How to Dispose of Flammable Liquids

The use of flammable liquids is an important component of several chemical laboratories, factories, construction sites, gas stations, air, and seaports.

Unfortunately, poor handling of these liquids can lead to fires, and the destructive power of fire is unparalleled to any other force in nature.

Hence, it is important to develop a thorough understanding of dealing with dangerous liquids. This guide will take you through a step-by-step process of disposing of flammable liquids.

Disposing of flammable liquids is quite different from disposing of just any other liquid.

When disposing of a flammable liquid, it is important to know that you must not pour flammables down in drains under any circumstance.

We also advise against burning off flammable liquids in a waste generator. It is considered unsafe and can result in personal injuries or unwanted fires.

List of Common Flammable Liquids

A flammable liquid is any liquid with a flashpoint under 100°F.

Before we discuss how to dispose of flammable liquids safely, here is a list of common flammable liquids:

How to Dispose of Flammable Liquids Safely – 3 Methods

There are proper storage methods for flammable and combustible liquids; there are also approved safety disposal methods for unused and disposable flammable liquids.

When you are ready to dispose of flammable liquids, please make sure you follow all relevant environmental laws. If you need some counseling, get in touch with reliable environmental officials before you begin the disposal process.

You must never pour waste down sinks or drains. The best way to dispose of these materials is through hazardous disposal and waste collection companies.

Keep an eye out for empty containers. Even if a flammable liquid container is labeled “empty,” it might still contain remnants of liquid inside, which can be enough to create a hazard for an explosion.

Keep in mind that only about 14 ml of fluid is needed to create an explosive atmosphere in a 40-gallon drum. Such a small amount can make a thin covering on the inner surface of the container.

You must never conduct any work such as cutting, welding, drilling, or soldering nearby empty drums until you are 100% sure that all the liquid and vapors are cleared.

We suggest the evaporation method in an operating fume hood or slop buckets for small amounts of most volatile flammable liquids.

However, for larger quantities, you might have to use the services of a chemical waste disposal firm. Be sure to label all waste containers with their approximate contents. Dispose of all waste solutions as soon as possible.

Let’s look at the three disposal methods for flammable liquids in detail:

Method 1: Evaporation

Evaporation works best for thin, flammable liquids such as paint thinner and gasoline. Before you begin this process, make sure there are no children, animals, or naked flames around.

It is best to carry out this process outside in the open air.

If there is just a small amount of liquid in a container that you want to evaporate before you dispose of the empty container, open the top and let it evaporate naturally.

However, if you possess more than a minuscule amount, you should accelerate the process.

First, get your hands on a disposable metal pan or tray. An aluminum foil roasting pan would work well. Pour a ½ inch of flammable liquid into the tray.

Because the roasting pan has a much greater surface area than the container, the volatile liquid will quickly evaporate. Leave it out in the open until you notice that the liquid has visibly evaporated. Repeat this process until all the liquid has evaporated.

When you are done, don’t forget to dispose of the foil pan or tray! You can recycle it with scrap aluminum.

Ask your waste collection authority if you can wrap it in a newspaper and dispose of it with the rest of your everyday trash.

Method 2: Solidification

Another popular method for the disposal of flammable liquids is solidification. To carry out this process, you will need sawdust or shredded newspaper for small amounts.

For large volumes of flammable liquids, cat litter or oil dry will work best. Ensure you are carrying out this process outside in the open air, away from animals and children, wearing gloves and safety glasses to prevent contact.

The first step is to double-line a trash can with plastic trash bags. Then, add some oil dry or cat litter and then some of the flammable liquid waste.

Please do not add the oil dry after the flammable liquid as it may splash. Let the flammable liquid sit in the bag.

After some time passes, you will notice that the flammable liquid has solidified with the base (oil dry or cat litter). Once this happens, it is safe for disposal!

Tie up the trash bag and dispose of it with your regular trash. Make sure the load is not so heavy that it ruptures or is difficult to carry. Work in batches till all your flammable liquid has been solidified.

