If you’ve got old cleaning supplies lying around the storage room, you may need more than a trash bin to dispose of them.

Hopefully, you don’t have too many old cleaning supplies in your janitor’s closet. After all, any unused products count as a loss against your bottom line. But, as with any company, there will be losses that you can’t predict, and if you don’t track them correctly, cleaning supplies can be a primary offender.

However, unlike inventory losses sustained by most other businesses, you can’t just toss old cleaning supplies out with the evening trash. In fact, some products have strict regulations dictating when and how you can dispose of them. In the most serious cases, there are severe penalties for failing to follow proper protocol for hazardous materials, which is why you want to make sure that you know how to handle each one of the cleaning products you purchase.


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Fortunately, most hazardous cleaning supplies are marked accordingly. Reading the manufacturer’s label can help you to identify a substance’s classification.

When dealing with old cleaning supplies, though, there may not be any identification, or it may have worn off. If you’re still worried, the best thing to do is to call the manufacturer and ask them.

Of course, if you want to take the safe approach, dispose of all your old cleaning supplies as though they qualify as hazardous materials. Again, the theory is that you won’t have that many old supplies, so disposing of them as hazardous waste hopefully shouldn’t be as big of a burden as it might be if you were generating dangerous material on a regular basis.

Remember also that some states have laws that are stricter than federal regulations, so in addition to staying in compliance with federal law, make sure to follow your local regulations, as well.

old cleaning supplies

Getting rid of your old cleaning supplies

Once you’ve identified old cleaning supplies that might be considered hazardous material, the hard part becomes disposing of them properly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and specifically the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), govern the handling of hazardous materials. You might also check any additional regulations implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While both resources provide precise instructions, they can be cumbersome to sift through, and don’t always give you the answers you’re looking for.

Because of that, DIY disposal is a tricky thing. One option is to find a place where you can donate the old cleaning supplies you no longer need. Many charity organizations accept unexpired cleaning supplies, which they will then be responsible for disposing of if products should remain.

Another option that protects you and the hazardous materials is to call a service that will cart the products away for you. Online sites like The Blue Book can help you find a local carting service in your area. Keep in mind that these services will usually only take away your materials and dispose of them. It may still be your responsibility to collect and adequately package hazardous materials in preparation for pickup.

old cleaning supplies

How to stay in compliance

Unless you generate a significant amount of hazardous waste, it’s unlikely the EPA will come knocking on your door. For that reason, it’s especially important that you perform a self-inspection once a month to make sure that you are in compliance.

The primary things you’ll want to check for are:

  • Do you have any expired products, whether considered hazardous or not?
  • Do you have the appropriate disposal equipment, such as special sinks for biohazard material?
  • Is all of your disposal equipment in working order?
  • Are all hazardous materials clearly labeled?
  • Do you have the means to transport hazardous materials yourself?
  • If not, do you have information for a local carting service that can transport the materials for you?
  • Do you have the appropriate protective equipment for handling hazardous waste?

Green doesn’t always mean clean

One last word of caution: Just because you have products that identify as “green” or “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean that the EPA sees them the same way. While most of them should be fine to dispose of in the trash, you should still double-check the ingredients and manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that there aren’t any chemicals that qualify as hazardous. The odds are slim that you’d come across any issues here, but because green cleaning products aren’t centrally governed, the only way to know what’s actually in your old cleaning products is to read the labels and ask questions.


Boost your managerial success with Janitorial Manager. Sign up for your personal demo today and to find out more!


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