Spring and summer are both popular times for folks to work on home improvement projects. And while most professional/industrial operations are well-versed in how to safely dispose of "solvent soaked" rags, the ordinary homeowner may not know what to do with them.
I speak from experience, because 2 years ago this month, I was working on such a project.
I decided, not with any wisdom mind you, to redecorate my daughters' bedroom. Aside from clearing it out, that meant repainting the walls, and also the dressers and cabinets I was going to use for storage.
As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of paint that went into the process, and I, in turn, created quite a few paint-soaked rags (especially from the cabinets as I had used oil paint and spray paint on those.)
Did you know oil paint and spray paint are combustible? That means if you use a rag or paper towel to clean up excess paint, you need to be careful how you dispose of these items.
Thanks to the folks at work behind the paint counter, I was aware of the dangers those types of paints and stains posed.
But another great resource for information like that is a local fire department.
The Orono Fire Department, for instance, just put out a safety tip this week on their Facebook Page, that deals the disposal of combustible items like that.
"Oil-soaked rags are a spontaneous combustion hazard because as the oil oxidizes, heat is released. If the heat is not dissipated, it can build up and ignite the rags."
You read that right: if you make a mistake and just toss that combustible rag into a bag, there's a chance it could result in a fire. And after all the work you just put into your project, to have it go up in flames because of something entirely preventable, would be terrible.
The Orono Fire Department is hoping that by sharing a few simple tips, you could save everyone from a headache in the long run.
1.) Put the combustible rags in an empty, metal container, the same way you'd put ashes in an ash bucket. And make sure the container has a lid.
2.) Fill that metal container with water, enough to cover the rags.
3.) Keep the lid on that thing.
4.) Take to a proper hazardous waste facility to dispose of it.
And whatever you do, the Orono Fire Department advises against trying to dispose of these rage or liquids by tossing them in the garbage, or worse, down the drain.
"Please make sure 'not' to dump solvents or paint or anything else like this down your drain or sewer."
I'm happy to report, that there were no issues with my home improvement project and the room didn't come out half bad, if I do say so myself. The best thing about the experience is that I didn't make a dangerous mistake, and was informed enough to dispose of those things the right way.
In this case, everybody won. Especially my kids!
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