Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

March, 2001

Disposal of Solvent-Laden Rags

Q. I am trying to find info on disposal of rags used for cleaning operations, i.e., wiping down tanks, cleaning tools. We manufacture nail enamel and use ethyl acetate to clean with. Am I allowed to dispose of these rags in the garbage or must they be diposed of as hazardous waste?

A. I referred your question to my friend and colleague Janice Baker a solvents consultant with Northtec, ( (218) 743-6600) who has responded as follows:

Almost all localities would require that those rags be disposed of as hazardous wastes. There are several reasons for this: Even if all of the solvent had evaporated, the soils picked up by the solvents and deposited on the rags may contain heavy metals or other haz mats. Secondly, they may pose a flammability hazard. Some companies have in house reclamation units that they put the rags into, to evaporate off and reclaim all the solvents, but you still should be able to prove that no other haz mats are present on the rags. In any case, rags used for paint clean up pose a flammability hazard on-site, and should be properly disposed of in small metal canisters with clamp type lids designed expressly for that purpose.

I hope this is of help to you.

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