Method 3: Removal

If you have an insanely large amount of flammable liquid at your hand and want to get rid of it immediately, evaporation and solidification prove to be inefficient.

The best-case scenario, in this case, is to think about removing it altogether.

There are usually several private companies that will remove hazardous waste from your property. Check if your area has one. You might want to get in touch with your local authority since they may also provide a similar service or know a company that does.

A waste removal company may charge you a small fee for removing flammable liquids.

Still, you won’t regret paying it as disposing of flammable liquid by handing it over to authorities is the right thing to do.

Also read: How to Dispose of Stain Rags?

10 Facts to Consider when Disposing of Flammable Liquids

  1. Flammable liquids are liquids considered to have a flashpoint of fewer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or less than 38 degrees Celsius.
  2. When flammable liquids are burning, it is the vapors that are burning. These vapors, when combined with air, can ignite. Then they travel great distances and collect in pits, valleys, or confined spaces with poor ventilation. This causes these vapors to become condensed and easily ignite if an ignition source is available.
  3. Some flammable liquids evaporate much quicker than others because as the temperatures rise, it renders the fluid more volatile. However, due to the danger of the vapors igniting, we do not recommend using a generator to evaporate a flammable liquid.
  4. Flammable liquids can be ignited easily and will burn very quickly. Flammable liquids with lower flash points ignite easier.
  5. The ignition temperature is the temperature required for a liquid to continue to release vapors that can withstand combustion.
  6. Vapor density is known as the weight of a vapor relative to the weight of air. Natural has a vapor density lighter than air. Hence, it rises when exposed in the open.
  7. Gasoline is the most common flammable liquid found in many homes across the US. It is the main cause of burn injuries among teenage boys when it is used carelessly.
  8. Kerosene heaters are also commonly used in business places and homes, especially during colder months, to provide warmth. Even though kerosene is not as flammable as gasoline, it is just as dangerous.
  9. Pesticides can also be highly flammable. When using pesticides, make sure you are standing at a sufficient distance from any heat or ignition source. You should always store pesticides in their original containers.
  10. If you used rags to wipe or clean flammable liquid during the disposal process, don’t dispose of them with the rest of your trash as they can spontaneously ignite. Any rags soaked in furniture polish, oil, paint, turpentine or any other flammable liquid should be kept in a tightly sealed metal container and thrown away immediately after use.

Safe Storage of Flammable Liquids

Safe storage of flammable liquids is just as important as safe disposal.

Let’s look at the correct way to store flammable liquids to reduce chances of a hazard:

Storage Containers

Containers for storing flammable liquids should never be made of plastic or glass.

It is recommended that you use only metal containers unless a favored metal material would compromise the material’s purity or be corroded by the flammable liquid that the container is holding.

Every building’s fire code specifies the amount of flammable liquid that you can store inside the building.

Generally, most regulations allow one liter of flammable liquids and five liters of combustible liquids. Storage containers that will house flammable liquids must be properly labeled so that they are accurately identifiable.

Storage Areas

It would be best to store all flammable liquids in a dedicated flammables cabinet, away from all other items.

The best cabinets for flammable liquids are those built with high-density wood. A high-density wooden flammables cabinet will insulate the cabinet’s chemicals and withstand fire better than a metal cabinet.

Wooden flammable storage cabinets should be located in a chemical storeroom that you can lock to prevent theft. It would be best if you also secured the flammables cabinet with a lock.

All chemical closets that contain flammable materials should be armed with functional fire protection equipment such as fire blankets, ABC fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors.

You should monitor storage areas for flammable liquids with caution. Only authorized personnel should be given access to the site. You must carefully inspect every container in the area for mislabeling or damage before being stored.

Ensure that the storage area is far separated from all production sites so flammable and combustible liquids are kept apart. Doing this will minimize fire hazards.

Final Words

Disposing of flammable liquids requires careful attention to safety and detail, which may challenge many companies.

However, as long as you use proper disposal methods, as mentioned in this blog, and understand the requirements, you will be good to go!

If you are afraid of going south, the best thing to do is team up with a reputable waste management and recycling company and ask them to help you dispose of flammable liquids.

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