Almost everyone who works in their garage has a pile of greasy, grimy, oily old rags in the corner.  But bad news: it’s a major fire hazard.  Piles of oily rags can spontaneously combust, turning your home into a fireball.

The good news is, there are easy ways to safely dispose of greasy garage rags.  Most communities have hazardous waste programs like STOP (Stop Throwing Out Pollutants) that will accept a variety of hazardous materials, including oily garage rags, at designated times of the year.

But what if your municipal government’s rag-disposal day is still months away?Alt=greasy garage ragsgreasygarageragsareadanger

For starters, don’t even think about trying to wash and reuse those rags.  If you’re green-minded, you may be tempted to recycle them ‘til they fall apart, but you’re actually not doing the environment any favors by letting those chemicals get into the wastewater supply.  Furthermore, any petroleum lingering in those rags will each into your washing machine and stink up any laundry you try to do afterward.  And tossing a rag with flammable substances on it into the clothes dryer is extremely dangerous. 

Secondly, resist the urge to just toss those dirty rags in the trash.  That can be dangerous too, and it’s been known to set off fires in landfills. 

Instead, designate a large lidded container in your garage for holding rags until your community rag collection day.  Fill your container halfway with water and add a cup or two of laundry detergent, then mix it up.  Drown your oily rags in there and let them sit until you can dispose of them safely.  Keep the lid closed.  By storing  your oily garage rags soaking in a vat of detergent, you’ll prevent rag fires and minimize odors.  And that detergent solution will even work towards disintegrating all that grease and oil.  

Take a moment this weekend to look up your local government’s hazardous waste disposal program.  And when you can’t dispose of those greasy garage rags right away, give them a bath in a designated bucket of suds.