How to Dispose of Rags Soaked with Mineral Spirits?

disposing of rags with mineral spirits

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 appropriately to avoid any risks they may impose.

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.

Why are Mineral Spirits Rags Dangerous?

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.

Steps for Disposing of Mineral Spirits Rags

Properly disposing of the oily rags will ensure you aren’t putting any lives at risk and at the same time will also pose less danger to the environment.

If there are too many rags you need to dispose of, you’ll want to wear clothing you don’t intend to wear again. Also, wear a pair of nitrile gloves to prevent contact with the skin.

Once you are prepared, below are the steps you should take to dispose of the rags soaked in mineral spirits:

Step 1. Collect the materials you need for disposing of the rags ahead of time

Gathering all materials needed for the disposal of soaked mineral spirits rags 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 from the oily rags and limit the opportunity they have to catch fire.

To start the process, 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 2. 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 3. Schedule a drop-off or pickup appointment and get the rags ready

Talk to the hazardous waste facility before you start working with the rags to be sure that they specifically accept mineral spirits rags. If they don’t have an option for pickup, see if you can schedule a drop-off time.

Once you are sure, get the rags prepared to go on the move without risking any spontaneous combustion. You can use a metal container for rags to be transported safely.

Step 4. Put the rags into the metal container and fill it with water

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

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 5. 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. Once completed, securely tighten the lids on the containers.

Step 6. Seal, double check and inspect the container for any leakage

Once you close the lid, seal it with tape to ensure that it stays closed. Make sure there is no leakage in the container by doing a quick inspection.

If there are any leaking spots wipe them down with a cloth, use duct tape or other materials to cover them up, and prevent water from spilling out of the container.

Step 7. Give the container holding the rags to the hazardous waste disposal agency

The metal container can now be transported and 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: Ensure that 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.

Also, 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 the sun before disposing

An Alternate Method to Mineral Spirits Oily Rags Disposal

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

Still, if you want there are other ways you can dispose of these flammable materials. And that is drying the wet rags which can be done easily.

But keep in mind that the complete drying process can take up to two to three days, and till that time, these oily rags could be a potential source of ignition. So, you need to be pretty careful.

1. Lay the rags out

Choose a spot that is well-ventilated, secluded, open, and out of the sun. Spread the oily rags across a suitable surface in the designated area, ensuring they are free of folds to expedite drying.

Remember that the surface should be non-combustible such as bare soil, concrete, or metal. Avoid using soil from the yard; instead, gather some and place it on a surface before laying the rags.

Take precautions to restrict access to the area while the rags are drying, ensuring the safety of children and pets.

2. Give them time to dry

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

Don’t throw rags with mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinner in the garbage 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 difference with this method is that you won’t need to submerge the rags in water before transporting them.

Disposing of Flammable Oil-Soaked Rags

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

Mineral spirits is a highly toxic solvent and have been known to cause multiple cases of being disastrous. And same is the case with rags soaked in these solvents. If you don’t prepare and dispose of them properly, you can place your home in danger.

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 in your washing machine, 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. The toxicity will stay in the soil and water. It can also move through the water treatment system, which is incredibly dangerous as the heat can put it at even more risk of spontaneous combustion.

The bottom line

No matter what you’re using mineral spirits for, whether furniture or flooring, you must be responsible when you dispose of them. The solvent has been known to combust spontaneously and may do so in your garbage can – so never try to throw the oily rags away yourself.

Furthermore, if any water used to submerge the rags is not correctly disposed of, it can contaminate the soil and harm the environment. Disposing of wastewater containing spirits down the drain can also cause issues in the water management system.

To avoid any confusion, it is imperative to contact your hazardous waste disposal facility and prepare to dispose of mineral spirits rags cautiously.

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