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Hazardous Materials Division - Household Hazardous Waste

household hazardous waste photo

San Bernardino County Fire Department
Household Hazardous Waste Program
2824 East "W" Street, Bldg. 302
(San Bernardino International Airport)
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0799
Phone:  909.382.5401
1.800.OILY CAT (645.9228)
Fax:  909.382.5413

Household Chemical Safety and Handling

Basic Safety Rules

  1. Know the hazards of the materials you're working with. Read the labels, know what precautions, safety gear and clean up procedures are advised. Always follow label directions exactly and use only the recommended amount.

  2. Use good ventilation at all times. Local exhaust is the best, such as a hood or spray booth that vents to the outside. Next best is to use exhaust fans that pull the contaminated air away from you and exhaust it outside (an air-conditioning system is not adequate, since it recirculates most of the air). An open window usually does not provide adequate ventilation; toxins may be blown back into your face. Avoid breathing the vapors and use products in well ventilated and safe work areas.

  3. Use good hygiene and housekeeping. Separate work and living areas; avoid eating, drinking or smoking in the work area; don't store chemicals in food containers; and wash and change clothes after working. Wet mop or vacuum for cleanup of dusts. Always wash hands and face thoroughly after using household chemicals and before eating or drinking.

  4. Special precautions are needed for children's art. In general, children over the age of 12 can understand and consistently follow safety instructions for the more toxic materials; younger children cannot and should use only the safest materials (Usually labeled "non-toxic").

  5. Never mix products together (for example, ammonia mixed with chlorine bleach can form a poisonous gas).

  6. Store flammable, oxidizer and poisonous products each separately—do not store incompatible products together (i.e., acids with caustics or alkalines; or flammables with oxidizers).

If you spill a hazardous chemical on yourself: Immediately wash the area well with water (do not use soap) and change clothes immediately. Wash clothes separately. For Eyes: Immediately rinse injured eye with lukewarm water, with the good eye above the injured eye and from the nose outward. Seek medical attention. Always call a medical professional or the Drug and Poison Information Center for advice on poisoning at 1-800-876-4766.

If you spill a chemical on the ground: Contain and cover the spill with an absorbent material (kitty litter, clay garage sweep material), sweep and scoop absorbent and container into a plastic bag, and take to a household hazardous waste collection center. For questions regarding proper disposal, contact the Household Hazardous Waste Program at (909) 382-5401 or 1-800-Oily Cat. recycle used oil
recycle used oil filters image

It saves natural resources.
Used Oil & Filters are 100% Recyclable!


Used Motor Oil

Any oil that has been refined from crude oil and has been used is "used oil." The term "used oil" also applies to any oil that is no longer useful to the original purchaser as a consequence of extended storage, spillage or contamination with nonhazardous impurities such as dirt and water. Used oil is a hazardous waste. The hazards associated with used oil result from the various additives used in its manufacture and from the heavy metal contaminants picked up from use in the internal combustion engine.

Oil poured down household drains or directly onto the ground can reach lakes, rivers and ground water. It can pollute the groundwater with contaminants such as lead, magnesium, copper, zinc, chromium, arsenic, chlorides, cadmium and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). One quart of oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water.

Used oil is recyclable. Two and one half quarts of lubricating oil is gained by re-refining one gallon of used oil. You can participate in oil recycling by draining the used oil into a clean container with a tight fitting cap. Do not mix the recovered oil with any other liquid and make sure the oil is free from dirt, leaves and other debris. Many auto parts stores will accept your oil for recycling.


  1. Dumping used oil (or any chemical) is a crime—legally & environmentally.
  2. Dumped oil contaminates the ground water—our drinking water source.
  3. Used oil is insoluble and can contain toxic chemicals.
  4. Used oil kills plant and aquatic life.
  5. One pint of used oil can create an acre-sized oil slick on surface waters.
  6. Recycling used oil and oil filters is the answer.
  7. Do not dump oil on the ground, in the gutter or storm drain, or throw in the trash. Do Not Mix anything with the oil (water, paint, pesticides, solvents, diesel, antifreeze, gasoline). Click on, for the nearest certified center to recycle oil and oil filters.
  8. Drain your oil from cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, recreational vehicles, lawnmowers, etc. into a reusable, sealable container. Obtain a free oil container at a nearby collection facility. Call 1-800-OILY-CAT for the nearest collection facility.

Pesticides / Herbicides

Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill pests. pesticides
Herbicides are pesticides specifically intended to kill plants and micro-organisms. They can injure or potentially kill people by inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin. Exposure can affect the respiratory and nervous systems, and cause skin and organ damage. If improperly used, these chemicals also can injure or kill plants or animals that were not intended to be controlled. Certain pesticides that don't readily break down can also accumulate in the food chain.

Unless otherwise directed, don't water an area immediately after applying these chemicals to it. This might cause them to run off with the extra water into a storm drain or stream. Don't throw pesticides or herbicides in the trash, or pour them on the ground or down a drain. Don't burn or bury them either. These methods of disposal can pollute groundwater, lakes and rivers, or injure solid waste workers.

The best way to get rid of these chemicals is to use them up unless they are banned. When mixing these chemicals, follow the directions on the label. Read the label to determine if protective clothing such as wraparound goggles, gloves or a respirator are needed. When finished, wash protective clothing in hot water, separate from other laundry.

If you can't use the chemicals, ask if friends, neighbors, or family members need them. Don't give away pesticides or herbicides that are banned (such as lindane, chlordane, DDT), or that are in damaged or unlabeled containers.

After using all the pesticide or herbicide from a container, wash it three times and use the rinse water as you would use the pesticide itself. Throw the rinsed-out container in the trash. Don't burn or reuse old containers.

