How to Dispose of Potassium Permanganate (the safe way)

Potassium permanganate has many uses, ranging from treating skin conditions to purifying water, but you might be wondering how to dispose of it safely when you’ve finished using it. 

This chemical can be unsafe if improperly handled and can cause damage to the environment if it isn’t disposed of properly.

You might be a bit overwhelmed at the thought of handling hazardous materials, but don’t fret—it’s much easier than it sounds. 

We’ll prep you for the job by listing the proper safety equipment required, and then guide you through the process of disposing of both small and large amounts of potassium permanganate.

How to Safely Handle Potassium Permanganate

Potassium permanganate is hazardous and can be harmful if mishandled.

Always follow the tips listed below when working with this chemical.

Check Containers for Leakage or Damage

Potassium permanganate is a hazardous substance, whether it’s in powdered form or mixed in with water. 

A damaged container can allow traces of this chemical to leak out, which can be dangerous in higher quantities.

Checking your containers for damage beforehand will prevent any spills from occurring, which will keep you safe and your work area clean.

Avoid Skin Contact

Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizer, which means it accepts electrons from other substances. That also means it is highly irritating when in contact with skin and can also stain it.

Even small amounts of potassium permanganate mixed in with water can leave a brown stain on your skin, so make sure to cover as much of your skin as possible. 

That means you should wear gloves, an apron, and a long-sleeved shirt or sweater.

Protect Your Face

Potassium permanganate will also irritate your eyes and nose if it comes in contact with them. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends wearing goggles to protect your eyes.

Avoid breathing in any chemical fumes. To further protect your face, wear a face shield or a mask.

Work In a Well-ventilated Area

Potassium permanganate fumes are harmful if inhaled in high quantities, so make sure you aren’t trapping these fumes in your work area. 

Try working next to a window or a vent if you aren’t sure if your workspace is well-ventilated, and take breaks while working to air out the room and get some fresh air.

Safety Hazards Associated With Potassium Permanganate

Potassium permanganate is a hazardous chemical and can pose a danger to you and those around you. 

Being aware of the safety hazards associated with potassium permanganate will allow you to prevent any problems and deal with them properly if they do come up.

Can Irritate Skin

The New Jersey Department of Health states that concentrated solutions of potassium permanganate can irritate or burn your skin. 

Contact with potassium permanganate may also stain your skin with a brown mark that will likely stay for days.

If your skin is highly irritated or burned by the chemical, you’ll want to remove all clothing or jewelry that may have also come in contact with the chemical and set it aside until you can clean it.

Next, treat the injury and flush out the rest of the chemical by running cold water on the irritated area for around 10 minutes. You can then bandage the area loosely to keep it clean.

If the irritation flares up again, run cold water on the injury for several minutes and then bandage it again. 

If the burn is deep, or covers an area larger than 3 inches in diameter, seek medical attention immediately.

Can Irritate Eyes

Potassium permanganate can cause severe irritation and even permanent damage if it comes in contact with the eyes. 

If your eyes come in contact with this chemical, splash your eyes with cold water and seek medical help immediately. 

Rinse your eyes for around thirty minutes, while also making sure to splash water under your eyelids.

Can Irritate Nose

Potassium permanganate fumes can irritate in the nasal cavity and damage the mucous membranes in your nose. 

INCHEM states that the symptoms of potassium permanganate inhalation include a burning sensation, sore throat, cough, shortness of breathing, and labored breathing.

If any of these symptoms do arise, get some fresh air and sit in an upright position. Seek medical help immediately.

Highly Dangerous if Ingested

Potassium permanganate is highly dangerous if ingested and can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract. 

INCHEM states that symptoms of potassium permanganate ingestion include a burning sensation, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and collapses.

If any of these symptoms arise, do not induce vomiting. Rinse your mouth, sit or lie down, and seek medical attention immediately.

To prevent ingestion of potassium permanganate, refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking while working. Change your clothes after finishing handling the chemical, and wash your hands thoroughly before touching anything.

How to Dispose of Small Amounts of Potassium Permanganate

Small amounts of potassium permanganate are easier to dispose of since they don’t pose much of an environmental or safety risk. 

You can dispose of them at home or at your local household hazardous waste facility.

At Home

For disposing of small amounts of potassium permanganate at home, all you’ll need is a large amount of water, a container, and a drain or toilet.

Mix the potassium permanganate with a copious amount of water. Potassium permanganate is usually a dark purple color, but your solution should be a pale pink color.

The lighter pink the solution is, the better. This means that you have diluted the chemical and made it weaker.

Next, you can dump the solution down the drain or flush it down the toilet. If you dump it down the drain, flush it out by turning on the tap for some time. 

If you decide to dispose of the solution using a toilet, flush several times to get rid of any last trace of the chemical.

After you’ve disposed of the chemical, clean your sink or toilet to prevent any injuries as a result of leftover potassium permanganate.

At A Waste Treatment Facility

Disposing of small amounts of chemical waste is usually inexpensive, and even sometimes free. It’s also safer than disposing of chemical waste by yourself.

You’ll be able to dispose of small amounts of potassium permanganate at Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs), landfills, and other sites. 

These are usually owned by the government, and will most likely allow you to dispose of your chemicals for free.

However, it is always wise to check in with any center before you visit it. Look up your local landfill or POTW, then call them or check their website to find out their rules regarding civilian chemical waste disposal.

To dispose of your potassium permanganate, place it in a sealed container and label it in large, legible handwriting. 

If your pen or marker doesn’t work on the surface of your container, attach some masking tape to the front of the container and write on that. 

You can then dispose of the container at a waste treatment facility.

How to Dispose of Large Amounts of Potassium Permanganate

Larger amounts of potassium permanganate are more dangerous to the environment, so you won’t be able to dispose of them at home. 

Instead, you’ll have to take them to a designated waste disposal facility.

Larger amounts of potassium permanganate are usually in powdered form. You can store this powder in an airtight, labeled container, and deliver it to the waste treatment center for disposal.

While you can usually dispose of small amounts of chemical waste for free at government-owned treatment centers, there is typically a limit on how much waste you can dispose of in a month. 

In this case, you will probably have to pay to dispose of your potassium permanganate.

Research the waste treatment centers near you and make note of the prices they charge for waste disposal. You can then compare them and dispose of your potassium permanganate for the lowest cost.

Here’s a useful tip—government-owned waste treatment centers are usually less costly than private waste treatment centers. 

They might also allow you to dispose of some of your waste for free (up to the monthly quota), and then pay to dispose of the rest of it.

Lastly, if you want to save as much money as you can, you can dispose of the potassium permanganate periodically, for free, until you have no waste left. 

To do this, you’ll need to find out the household waste quota (if there is one) for your area, and then dispose of that amount of waste each time the period cycles through, usually monthly.

This last method is feasible if you only have two or three months’ worth of potassium permanganate. Storing high quantities of any hazardous chemical at home is not advised.

Final Thoughts

Potassium permanganate has a wide range of uses in a variety of different fields, from pet care and medicinal purposes to water treatment and filtering. 

It might be a hazardous chemical, but that doesn’t mean it is difficult to dispose of.

Now that you’re knowledgeable about this substance, the hazards that come with it, and how to handle it properly, disposing of this chemical will be a cinch.

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