A highly flammable material, mineral spirits, is a substance 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.
Your immediate instinct might be just to throw the rags away as you’d do with anything else you perceive as garbage, but that is remarkably dangerous regarding these materials.
Mineral spirits are highly toxic and have been known to cause multiple cases of being disastrous. And same is the case with rags soaked in these solvents.
Steps for Disposing of Mineral Spirits Rags
Properly disposing of the oily rags will ensure you aren’t putting any lives at risk and will also pose less danger to the environment.
But before handling the rags, wear a pair of nitrile gloves 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.
Once you are prepared, 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 outside, especially on a scorching day – they can be disastrous.
Why !! Spontaneous Combustion:
As stated above, there are cases where mineral spirits have caused spontaneous combustion to occur because of their exceptionally low flash point of only 104° F.
This type of combustion is hazardous since it doesn’t need to be triggered by external forces or outside sources like light, wind, or heat to set the item aflame.
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 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 regarding disposing of these rags.
Be sure that you follow the guidelines strictly 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 submerge in one metal container properly, 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 ensure they do not float and stay under the water while they are transported.
If needed, add more water to keep all of the rags wholly 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.
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 drying process can take up to two to three days, and till that time, these oily rags could be a potential source of ignition.
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 that they can dry faster. Place them on surfaces 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.
Ensure no children or pets can enter the area as the rags dry.
2. Give them time to dry
You should give the stained rags at least two days to dry completely, 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 oil paint and thinner rags if you don’t prepare them first correctly.
So, keep the following information in mind as you prepare them for disposal:
- Don’t put away the mineral spirits and water mixture near your house or 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, avoid washing them, and don’t recycle them.
The above guidelines hold not only for mineral spirits, toluene, turpentine, paint thinner, and other paint solvents but also for wood stains, wood oils (like linseed oil, walnut oil, and danish oil), and even motor oils.
If you do not follow the above guidelines, this can cause the solvents and oils 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 they are highly toxic and 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 risk of spontaneous combustion.
No matter what you’re using mineral spirits for, whether furniture or flooring, you must be responsible when you dispose of them.
Mineral spirits have been known to combust spontaneously and may do so in your garbage can – so never try to throw them away yourself.
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 correctly disposed of, including any water you use to submerge the mineral spirits rags, they can also damage the environment because 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.
In case of any confusion, you must contact your hazardous waste disposal facility whenever you are getting ready to dispose of mineral spirits rags.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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