Alternatives to Household Hazardous Waste

Each year, the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance holds two household hazardous waste events to provide free collection of products that are labeled as “toxic, corrosive, poison, combustible, danger or caution, wear gloves, use in well ventilated room, keep away from flame, or similar warnings.”

These types of materials are banned from disposal in normal household trash. They have to be either recycled or disposed in special facilities. The costs of disposal can be very high, and are primarily born by the towns. The tables below provide some ideas on alternatives to hazardous materials. These alternatives can be effective, avoid having dangerous materials in the house and save disposal costs. Alternatives do not exist for all items, but the following are a great start for people interested in reducing the amount of hazardous material in and around their homes. In addition, see the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database for alternatives to help you reduce the amount of hazardous waste they generate each year.

Cleaning Products Alternative
Carpet and upholstery cleaner Clean stains immediately with club soda. Sprinkle cornstarch on carpet and vacuum. Use soap-based, non-aerosol rug shampoo.
Drain opener Use a plunger or mechanical snake. Pour ½ cup washing soda into drain and then two cups of boiling water. Flush drain weekly with boiling water.
Furniture polish Dip cloth in olive, soybean or raw linseed oil; or mix two tablespoons of olive oil with one tablespoon of vinegar and slowly stir into one quart of water. Or mix 2 parts vegetable oil and 1 part lemon juice and apply and rub clean.
General purpose cleaner Vinegar or lemon juice diluted with water; or three tablespoons of washing soda (sodium carbonate or soda ash)in one quart of water Sodium carbonate can be a skin or eye irritant and can irritate the lungs if inhaled
Glass cleaner Mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle, spray surface and wipe with cloth towel.
Laundry pre-soak Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to dirty spots.
Metal cleaner Baking soda (good for chrome) or make a paste of salt, vinegar and flour as in ½ cup salt, vinegar to dissolve and flour to form a paste.
Mildew remover Dissolve ½ cup Borax and 1.2 cup vinegar in warm water
Multi-purpose cleaner Mix ½ cup ammonia, 1/3 cup vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda in 1 gallon warm water
Oven cleaner Wipe spills quickly; wash with baking soda using a scrubber; or sprinkle with baking soda or salt, let sit, and then rinse.
Porcelain cleaner Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to the stain, let it set and then rub clean and rinse.
Rug cleaners Sprinkle baking soda on the rug and then vacuum. Club soda can be used to treat stains
Scouring powder Baking soda, salt or borax
Shower head cleaner Place shower head in ½ cup of vinegar and 1 quart of water and boil for five minutes to remove stains and lime buildup.
Silver cleaner Soak silver in a quart of warm water containing 1 Tsp baking soda, 1 Tsp salt and a piece of aluminum foil
Spot removers Clean spill quickly with club soda or use baking soda paste
Toilet bowl cleaner Flat cola, borax or baking soda; Borax may cause skin irritation


Home Maintenance Products Alternatives
Air freshener Use flowers, herbs or potpourri; place vinegar or vanilla in an open dish; or cloves and cinnamon in boiling water; or leave an open box of baking soda. Source can also be cleaned with baking soda
Degreasers Use detergents
Drain opener Use strainer and flush pipes weekly with boiling water as a preventative; Use plunger or snake; put ½ cup vinegar and baking soda down the drain and flush in 15 minutes
Glues/adhesives Water based glue can be dried and disposed
Oil-based paint Latex paint (can be cleaned with soap and water)
Paint stripper Sand or scrape paint
Auto Repair Alternatives
There are few alternatives to the materials used in automobiles such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze. Purchase only what you need and minimize the amounts needing storage.
Auto Repair Alternatives
There are few alternatives to the materials used in automobiles such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze. Purchase only what you need and minimize the amounts needing storage.
Pesticides and Disinfectants Alternatives
Aerosols Use pump or liquid
Ant control Mix 2 Tabs boric acid, 2 tbsp. sugar and 2 cup water. Soak paper towels and place on dishes for ants. Pour a line of cream of tartar where ants enter. Put a light coating of petroleum jelly around base of pet’s feeding dish to keep ants out.
Bug sprays/insecticides Handpick or trap insects; keep household clean and food covered; caulk or seal entryways
Disinfectant Borax or pine soap
Flea killers Use flea comb, vacuum often and wash pet bedding. Pine needles, fennel, rue or rosemary can be spread on a pet’s bed to repel fleas and ticks.
Insect spray for plants Blend 6 cloves crushed garlic, 1 minced onion, and 1 tbsp. dried hot pepper and 1 tbsp. pure soap in 1 gallon of hot water. Let sit 1-2 days, strain and apply with spray bottle.
Insect repellant Avoid wearing scented products outdoors
Mothballs Keep garments clean; wrap in linen or seal in paper packages or cardboard boxes; use cedar chips or dried lavender, wrapped in cloth bags or towels with clothing; kill eggs by running dry garment through a war dryer
Weed killer Adjust lawn pH, mow high, water sufficiently to maintain grass and prevent weeds
Wood preservatives Use wood resistant to rot such as cedar, locust or oak and protect from dampness and insects
Recreation/Entertainment Alternatives
Charcoal fluid Use a chimney starter, which is basically a can with a handle. You place the charcoal on top and paper in the bottom, light the paper and that will start the charcoal without the need for fluid.
Hobby Supplies Use water based paints, adhesives and nontoxic glues. For children, use crayons and water based paints