How to Dispose of Coolant?

It is important to dispose of hazardous waste responsibly. You should never throw toxic waste in your house trash, pour it down the drain, or dump it in your backyard.

Instead, you should conduct thorough research to find out the best way of disposing of toxic fluid and waste.

Car coolant is also hazardous waste that needs proper disposal. It protects the engine and radiator from corrosion and rust.

Due to its many benefits, people tend to forget that this chemical is very dangerous, however, disposing of coolant the wrong way contaminates the environment and poses many health hazards.

Therefore, disposing of coolant properly does not only save you a fine but it also makes you environmentally responsible.

Automobile manufacturers recommend changing the coolant every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. The guidelines might differ for different car models.

You should have the knowledge of your engine as well as the local hazardous waste laws to ensure that you dispose of coolant in the right way.

Read through the article to learn the safest way to check and dispose of your car’s coolant.

What is the Coolant?

Car coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water. It is generally a half-and-half split of these two components. Antifreeze is the main component and it is also known as radiator fluid. It lowers the freezing point of the liquid that circulates around the engine.

After some time, the coolant becomes excessively acidic and can cause engine overheating and damage. New models of cars have a lasting cooling agent of a 50-50 water and antifreeze ratio. Pouring water to cool the radiator can dilute antifreeze levels.

The main component of antifreeze is usually ethylene glycol. This makes antifreeze a lubricant and anti-corrosive agent.

However, due to this toxic chemical, you cannot pour the coolant down the drain or throw it with house trash. Some coolant brands might say non-toxic but you should still take precautions.

How to Dispose of Coolant Properly

Here’s what you should do to dispose of coolant properly:

Check Coolant Levels and Quality

When it comes to disposing of coolant, the first step is to check its level and quality. Park your car on a leveled surface and wait for the engine to cool down.

Unscrew the radiator cap and look inside to check if the fluid reaches the top of the radiator. Even if the level is at full mark, check the coolant to see if you need to change it.

The fluid can be transparent, red, blue, green, or orange. Regardless of the color of your coolant, it should appear bright and clear.

You can also use a coolant tester to check the quality of the coolant. Dip the hose into the fluid in the radiator and squeeze the bulb to draw in some liquid.

Read the gauge which tells you the lowest temperature that the antifreeze can stabilize. Read the instructions of the coolant tester to interpret the results.

You should also check if there is an oily film on the surface of the coolant. An oily film on the surface means there is a problem with the head gasket.

Take your car to a mechanic for fixing immediately if you notice any such film. You should not ignore this as even a small amount of oil or gas can damage the antifreeze. I

f you notice cloudiness, a strong smell, or particles in the fluid, it is time to change the coolant.

Drain the Radiator of Coolant

You need to take special precautions for safety in this step. Before draining your radiator, use safety equipment like goggles, gloves, and a mask.

Other important safety tips are to park the car on a level surface and let the engine cool down. Finally, disconnect the battery to prevent any electrical damage.

After taking the safety precautions, place a drain pan under the drain valve. Open the valve with the help of pliers and drain the coolant into the pan.

Tighten the valve again and pour the old coolant into a sealable plastic container.

Contact the car dealership or manufacturer to ask how much coolant you will need for replacement. Also, inquire about the proportion of water and antifreeze for the radiator of your car.

Add Coolant in the Radiator

Once you have drained out all the coolant, you will need to add the new mixture in your radiator. Before adding coolant in your radiator, ensure that the engine is cool.

The radiator cap should not be hot to the touch. Unscrew the radiator cap and pour a new mixture to the top mark of the radiator. Secure the radiator cap back on.

Find a Recycling and Hazardous Waste Center

You can find the recycling and disposal centers for coolant on your state’s Department of Waste Management website.

A simple Google search can also give you some options in your area. Find a convenient disposal site and contact them to find out the right procedure.

They will guide you on how to contain old antifreeze. If the coolant has oil or gas, it is contaminated and the facility cannot recycle it. In this case, search the website for disposal options for hazardous waste.

The local recycling center, your mechanic, and auto parts shops can also help you with the disposal of coolant.

You can also visit the website Earth 911, type antifreeze, and your zip code to find a recycling facility near your location.

Authorized landfills also accept used antifreeze but it should not be contaminated. You can call them to ask if they have a tank for used coolant for disposal.

Transport the Sealed Bottles of Used Coolant Safely

The next step is to transport the sealed containers of coolant to a disposal facility. Label the container with the date you replaced the coolant.

Also, write the brand or chemical content of the antifreeze if you know it. Place the container in the trunk or on the floor of the back seat. If necessary, secure the container in place with the help of a cable.

If your coolant is contaminated, write down the chemicals you added to the coolant in the past. This is to notify the facility about the quality of the coolant.

This is important because facilities recycle only pure antifreeze and they send coolant with traces of gas or oil to hazardous waste centers for disposal.

How to Clean Coolant Spills

You might still spill some coolant on the floor even if you are very careful. Even if it is only a small leakage, it is important to clean all spilled coolant immediately.

Here’s how you can do it.

First, ventilate the area sufficiently and wear safety gloves and mask. This is to prevent coming in direct contact with toxic coolant. Now, use an absorbent material like sand or baking soda to soak up as much liquid as possible.

The next step is to cover it with paper towels and leave it for one to two hours. Then, use more paper towels to collect the absorbent material with the coolant.

Put all this waste into a plastic garbage bag. You can throw this waste in your house trash if you are sure it is not accessible to children or animals.

The last step is to clean the stain on the floor. Use liquid soap or cleaning detergent and scrub with a sponge or scouring pad. Rinse the surface with water and use a towel or dryer to dry the surface.

Do Not Pour the Used Coolant Down the Drain

Draining used coolant down the drain is a bad idea. Animals might still find it where the fluid flows through a storm drain.

As coolant smells and tastes sweet, there is always a risk that they might drink it. You should not put the coolant in a septic tank either due to its health hazards.

The main component of antifreeze is glycol which can be toxic for both humans and animals. Coolants have any of the following two types of antifreeze:

Ethylene Glycol Antifreeze

The most common glycol in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. It is a toxic component that can cause birth defects, reproductive problems, or even death.

You should handle coolant that contains ethylene glycol very carefully. Children and animals might get attracted due to the sweet smell and taste.

Propylene Glycol Antifreeze

Propylene glycol is less toxic than ethylene glycol but ingestion in large amounts is still hazardous.

Ingesting small amounts might not be fatal but we still recommend safe handling. Keep it out of reach of children and pets.


Regular checks can help you determine the level and quality of the coolant in the radiator. Usually, car manufacturers recommend changing the coolant after every 2-3 years.

If your car goes without a change more than that time, it might damage your engine. Check the color of the coolant to determine its quality.

A clear, bright, and slightly thick coolant does not need changing. There should not be any particles floating in the liquid or an oily film on the surface.

Follow the steps detailed above for safe disposal of coolant every time. With this guide, not only will your engine remain functional, but it will also help you in keeping the environment safe.

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