Safely disposing of unused household chemicals and prescription medications helps protect drinking water.

Home toxics (also known as household hazardous waste) and unused prescription medications require special care when you use and dispose of them. Some substances have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers or contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets. They can also present hazards to children and pets if left around the house. Using a take-back program for excess home toxics and prescription medications prevents them from getting into our water, soil, and air where they can threaten public health.

Learn how to . . .


Home toxics are household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic to people and animals. They require special care when you use and dispose of them to prevent their hazardous ingredients from getting into our water, soil, and air where they can threaten public health.

Don’t dump it if you wouldn’t drink it.

Do not pour toxics down household drains. Wastewater treatment plant and on-site septic systems are not designed to filter them out.

Do not pour anything down a storm drain or into a ditch. These lead to our waterways—no filters, no treatment.

Do not place home toxics in the trash.

Identify home toxics.

When preparing to buy a new product for your home, read the label first to see if it poses a threat. It may be hazardous if the label includes words such as warning, caution, flammable, poison, danger, corrosive, combustible, toxic, or hazardous.

Typical Home Toxics

Home and Hobby
asphalt or roofing tar
drain cleaners
mildew removers
oil-based paints
paint thinners and solvents
photographic chemicals
varnishes and refinishers
brake fluid
engine cleaners
motor oil
transmission fluid
Yard and Garden
herbicides (weed killer)

Your county’s home toxics/household hazardous waste program (below) can help you identify more home toxics.

Tips for Safe Use

Remember, Less is more!

Plan projects in advance and purchase only the products you need to get the job done.

“Saving money” by purchasing the jumbo-sized container doesn’t factor in the long-term cost of proper home toxics storage and disposal.

Follow the manufacturers’ directions for use and do not over-apply home toxics of any kind. Reduce the likelihood of harm to yourself and environmental contamination by carefully following the guidelines and minimizing the frequency and amount of any applications.

Make a clean sweep.

Use a broom, not a hose, to clean up spills. Using water can wash contaminants into nearby storm drains that head directly to local waterways—no filters, no treatment. Or if left on the ground contaminants can seep into groundwater.

Maintain your car.

Repair any automotive fluid leaks right away. Use a drip pan to catch leaks if repairs are delayed. Collect and dispose of fluids from routine maintenance properly (motor oil, antifreeze, brake and transmission fluid). Contact your county or a local service center if you need assistance.

Store home toxics properly.

Select cool, dry storage areas. Always keep products in the original container. Store solvents outside your home if possible, in a secure storage area. Protect products from freezing when necessary. Check containers periodically for leaks. Make certain animals and children cannot access home toxics.

County Take Back Programs For Safe Disposal

Dispose of excess home toxics through a take-back program. It’s the safest way! Get guidelines, drop-off locations and scheduled take back events for your county:

Livingston     Monroe     Oakland     Wayne     Washtenaw

Report it!

To report illegal dumping or other environmental pollution concerns, call the EGLE Pollution Emergency Alert System at 800-292-4706.

To report a hazardous spill, call your local Fire Department at 9-1-1.

Do not flush prescription or over-the-counter medications down the toilet or sink

Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to “filter out” drugs and personal care items. Protect your drinking water by keeping these products out of our rivers, waterways, and groundwater.

Dispose of them on National Prescription Drug Takeback Day. April 27 and October 26 in 2024.

Dispose of them through these on-going “take back” programs.

See Michigan’s Household Drug Take Back location map and webpage for more information.

Local programs in the Huron River watershed:

Washtenaw County’s Medication Disposal Network

Livingston County’s Big Red Barrel

Oakland County’s Operation Medicine Cabinet

Can’t get to a take-back location? Put pills into a sealed plastic bag with coffee grounds, kitty litter or dirt before putting them in your trash. Learn how to safely get rid of the extra medication in your home with this short video from EGLE:


Go Green When You Clean

Your grandparents were right! Vinegar, baking soda and elbow grease will clean most of the surfaces in your home. Check out these safer alternatives to a variety of home toxics:

Mildew remover
Spray undiluted vinegar on surface. Wait 1/2 hour. Scrub with hot water.

Drain cleaner
Put 1/4 cup of baking soda into your drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Repeat if necessary.

Floor cleaner
Mop floors with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and hot water. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Wipe clean with a water dampened cloth or mop.

Scouring powder
Sprinkle baking soda on surface and scour with damp cloth. Rinse. Or… Sprinkle salt on surface and scour with cloth dipped in lemon juice. Wipe clean.

Whitening agent
Instead of chlorine bleach, use Borax with your regular laundry detergent.

Insecticide for ants and roaches
Place a 50/50 mix of Borax and powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Place out of reach of animals and children.

Insecticide spray
Spray plants with a mixture of one teaspoon of liquid dish soap per liter of water. Rinse when insects are dead. Repeat every two weeks. If the plant sprayed is a vegetable plant, make sure to wash vegetables before eating them. Michigan State University Extension has lots of information on alternative pest management or contact your County MSU Extension Agent.

Traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze is highly toxic. It is especially hazardous for children and animals, who are attracted to its sweet taste. Antifreeze made of propylene glycol is safer for children and animals (it has no sweet taste), and safer for the environment (it is less toxic). Plus, it is just as effective as traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze. Keep out of reach of animals and children.

Propylene glycol antifreeze is readily available at most auto stores and repair shops. If you can’t find it in your area, head to Peak Sierra Antifreeze and use their store locator.

More Resources

RiverSafe Homes get household tips and pledge to become a RiverSafe Home from Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner

EPA’s Safer Choice find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment

Endless Uses of Baking Soda by Shannon Lindquist, Michigan State University Extension

Clean & Green by Annie Berthold-Bond (available on

This information is provided with support from the Middle Huron Partners and the Livingston Watershed Advisory Group, working together to reduce stormwater pollution in the Huron River watershed.