How To Dispose of Rags Soaked with Mineral Spirits?

disposing of rags with mineral spirits

A highly flammable material, mineral spirits is a substance that you’ll usually have to apply using a rag on flooring, cabinets, and furniture in your home.

Because of this, the rags themselves will be flammable, and you’ll need to get rid of them properly.

Properly disposing of them will ensure you aren’t putting any lives at risk, and it will also pose less danger to the environment.

Your immediate instinct might be to just throw the rags away as you’d do with anything else you perceive as garbage, but that is remarkably dangerous when it comes to these materials.

Mineral spirits are highly toxic and have been known to cause multiple cases of spontaneous combustion.

Spontaneous combustion is especially troublesome, as it requires no external forces to set the item aflame.

Steps for Disposing Mineral Spirits Rags

Before anything, wear a pair of gloves when handling the rags to prevent contact with the skin.

If there are too many rags your need to dispose of, you’ll also want to wear clothing you don’t intend to wear again.

Below are the steps you should take to dispose of the rags soaked in mineral spirits:

Step 1. Understand the risks that mineral spirits rags have

If you don’t dispose of them properly, you can place your home in danger.

Be sure you never just toss the oily rags into the garbage can.

!! Spontaneous Combustion:

As stated above, there are cases where mineral spirits have caused spontaneous combustion to occur.

This type of combustion is especially dangerous since it doesn’t need to be triggered by an outside source of light, wind, or heat.

Not only do you run the risk of burning your house down, but you may also be putting sanitation workers at risk.

Step 2. Collect the materials you need for disposing of the rags ahead of time

Gathering all materials needed for the disposal lets you work without being interrupted.

It is important that you complete the process patiently and carefully but still attempt to move as quickly as you can.

This can help limit exposure to fumes and limit the opportunity they have to catch fire.

To start the process, you will first need to gather the following:

  • Large metal container that has a lid
  • Bucket of water to use to fill the metal container
  • An item that has some weight to it, such as a large stone

Step 3. Talk to your local hazardous waste disposal company about the disposal

Talk to a local agency and ask them if there are any specific laws or guidelines for where you live when it comes to disposing of these rags.

Be sure that you follow the guidelines exactly as provided, otherwise, you might end up facing a penalty.

Step 4. Schedule a Drop Off or Pickup Appointment

Talk to the hazardous waste facility before you start working with the rags.

If they don’t have an option for pickup, see if you can schedule a drop-off time.

Be sure they specifically accept mineral spirits rags before doing so.

Step 5. Get the mineral spirits rags ready to be transported safely

You’ll need to get the rags prepared to go on the move without risking any spontaneous combustion.

You can use a metal container for this.

Step 6. Put the rags into the metal container

Place the mineral spirits rags in the container using a pair of tongs if you would rather not use your hands.

Check and then double-check that the lid is securely tightened.

Step 7. Fill the metal container with water

Add water into the metal container that holds the mineral spirits rags.

Be sure there is enough water that the rags are entirely submerged.

If there are too many rags to properly submerge them in one metal container, be sure you use a second container.

Step 8. Put a weight on the rags and then close the lid

Once you have enough water in the container, put something heavy on top of the rags.

This will make sure they do not float and will instead stay under the water while they are transported.

If needed, add more water to keep all of the rags completely submerged.

Step 9. Inspect the Container

Look at the container and be sure that it is completely sealed.

Then, wipe it down after you’ve sealed it. If there is any liquid leaking out, change the container right away.

Step 10. Give the container holding the rags to the hazardous waste disposal agency

The metal container can now be given to the local facility safely.

Even if the facility doesn’t pick up the material, you can still take it to them without concern so long as you have followed the steps above.

Be sure the container stays upright while moving it. Otherwise, the weight could come loose.

Note: Be sure you tell the disposal worker what is in the container or containers when you take them to the facility.

Do not just leave them there if there is no one to talk to.

You will also want to tell them which side of the container is “up,” so they don’t accidentally turn it over and risk spontaneous combustion.

drying oily rags in sun before disposing
Drying oily rags in sun before disposing

An Alternate Method to Mineral Spirits Rags Disposal

Using the method above will help you accomplish the job simply and quickly; it only takes a few minutes to prepare it, and you can trust the facility to deal with the rest.

Still, there are other ways you can dispose of these flammable materials.  And that is drying the wet rags.

You can dry the rags out completely, and it can be done in about five minutes. Keep in mind that the actual drying process itself can take up to two days.

1. Lay the rags out

Choose a spot that is well ventilated, secluded, open, and out of the sun. Lay the oily rags out on a surface in that area.

Be sure the rags are fold-free, so they can dry faster. Place them on a surface that can’t combust, like bare soil, concrete or metal.

Be sure you don’t use the soil in the yard; gather some instead, place it on a surface, and then lay the rags there.

Make sure that no children or pets can get into the area as the rags dry.

2. Give them time to dry

You should give the stained rags at least two entire days to completely dry, though some will take longer.

The drying time depends on various factors, such as the material of the rag, the kind of mineral spirits, the amount of the spirits soaked into the rag, and the drying conditions.

3. Talk to your local hazardous waste facility

Remember, don’t throw rags with mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinner in the garbage.

This is true even once they are dry. You will still need to get in touch with the local hazardous waste disposal agency to handle the materials.

The only real difference between these methods is that you won’t need to submerge the rags in water before transporting them.

Things To Keep in Mind When Disposing of Flammable Oil-Soaked Rags

It can be a dangerous process to dispose of rags if you don’t properly prepare them first.

Keep the following information in mind as you prepare them for disposal:

  • Don’t put any mineral spirits and water mixture away near your house or even down the drain.
  • When you dunk the rags in water, the water will mix with the spirits, making it just as dangerous and flammable.
  • Don’t reuse the mineral spirits rags, and don’t recycle them.

Avoid washing and recycling the mineral spirits rags. This will cause the oil to go into the drainage system, which can be dangerous to wildlife.

It can also harm the soil and the environment in general. This is because mineral spirits are highly toxic and therefore quite dangerous.

The toxicity will stay in the water and move through the water treatment system.

Before that, it will move through the washing machine, which is incredibly dangerous. The heat will put it at even more of a risk of spontaneous combustion.

Final Thoughts

Whenever you are getting ready to dispose of mineral spirits rags, you must always get in contact with your hazardous waste disposal facility.

You must never try to just throw them away yourself; mineral spirits have been known to spontaneously combust, and they may do so in your garbage can.

If they make it out without setting your house on fire, they pose the risk of combustion and danger to any sanitation workers.

If they are not properly disposed of, including any water that you use to submerge the mineral spirits rags, they can also damage the environment.

The spirits can get into the soil and contaminate it.

If you dump any waste water from trying to clean the spirits down the drain, it can make its way to the water management system and cause issues there, too.

No matter what you’re using mineral spirits for, whether that is furniture or flooring, you must be responsible when you dispose of them.

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