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What exactly are the household products that are considered hazardous?

Most of us have household cleaners, art and hobby supplies, pesticides, paints and thinners, pool products, gasoline, photographic chemicals, cleaning solvents and degreasers, spot-removers, etc., stored somewhere in our homes or garages. What all of these things have in common is that, to various degrees, they are all considered hazardous in one way or another.

What makes these products hazardous?

These and many other common items are deemed to be hazardous because they exhibit one or more of the following properties:
  • CORROSIVES: These materials have either substances or vapors that can cause deterioration or irreversible damage to body tissues at the site of contact and/or deteriorate or eat away the surface of another material.
  • FLAMMABLE: Substances, usually liquids, that can readily ignite in air in almost all temperature conditions.
  • REACTIVE: Substances that can react with air, water, or another substance to produce toxic vapors or explode.
  • TOXIC: Substances that, even in small quantities, may poison, cause injury, or cause death when eaten or ingested through the mouth and stomach, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled into the lungs.

Because of the hazardous nature of these materials, they cannot be used, stored, or disposed of in the same manner as other nonhazardous products.

With all the new technologies today, why can't these things be produced so that their hazardous nature is either eliminated or reduced?

While technology is indeed changing rapidly, often lessening the degree of hazard of many of these substances, we are still some years away from learning how to economically manufacture these products completely free of their inherent hazards. In the meantime, efforts are being directed at reducing, reusing, and recycling hazardous household products. What surprises so many people is the large number of environmentally safe but effective alternatives they have available to them now.

Can you give us some examples of some of these alternatives?

  • Household Ammonia: May be used to clean carpets, copper, dishes, enamel, floors, Formica, garbage cans, glass, grout, jewelry, linoleum, ovens, porcelain, refrigerators, showers, stainless steel, stoves, tubs, windows, painted woodwork, and removes stains.
  • Baking Soda: Cleans and deodorizes carpets, counters, drains, refrigerators, upholstery, and vinyl. Freshens fabrics, removes stains, scours and polishes aluminum, chrome and grout, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel and tin. Also softens fabrics.
  • Cornstarch: Cleans windows, polishes furniture, removes stains, shampoos carpets and rugs, starches clothes.
  • Lemon Juice: Deodorizes, cleans windows and other glass, removes stains from aluminum, clothes and porcelain.
  • Soap and Water: Cleans cars, clothes, dishes, doors, floors, glass, jewelry, people, pets, sporting goods, tools, walls, windows and woodwork.
  • Steel Wool: Removes rust, rust stains, and stubborn films. Scours barbecue grills and broiler pans.
  • Vinegar: Cleans bricks, carpets, coffee pots, dishes, fireplaces, glass, grout, paint brushes, walls and windows, polishes metals, removes mildrew, spots and stains and wax buildup. Softens fabrics.
  • Washing Soda: Cleans and cuts grease on barbecue grills, broiler pans, concrete, drains, fireplaces, floors, ovens, and walls. Improves detergent power. Removes stains and softens water.

Are there guidelines for purchasing these household products if no safer alternatives are available?

  • Carefully read labels and all directions and health warnings on the product before purchasing it.
  • Choose products with child-resistant packaging and those which are least hazardous.
  • Avoid collections of several products that perform basically the same task. Buy only the amount you need and use it up before purchasing a replacement.

What can you tell us about the safe storage and disposal of these household hazardous materials.

  • All household hazardous materials should be kept in their original containers. Periodically check for signs of deterioration and leaking. If a container is leaking, enclose it in a larger container that is clearly labeled.
  • Don't store incompatible products together. Flammables should never be stored with corrosives; and, toxics or poisons should always be kept away from other hazardous products. All of these should be stored in safe places where little children cannot get to them.
  • Disposal of household hazardous materials (with product still inside the container) should be at regional household hazardous materials collection centers ONLY. These centers, located in Anaheim, Huntington Beach, and San Juan Capistrano, will accept: oil and latex-based paints and thinners, motor oil, antifreeze and other automotive products, cleaners, spot-removers, pesticides, weed-killers, fertilizers, and pool and hobby supplies. For most centers, there is a limit of five gallons or 50 pounds of these materials per vehicle.
  • Hours for these facilities will vary, so it's important to call the Orange County Hazardous Materials Hotline (24-Hr.) at (714) 744-0516 for this and for other information before making the trip. Sometimes groups of neighbors will take turn taking hazardous household materials to these collection centers so that individuals won't have to make so many trips.
  • Never pour these products down your drains, into the dirt or ground, into your trash, or into storm drains.