discourage the use of the water system as a disposal system for any type of household hazardous waste or other waste product; their systems are not designed be used in this way." As an alternative, Oregon Metro's hazardous waste facilities accept bleach and other household products at no charge.
Safely disposing of bleach is as easy as dropping it off at your local hazardous waste facility. Here are some tips for getting it done:
- Search the web using your city, state, and the phrase "household hazardous waste center." These drop-off centers typically fall under the waste management department of your city. Call to verify that the waste center accepts bleach.
- Many hazardous waste drop-off facilities don't require you to do anything to the bleach besides transport it in its original, nonleaking container. For example the hazardous waste center in San Diego, California advises not to transport more than 5 gallons of hazardous waste product at a time. Similarly, in King County, Washington, bleach jugs must be 5 gallons or less. Typically, there's no need to dilute the bleach and make it more voluminous.
- There may be a small fee applied to your hazardous waste drop-off, especially if you have a large amount of bleach.
- For leaky or otherwise damaged containers, call your household hazardous waste facility before attempting a drop-off.
Can You Dump Bleach on the Ground?
Too much chloride addition to vegetation can be fatal. Chlorine is the active ingredient in bleach, and when chlorine hits the soil, it converts to chloride. Chlorine already enters the soil from rainwater and air pollution, so adding bleach to the ground can lead to toxic levels of chloride in plants.
When chloride accumulates in plant leaves, the whole plant dies. After a rain, bleach runoff in the soil can end up in city wastewater and drainage systems, where there's a risk of the bleach reacting with new chemicals and forming a dangerous compound that's harmful to human health.
Using diluted bleach sparingly in outdoor spaces can mitigate the environmental harm and the health risk. Dumping large amounts of bleach outside, particularly undiluted, should never be done.
Can You Pour Bleach in the Toilet?
If allowed by the local wastewater authority, using the toilet is an acceptable method of disposal as long as you're not dumping huge quantities at one time and the bleach is properly diluted with the toilet water. A good rule of thumb is to follow the dilution ratio for a basic bleach cleaning solution of 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water.
A toilet that meets the current water-saving standard of 1.6 gallons per flush provides enough water to safely dilute 1/2 cup of regular chlorine bleach with each full flush. This means you can add 1/2 cup of liquid bleach to the bowl, then flush.
However, there are limits to how much you should do this. Tyler Ver Meer, Water Pollution Control Superintendent, Water Pollution Control Department for the city of Ames, Iowa tells Hunker, "If you were to be disposing of more than a gallon at a time, I'd recommend looking at spacing the timing of disposal." You can contact your local water treatment authority for recommendations specific to your situation.
Never pour bleach into toilet water that contains any cleaning solution or other chemicals. Ver Meer warns, "The most important thing would be using caution when trying to dispose of multiple chemicals at once, as those reactions can cause dangerous reactions that could be fatal as well as damage your plumbing." For example, toilet bowl cleaner plus bleach creates chlorine gas. This toxic gas can damage airways, cause asphyxiation, and result in death.
How to Dispose of Old Bleach Bottles
The proper way to dispose of old bleach bottles depends on your trash and recycling pickup services. Many recycling programs accept empty bleach bottles and advise homeowners to rinse them with plain water before adding them to their recycling bin for collection day. However, others do not accept empty bleach bottles and ask that residents dispose of them at a hazardous waste facility or a special recycling facility. Contact your city or waste disposal/recycling service for recommendations.
Are Bleach Bottles Recyclable?
Different recycling collection or waste collection services have different regulations. For example, the sanitation division of Natick, Massachusetts instructs residents to empty bleach jugs, rinse them, and place them in the recycling bin for curbside pickup. Check with your local recycling center first because it will be the final authority on what recycling materials can be collected and how they should be prepared.
Many Clorox Bleach jugs are marked with the recycling triangle symbol and the number 2. Plastics marked with 2 are made from high-density polyethylene. This is one of the most common types of plastic containers, often used for milk, shampoo, and detergent, and it’s also one of the plastics that’s easiest to recycle.