Lighter fluid can be found in many homes, as it is often used to start a grill or make a campfire roar. There are several other household uses for lighter fluid, including cleaning rust, removing labels and stickers, extracting gum from hair, buffing out scuff marks, or getting out oil stains from clothes.
If you’ve decided you don’t need it anymore or don’t want to keep it around your home for safety or personal reasons, you need to know how to properly dispose of the bottle’s remaining liquid.
How Can I Safely Dispose of Lighter Fluids?
While throwing the bottle in the trash or pouring the contents down the drain may seem like the obvious choice, lighter fluid is highly flammable and must be disposed of in accordance with strict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
Here are some EPA-approved ways you can dispose of lighter fluids while protecting yourself.
Safety Equipment Needed For The Disposal Of Lighter Fluid
Depending on the amount of lighter fluid waste you generate regularly and the frequency of your disposal, you might need the tools below to stay safe.
Emergency eyewash stations are an invaluable resource for any facility handling hazardous materials.
Chemical accidents are always possible—even with all the best safety measures and procedures in place. If an employee makes accidental contact with harmful or corrosive liquids or substances, an eyewash station provides a steady stream of pressurized water, rinsing the face and eyes for anywhere from five minutes to one hour, depending on the severity of the contact.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first line of safety for protecting the fluid waste handler from the hazards posed by flammables, corrosives, and industrial waste. PPE gear includes gloves, eye protection, respirators, body shields, etc.
Method 1: Read the Product’s Label for Storage and Disposal Instructions.
As carefully as you can, adhere to whatever directions the manufacturer has placed on the product’s label. Additionally, check for any contact information for someone you can speak with to learn more about how to safely dispose of your lighter fluid.
If the label includes a phone number or website, consider these alternatives as well
Method 2: Burn the Remaining Lighter Fluid
The specific makeup of lighter fluid varies, but it is typically a hydrocarbon mixture and should be disposed of at a hazardous material disposal site. Most local or regional governments have specific ways to deal with these types of waste.
If you don’t have access to these facilities locally, the simplest method is just to burn it off. If it is well ventilated, it will burn very cleanly with minimal smoke. If it is a small quantity, this would be the preferred option regardless of your location. Obviously, take reasonable precautions as you would with any fire.
Note that old gas should never be disposed of using this method. You can check our previous blog post to learn how to dispose of old gas properly.
Method 3: Find a Nearby Hazardous Disposal Facility Online
Simply type the name of your town, city, or county and the words “household hazardous waste site” into a search engine to locate a facility that handles home hazardous waste close to you. Find one that takes lighter fluid from the search engine page.
Before sending off your lighter fluid, be careful to find out how much the service will cost at the facility where you are disposing of your household hazardous waste. You might also need to make an appointment to hand over your lighter fluid at some locations.
You can also search for disposal centers on Earth911.
Method 4: Contact the Local Authority for Hazardous Waste Collection Events
Local one-day events are held in several towns where you may dispose of household hazardous waste. Visit their websites, give them a call, or walk into their offices to find out whether this is a possibility in your neighborhood.
If you choose to put off disposing of your lighter fluid until a nearby collection event, make sure to keep the lighter fluid shut up tight and out of the way of any heat sources.
Method 5: Donating The Lighter Fluid
Donate lighter fluids or other products to a local charity, church, or service organization. Theater groups, the local housing authority, or a neighbor may be happy to accept small quantities of usable lighter fluid. Such items need to be in their original containers with labels.
Safety Precautions to Take While Disposing Of Lighter Fluid
1. Store Lighter Fluids Properly
First and foremost, it’s crucial that you set up proper procedures about how and where to store flammable liquids. For one thing, containers should always be well out of the way, never blocking stairwells or exits, and always located in a safe, secure location far from children.
2. Proper Labelling of Containers
Lighter fluid waste containers must be labeled properly. That means noting:
- The start date of accumulation
- The type of lighter fluid (charcoal lighter fluid, paraffin, butane, or naptha)
- The Hazard Class 3 flammable logo (a raging fire)
- Additional information on a hazardous waste label is mandated by your state or local authorities.
3. Avoid Mixing Fluids
Whenever you dispose of hazardous waste, it’s important not to mix fluids; keep the fuel as pure as possible. Many facilities will ask if your lighter fluid has been contaminated and won’t accept it if you’ve mixed it with gasoline or other materials. If possible, keep the fuel in its original, labeled container to help the facility with the disposal.
4. Possible Ignition Sources
An ignition source is a vector that carries the possibility of setting the flammable liquid on fire. Ignition sources are many but may include:
- Sparks from electrical tools, welding tools, and machinery.
- Cigarettes and cigars
- Open flames from torches, pilot lights, or heating units
- Hot surfaces (i.e., furnaces or boilers)
- Embers or sparks from incinerators or fire.
- Static electricity
- Sparks from grinding or crushing other materials
Note that lighter fluid containers must be properly sealed to avoid the possibility of their releasing vapors. The safest way to dispose of flammable liquids is to place them in the correct containers; label them immediately and on an ongoing basis so that everyone knows what they contain.
It is also crucial to keep them away from ignition sources and out of the way of children and pets; schedule regular pickups from a waste management company. Frequency is often determined by the amount of hazardous waste you generate in a given month.
Frequent Asked Question for Lighter Fluids Disposal
What Happens If Lighter Fluid Goes Down the Drain?
Don’t pour lighter fluid into your sink or any other drains in your home. If it enters a sewer, it eventually enters a water supply. If it enters a septic tank, you risk upsetting the ecosystem of the tank and, in the worst-case scenario, producing a flammable vapor in the p-trap or the drain pipes.
They are highly caustic and can harm both aquatic life and pipes. Place them in a container, seal it, and dispose of them at a nearby facility that collects hazardous waste instead of flushing them down the toilet.
Is Lighter Fluid Still Flammable After It Dries?
No, lighter fluid is not flammable if it is dry since the evaporation of the fluid is what causes the “Dryness”. In essence, it is no longer present.
In rare cases, if there is absolutely no other alternative, you can dispose of lighter fluid by evaporation. This method is not recommended and should only be used for small amounts, but it is likely better than pouring lighter fluid down a drain. Leave the container open in a well-ventilated area, away from pets or children. Place a grate or some other cover over it that allows airflow but prevents items from falling into it. Once the fluid has evaporated, triple-wrap the empty container in plastic and dispose of it in the garbage.
Since the lighter fluid is a fuel, it’s considered hazardous waste. Never pour it down your drain or into the sewer, and keep it out of your recycling and garbage. Disposing of lighter fluid improperly is not only harmful to the environment but dangerous for humans. Take it to a household hazardous waste (HHW) facility where it will be disposed of properly.
If you can’t find a suitable disposal facility or household waste collection event in your area, you can try reaching out to local gas stations and auto shops. Some shops will accept fuel for disposal, but always call and check first.