How to Dispose of Magnets (the right way)

If you’re someone who owns many magnets, owns a vacuum or cell phone, or collects magnet toys, you might come across a time in your life when you have to dispose of them. 

Here’s a quick and easy guide about getting rid of all kinds of magnets you’ll find around your home. 

Why Worry About Throwing Away Magnets?

Magnets, especially those most of us have around our house or on our refrigerator, are just little bits of magnetized iron and generally not much of a problem. 

However, kitchen magnets can be brittle and crack and break easily, and if you have small children around the house, you will want to keep a close eye on them. 

Kids put things in their mouths, and when they swallow magnet pieces, the magnets could attract each other inside the stomach and get stuck back together, sometimes pinching the intestinal wall or just blocking the intestine. 

If this happens, it could lead to infections or even holes in the intestinal wall.

Also, while the metal itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, sometimes the paints and coatings on the metals can contain lead or other chemicals that could cause some damage to young kids. 

Rare Earth Magnets 

Another type of magnet you’re going to find around your house is called a rare earth magnet. 

They’re common in your cell phone, your electric car, computers, and headphones. They’re included as part of any new era of technology. 

You may not think of a phone, car, computer, or headphones as magnetized, but they often are. This magnetization is to help them function properly. 

Another example of these rare earth magnets is the super-strong ball magnets commonly sold as construction toys. 

If ingested, these magnets, which are much stronger than your average kitchen magnet, will almost certainly cause life-threatening injuries to a child. 

According to Consumer Reports, nearly 15-thousand children were admitted to emergency rooms between 2010 and 2015 due to these toys. 

So now that you understand why you need to keep a close eye on the magnets you have around the house, here are a few tips on safely disposing of them. 

Disposing of Kitchen Magnets

Kitchen magnets are incredibly common, but they tend to break easily.

It’s possible that you’re going to have more magnets than you have room on your refrigerator at some point. 

Magnets aren’t recyclable, so if you don’t want your old magnetic bits of iron taking up space in a landfill, there are a few ways to think about disposing of them safely. 

Reusing Kitchen Magnets

There are many types of websites that will give you friendly and crafty ways to keep magnets out of landfills.

If you want to take up less landfill space, they’re worth considering. 

Some of our favorite reuse ideas include:

  • Reworking flexible kitchen magnets into your very own magnetic business cards 
  • Giving them to local schools or daycare centers that might need them in the classroom
  • Selling them 
  • Gifting them to family or friends
  • Creating 3D stickers out of them by purchasing sticker backing 

As you can see, there are many options for reusing magnets that don’t mean throwing them in the trash.  

Scrapping Kitchen Magnets

It might be worth calling around to your local scrap yards and asking them if they’ll dispose of or even pay you for old magnets lying around your house.  

While many scrap yards won’t even accept magnets, some will pay you a few cents per pound of magnets. 

Make sure you do check with your scrapyard before disposing of these magnets. It’s imperative that you don’t throw out the wrong type. 

Beyond reusing or scrapping, it’s okay to throw those old kitchen magnets out with the trash. 

Larger Magnet Disposal

Beyond kitchen magnets, you likely have some more prominent and, therefore, more problematic magnets in your home.

Disposing of them can be a bit tricky.

Here’s how: 

Neodymium Magnets

Today’s vacuum cleaners are technological marvels, robust and built to clear your floors and carpets down to the microscopic level. 

It’s likely your vacuum cleaner, and most of your tech contains a special kind of magnet called a neodymium magnet. 

These types of magnets are robust and very resistant to demagnetization. They’re the strongest magnets commercially available. These are what allows your vacuum cleaner to have such powerful suction. 

Neodymium is a rare earth metal, which means that it can’t easily be disposed of. So if you’re trying to throw away magnets like these, a few special steps are recommended. 

Handle With Care 

The critical thing to remember is that these magnets aren’t toys, they’re not meant to be repurposed into playthings, and they definitely shouldn’t be left lying around the house. 

Neodymium magnets are fragile, and they can break easily, and once they crack, the incredibly powerful fragments can accelerate towards each other at a pretty high speed. 

Keep in mind: 

  • There is potential for damage if these magnets are ingested. Neodymium magnets are so strong that they can attract and do some severe internal damage if you swallow them. 
  • These magnets can also disrupt or stop a pacemaker if they get close enough to them. Neodymium magnets are also flammable at high temperatures. 
  • Never drill magnets. The dust from a neodymium magnet is also flammable, and if the dust ignites, the entire magnet can ignite and burn intensely. 
  • Finally, let’s not forget that magnets, especially strong neodymium magnets, are going to wreak havoc on all kinds of things that have magnetic properties. 

Bringing a neodymium magnet anywhere near your wallet will likely demagnetize some of the strips on the back of your credit card. 

There’s also the possibility that they could do some severe damage to your cell phone. 

There are no real health effects that have been reported from handling these powerful magnets for long periods. 

However, if you’re wearing a pacemaker, it might be a good idea to consult with your doctor before getting too close to neodymium magnets. 

Let the Professionals Do the Hard Work

Disposing of these magnets isn’t easy. It is recommended and even mandated in some cases that neodymium magnets be demagnetized before being safely disposed of. 

That’s not something you’re going to want or even should do at home. 

If you have a vacuum cleaner, speakers, or a cell phone and want to get rid of them, don’t just throw them in the trash. 

In the case of cell phones, you can reuse some parts and recycle the phone. Also, if they get hot enough, those old neodymium batteries can ignite and end up in a landfill. 

So, the best way to get rid of batteries like these is to check around and find the companies who promise to safely dispose of your magnets and let them do the dirty work. 

  • Sometimes it can be as simple as dropping off an old vacuum cleaner or Cell phone at a local electronics store. 
  • You might want to check with your local thrift shops or charity stores. In some cases, they have departments that will refurbish or rebuild old appliances and give them a whole new life. 
  • If you’re a business, then there are some pretty strict rules about how to dispose of neodymium magnets that you’re going to want to follow if you’re going to stay out of any government trouble. 

The Federal Government mandates that neodymium magnets be thermally demagnetized before being disposed of. Doing so means heating them to the point where they lose their magnetic properties. 

This activity is not something you should ever do at home, which makes finding a good place to drop off your old electronics or large appliances much more critical. 

Electronic and appliance shops are often a good place to check. At times, these places are trained to dispose of magnets and often have knowledge on where to, if they can’t. 

In addition to thermal demagnetization, experts recommend placing neodymium magnets in a large steel container before disposal, so they don’t attract metal during the disposal process. 

Magnets Everywhere

When it comes to magnets, the surprising thing is that they’re everywhere. These simple little bits of metal make our modern lives possible in ways we don’t even imagine. 

However, they’re not as simple to get rid of as they are to find their way into your life. Take the time to learn which of your appliances and tech has magnets inside of them.

When it comes time to do away with them, don’t just throw them in the trash. Be mindful of your magnets. You don’t want them taking up space in a landfill or recycling plant. 

Do the responsible thing and take them to a local electronics dealer or appliance store that will know how to dispose of your magnets safely. 

Your electronic store will know how to minimize the environmental impact of your magnets, and in some cases, they might even be able to give you magnets new life.

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