Safer Alternatives to Hazardous Products

Humboldt Bay is closer than you think!
We can help protect our health and the environment, and prevent hazardous waste from entering our creek, sloughs and Humboldt Bay by using safer alternatives to hazardous products.

What is hazardous waste?
Hazardous waste is defined as trash that is toxic, flammable, corrosive, reactive, infectious, or radioactive, and can pose a health hazard. 

Hazardous wastes threaten our livelihood

  • Each home is estimated to contain up to eight gallons of hazardous material, which can threaten family health and safety. These include paints, automotive products, pesticides, and many cleaning products. 
  • Conventional disposal poses a threat to sanitation workers, who can be injured or poisoned by acids, fires, and explosions.
  • Hazardous waste that reach out landfill can leach into soil and pollute water, threatening all living things. 
  • Substances poured into Arcata household drains and toilets go into the sewage treatment process, which is part of the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. 
  • Substances poured onto soil or streets or into storm drains, are carried through Arcata's streams and on into Humboldt Bay. As little as one pint of solvent has killed fish in Arcata's Jolly Giant Creek. 

Minimizing hazardous waste in the home

  • Consider using safer alternatives. 
  • Read labels before purchasing. Look for the words "Caution", "Warning", and "Danger". Follow label directions. 
  • Be certain the product is appropriate for what you want
  • Buy only what you need and will use up. 

When handling hazardous waste, remember to...

  • Keep containers upright, tightly closed, and with labels intact. 
  • Not mix substances or pour into other containers. 
  • Never burn or reuse empty containers. 
  • Always keep out of reach of children, pets, and wildlife.
HOUSEHOLD
SUBSTANCE
EFFECT
SAFER ALTERNATIVE
Aerosols
flammable, explosive
  • Use spray bottles
  • Avoid aerosols when possible
Air freshener
irritant
  • Remove source of odor
  • Open windows
  • Set out dish of lemon juice or baking soda
  • Boil cloves and cinnamon
Ammonia products
corrosive, poisonous
  • NEVER MIX WITH CHLORINE
  • Try using soda, vinegar, baking soda, or borax
Chlorine bleach
corrosive, poisonous
  • NEVER MIX WITH AMMONIA
  • Use dry bleach or borax
Disinfectant
flammable
  • 1/2 cup borax in 1 gal. hot water
  • Make tea of 2 cup fresh thyme leaves and 2 cups boiling water - steep, strain, cool and use in spray bottle
Drain opener
corrosive, poisonous
  • Use plunger or metal snake
  • Pour mix of 1/4 cup baking soda + 1/2 cup vinegar into drain, let stand 5 minutes, then flush with hot water
  • Use washing soda followed by 3 cups boiling water to keep drain free-flowing
Floor and furniture polish
flammable, poisonous
  • For wood, use olive oil + vinegar 3:1 OR olive oil + lemon juice 2:1
  • Rub wood with walnut to remove scratches
  • For linoleum, wash with 1 cup vinegar + 2 gallons warm water
Glass cleaner
irritant
  • Vinegar and water 1:1 or 2 tbsp lemon juice to 1 qt water
Household batteris
corrosive, poisonous
  • Buy solar powered devices
  • Use rechargeable batteries
  • Use AC adapter whenever possible
Mercury
poisonous
  • Digital thermometers
  • Electronic thermostats
  • Electronic switches
Moth balls
poisonous
  • Use sealable clothing bags
  • Use cedar chips or dried lavender
Oven cleaner
corrosive, poisonous
  • Sprinkle salt on warm oven and scrub
  • Scrub with baking soda
  • Mix 3 tbsp washing soda with 1 qt water - let stand on spill, then scrub
Rug & upholstery cleaner
flammable
  • Mix cornmeal and borax 2;1 - sprinkle on carpet and leave one hour, then vacuum
  • Use club soda on fresh stains
  • Use salt on red wine spills
Smoke detector
radioactive
  • Photo-electric smoke detector 
Spot remover cleaning fluid
flammable
  • Grease: apply paste of cornstarch or cornmeal; club soda
  • Ink: paste of cream of tartar + lemon juice - wait one hour - wash
Toilet bowl cleaner
corrosive, poisonous
  • Scrub with baking soda
  • Disinfect with 1/2 cup borax mixed with 1 gallon hot water
  • Tough stains: coat stains in toilet bowl with paste of lemon juice + borax - let stand about 20 minutes - scrub. 


AUTOMOTIVE
SUBSTANCE
EFFECT
SAFER ALTERNATIVE
Antifreeze
poisonous
None - ride a bike instead
Car batteries
corrosive
None - ride a bike instead
Diesel fuel
flammable
Switch to bio-diesel
Gasoline
flammable
None - ride a bike instead
Transmission & brake fluid
flammable
None - ride a bike instead
Used oil
flammable
None - ride a bike instead


OTHERS
SUBSTANCE
EFFECT
SAFER ALTERNATIVE
Latex paint
poisonous
  • Use water-based paint; look for non-toxic products
  • Use hot vinegar to clean old brushes
  • Buy smallest amount and use it up or share remainder
Oil-based paint varnishes & adhesives
flammable
  • Use water-based paint; look for non-toxic products
  • Use hot vinegar to clean old brushes
  • Buy smallest amount and use it up or share remainder
Pesticides
poisonous
  • Use organic alternatives
Photo chemicals
corrosive
  • switch to a digital camera
Solvents strippers
flammable, poisonous
  • To strip paint use a heat gun, paint scraper, or a sanding block with coarse sand paper
  • Use vinegar or soda pop to loosen rusted bolts
Pool & hot tub additives
corrosive, poisonous
  • None
Thinners
flammable
  • Use water based paints


SAFER SUBSTITUTES FOR SOME COMMON HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
PRODUCT
SAFER ALTERNATIVE
All purpose cleaners
  • Vinegar + salt + water
  • Club soda
  • Soap + washing soda
  • Baking soda + water
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar + water (for mold)
Cleanser
  • Bon Ami or baking soda
Detergent
  • Soap + washing soda
  • For stains: soak in borax + cold water
Silver cleaner
  • Use 3" water + 1 tsp salt in aluminum pan, boil silver pieces 2-3 minutes, rise and dry
Copper & brass cleaner
  • Rub with cloth soaked in either lemon juice, salt and vinegar solution, or water in which onions have been boiled
Pesticides
  • Ants: Remove attraction; seal point of entry with petroleum jelly; soak cotton balls in solution of sugar and borax, and place near ants but away from kids or pets. 
  • Aphids: Apply soapy water; use ladybugs.
  • Snails: Collect at night with flashlight; leave boards lying about for a daytime shelter and collect; use copper or diatomaceous earth (also prevents flea beetles).
  • Flies/yellow jackets: Fly paper or pheromone traps. 
Herbicides
  • Pull weeds
  • Use ground cover plants
Fertilizers
  • Use compost
  • Look for non-toxic products
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