4 Chemicals You Shouldn’t Pour Down the Drain


When you need to get rid of a chemical quickly, your first reaction may be to pour it down a kitchen or bathroom drain, but not so fast. You may think that because the chemical is in liquid form it will reach the sewer or septic tank safely but this is not the cause for concern.

The issue with pouring chemicals down your drain is that they could wreak havoc on sewer systems and there is a real threat that they could find their way into water supplies, lakes, rivers, and streams. Below are 4 chemicals that you should never pour down a drain. Being mindful of these liquid waste disposal methods will prevent harm to the environment.

1. Paint

It is natural to want to clean up as quickly as possible after painting and what better way to do this than rinsing brushes, rollers, and trays in a sink? However, latex and oil paints usually contain lead and cadmium, a toxic metal. While water treatment facilities are skilled in removing a lot of contaminants from wastewater before releasing it into the environment, they may not be able to remove them all.

Elements commonly found in paint would be harmful to aquatic life if it ended up entering the environment. The best way to get rid of paint is to use it all and if you cannot, store it because chances are you will use it again in the future. If desired, you can also donate it or drop it off at designated hazardous waste depots.

2. Cleaning products

Most homeowners do not think twice upon pouring cleaning products down the drain after use but this should be discouraged. Most cleaning products contain chemicals that should not enter any water system due to them containing antibacterial agents, phosphates, and many other substances that cannot be removed at water treatment plants.

While most cleaning products should not be poured down your drain, some are safe to do so because they are more eco-friendly and will not cause the damage that others will. Before disposing of a cleaner down the drain, check the back of the bottle to ensure it is flushable. Concocting your own cleaners out of environmentally safe elements such as vinegar and baking soda should also be considered.

3. Car fluids

Out of all of the substances that you could pour down your drain that are harmful, car fluid may arguably be the worst. Motor oils can solidify and clog up your pipes meaning a costly visit from a plumber that will have to take measures to unclog or replace the pipe. These oils would have a catastrophic impact on ecosystems if released into the environment as well. Antifreeze and transmission fluids contain ethylene glycol which acts to maintain temperatures needed for a vehicle to operate as it should.

This element may not be removed consistently by water treatment facilities and anyone who ingests it could experience kidney failure, complications of the central nervous system, and cardiac arrest. Instead of being poured down the drain these substances should be disposed of at a designated hazardous waste site.

4. Flammables

Flammable liquids cannot be burned off or disposed of in the garbage and as a result they are sometimes poured down a drain. Not only are these liquids that include paint thinners, gasoline, nail polish remover, and kerosene corrosive to your pipes, they can potentially cause an explosion if they react with other elements present in the drain.

Even if no reaction occurs, they can ignite if they become too warm and reach their points of combustion. To determine how best to dispose of flammables, contact your local hazardous waste collection agency for advice.

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4 Chemicals You Shouldn’t Pour Down the Drain

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