Safely store pesticides in their original container. Protect the label and make sure the word "DANGER" appears on the container.

If the pesticide is flammable, keep it away from heat, flames and spark sources. Also, store it where it won't freeze. Always store chemicals out of the reach of children.

Before purchasing a pesticide or herbicide, make sure you need one. Contact the local agricultural extension service for information on when to use pesticides/herbicides. If you need to use these chemicals, buy only the amount you need. Try using up leftover pesticides/herbicides before purchasing more.  Also, purchase ready-to-use broad spectrum pesticides that will work on more than one pest to avoid having many different pesticide containers in your home.  By purchasing ready-to-use formulations instead of concentrates, you can avoid mixing and handling strong poisons, avoid potentially dangerous spills and avoid having 2 containers of the same product in your home (one dilute and one concentrate).


Automobiles consume vast quantities of gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, car batteries, degreasing agents, windshield washing fluid, car waxes and cleaners. While most of these products are necessary for proper operation and maintenance, they are all toxic.


Automobiles use lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid. The lead can contaminate water and the acid can burn skin.   Each automotive battery contains approximately 18 pounds of toxic metals and a gallon of corrosive acids.

If lead-acid batteries are improperly disposed of, such as dumped in a non-hazardous landfill or an empty field, the lead and sulfuric acid can seep into the ground, contaminating the environment and ground-water supply. Damaged, leaking batteries improperly disposed of in the regular trash also pose a danger to refuse collectors who can come in direct contact with sulfuric acid. They are also a fire hazard.

Lead-acid batteries are recyclable. Many places that sell batteries will take back the used battery as a core. Also some garages and scrap metal dealers will take the battery. If you have a used battery at home, store it safely until you can take it somewhere to recycle. For safe storage, keep the battery in a dry place inside or a leak-proof container outside. Store batteries out of the reach of children and pets.

Nationwide, 70 percent of spent lead-acid batteries are recycled. After the lead is separated from the non-metallic components of the battery, it then is smelted to produce soft lead and lead alloys. Most of these lead products are used to make new lead-acid batteries.


Antifreeze is made up mainly of water and ethylene glycol and added to the radiator water in a car to lower the freezing point and raise the boiling point of radiator fluid. In other words, it keeps the water from freezing on very cold days and boiling over on hot days.

Auto maintenance experts recommend that radiators should be flushed every one to two years. This presents a question of what to do with the radiator fluid. You have to be careful not only to store new antifreeze safely, but also to dispose of used antifreeze properly.

Because ethylene glycol is a clear, colorless and sweet-tasting liquid, it is very attractive to pets and small children. Pets will lap up an antifreeze puddle because it tastes sweet. Young children are also at risk. If swallowed, ethylene glycol may cause depression, followed by respiratory and cardiac failure, renal and brain damage. It is often fatal.

Antifreeze that is carelessly disposed of, such as poured into a storm drain or ditch, a river or stream, onto the ground or into the trash, presents a health threat to humans, animals and the environment.

Used antifreeze can be recycled for use by the mining industry (sprayed on coal to keep it from sticking together) and the glycol industry (used for airplane de-icing solution). It also is used in cement grinding and brake fluid.


Gasoline is toxic and extremely flammable, and never should be used as a cleanser. Always store gasoline in a cool, well-vented area away from electrical sources. Gasoline should be kept only in an approved gasoline container.

Cleansershazardous cleansers

Some chemicals in cleansers may be hazardous to your health during routine use even though the exposure is small. You can reduce the risk to your health by avoiding products containing toxic chemicals. Or, if you must use toxic chemicals, be sure to follow the manufacturers' directions.

Organic solvents affect the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Many are flammable and a few are suspected carcinogens. Petroleum distillates in polishes and sprays, perchloroethylene in spot removers, mineral spirits in paint thinner and p-dichlorobenzene in moth balls are all examples of organic solvents.

Strong acids or bases are corrosive to skin, eyes and mucous membranes, and can react with other household chemicals. Acids are found in tub, tile and toilet cleaners and in rust removers. Lye in oven cleaners and hypochlorites in chlorine bleach are examples of highly alkaline corrosive substances.

Phenols and alcohols are poisonous and flammable chemicals that represent the active ingredients in most disinfectant products.

Although not highly toxic, synthetic detergents are the household chemicals most frequently ingested by children. "Real" soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil may be less toxic.

Paintempty paint container

Leftover unwanted paint is a hazardous waste. Chemicals used in the production of paint can pose serious threats to human health and the environment if handled or disposed of improperly.

If paint is thrown into the trash and ends up in a sanitary landfill, there is the potential health hazard of the chemicals seeping into the groundwater and possibly being consumed by animals or people.

In addition, since oil-based paint is flammable, refuse workers may be injured and equipment may be damaged during trash collection. If you must use oil-based paint, buy only the quantity needed. Measure the space you wish to paint and ask for help from the retailer to purchase the appropriate amount.

If possible, use latex or water-based paint instead. Latex paint is easy to apply and brushes, tools, and other equipment can be cleaned up with soap and water. Latex paint is less harmful to the environment than oil-based paint, which contains more hazardous ingredients.

Reuse or recycle leftover paint by giving it to someone who can use it, such as a neighbor or friend, theater group, school or other community organization. Take leftover oil-based and latex paint to a household hazardous waste collection facility or event.  Latex paint is recycled and non-profit organizations, residents, and neighborhood cleanup groups can use this recycled paint.  See bucket label (pdf) for basic instructions.  The reusable 5-gallon buckets are available for $7.00 and the paint is free.