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How to Handle HHW

Even if we try to reduce the use of hazardous materials in our homes, most of us will never eliminate them from our lives completely. So it's important to understand how to handle hazardous materials safely to minimize the potential risks. The following is a list of guidelines that should be followed for safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of hazardous household products.

Guidelines for Safe Use:

  • Always read the label before using any hazardous product. Labels help consumers identify potential hazards and describe safety precautions that should be followed while using the product. For example, a label might tell you to wear protective clothing, such as rubber gloves, safety goggles, or a dust mask, while using the product. Follow these instructions to protect your short- and long-term health.


Hazardous product labels contain warnings specific to the hazards of that product. For example, the warning "Use in a well-ventilated area" might appear on a product that is dangerous if its fumes are inhaled. The statement "Avoid contact with skin and eyes" might appear on a product that is corrosive or can be absorbed through the skin. A statement such as "Wash hands before eating" might appear on a product that is hazardous if it is swallowed.



  • Labels tell us how much of a product should be used. Use only as much of the product as these instructions indicate. Using twice as much does not mean you'll get twice the results, and could be dangerous!
  • Hazardous products can be carried from your hands to your mouth if you eat, drink, or smoke while you are using them. Smoking near hazardous products could also be a fire hazard! Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, drinking, or smoking when you have been using hazardous products

Guidelines for Safe Storage:

  • Store hazardous products in original containers with original labeling so they can be easily identified. A hazardous product poured into an unmarked container could be mistaken for a non-hazardous material.
  • When chemicals are mixed together, they can react in unexpected ways. Some mixtures can cause fires or explosions. Others can cause toxic gasses to form. In some cases, mixing even small amounts of different chemicals can cause problems. Containers that seem empty may contain a residue of the original product. Pouring another product into a container you think is empty might cause a dangerous reaction!
  • Seal all containers and wipe them clean after use to prevent accidental spills.
  • Metal containers that get wet can rust and corrode, and may eventually leak. If a hazardous product's container is beginning to corrode, place it in a larger plastic container with a lid. Label the outer container with the contents and appropriate warnings.
  • Many product labels indicate safe storage temperatures. Storage of volatile materials (products that give off fumes or vapors) at high temperatures can cause containers to bulge. Liquid materials may expand if they freeze, which could cause containers to burst.
  • Store volatile materials in a well-ventilated area, such as a garage or storage shed to avoid accidental inhalation of vapors. Many volatile materials are also flammable . Any Flammable or Combustible materials should be stored away from any source of heat, sparks, or flame.
  • Store hazardous products in secure areas, such as high shelves or locked cabinets, where young children and pets cannot reach them.
  • Never store hazardous materials with food. Leaking containers or hazardous vapors could contaminate foods. It is especially important not to store hazardous products in old food containers such as milk jugs, glass jars, etc., where they could be mistaken for food, especially by young children.
  • The best way to handle household hazardous waste is to try and reduce the amount you generate in the first place!

Guidelines for Safe Disposal:

Even if you take steps to reduce household hazardous waste, it's likely that at some point you will still have some hazardous materials to dispose of. Pouring hazardous materials on the ground, down the drain, or into a storm drain can pollute drinking water. When hazardous materials are disposed of with household trash, different kinds of chemicals could mix together causing fires, explosions, or toxic fumes. At the landfill, hazardous materials could leach out and contaminate groundwater or surface water.