Find out why you should buy only what you know you'll use when it comes to hazardous household products. Get tips on using homemade cleaning products and contacting local authorities for instructions on disposing of different substances in your area.
LESLIE: Well, you might be tempted to toss old paint, chemicals or even your old VCR or computer tower in the trash. But HHPs, or Hazardous Household Products, they do need to be disposed of properly.
TOM: That’s right. Tossing products that contain components that are flammable, explosive, corrosive or toxic impacts both our health and pollutes the land, water and air. But it’s not hard to clean up your act when it comes to clean-ups like these. Here to tell us how to get rid of HHPs safely is Kevin O’Connor , the host of This Old House .
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Always great to be here.
TOM: So, what’s the first rule of thumb when it comes to getting rid of your hazardous household products?
KEVIN: Well, actually, I think it’s just buy what you need.
TOM: Yeah, don’t have them, right?
KEVIN: Right. Well, I mean – or don’t have too many. A case of oven cleaner might be a great deal from the big-box store but are you really going to use it all before it expires? Chemical cleaners, also, they have a limited shelf life. So, you might want to take that into consideration, because you could be wasting your money, as well as storing chemicals that you don’t really need.
And if you happen to fall victim to one of these amazing deals and you got a little carried away and now you’ve got a pallet of paint or something like that, well, you can give away what you don’t use, right? So think about your church or a charity that might take the leftovers. We, on the show, have actually taken it back to places that resell it.
And Craigslist. There’s a great spot, right? Go to Craigslist and it’s a great way to find local folks who are interested in your stuff, whether it’s the paint or fertilizers or whatever. And many times, they’ll even pick it up and take it off your hands.
TOM: I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but Habitat for Humanity  actually has Habitat stores where people will take extra lumber and things like that. And they’ll sell it if they can’t use it in their project and then helps fund their work. So, there’s lots of great ways to recycle what you don’t need and put it to good use.
KEVIN: And believe it or not, we’ve been in these operations where they’re taking your old paint cans, whether they’re full or even half-full, and they are re-canning them, making new colors. And they’re testing them and cleaning them and making sure that they’re good to go. So it’s not a bad alternative.
LESLIE: Really? Regardless of freeze-and-thaw cycles when you’ve always thought, “Ugh, if that paint’s been frozen, it’s kind of done”?
KEVIN: They’re inspecting the paint to make sure it’s of quality but a lot of this stuff is. A lot of people think they’re going to use it again and actually take care of it and just never get around to it.
TOM: Now, what if you want to avoid using those hazardous products? There’s a lot to be said for sort of the natural alternatives : the vinegar, the baking soda. I always consider the fact that before we had all of these chemical cleaners, our grandparents and forefathers that came before us, they used products like that to keep their houses clean.
LESLIE: Yes. But your grandma cleaned the floor like 50 times a day.
KEVIN: My grandmother was Irish, so she was used to it.
No. But seriously, I think you’re right. Think about what you did with vinegar. It seemed like vinegar was the – or club soda, right?
LESLIE: Those were your two go-tos for everything.
KEVIN: We had seven kids in the family, so these carpets got beat up and club soda seemed to take it out. So it is a good point: there are alternatives out there and it’s easy to grab the chemical off the shelf but maybe there’s something else you can use.
LESLIE: Another point is – where we live, we have something called the S.T.O.P Program – S-T-O-P – which stands for Stop Throwing Out Pollutants. And in our town, it’s once a month. They pick a local municipal parking lot. You put everything that you want to get rid of in the trunk of your car. You pull up, they open your trunk for you, they take all of it out. There’s people in hazmat suits sorting and properly disposing.
And they take everything from e-cycling items to paints to tires to that random jar that that dude in the car in front of me always has that I’m like, “What is that?” But it’s a great point to say that you should be recycling and properly disposing of everything. And your town, your city, your municipality really does make it easy for you if you pick up the phone and ask the question or look online.
KEVIN: I think you’re exactly right. And just to sort of amplify that, there are places where you can dispose of these things that are convenient and easy but also legally. Because it is illegal to actually dump a lot of these things in, say, a commercial dumpster behind your supermarket (inaudible at 0:26:01). So you don’t want to be the guy that’s actually breaking the law because you’re too lazy to dispose of it properly.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor. He’s the host of TV’s This Old House.
Kevin, what about the big stuff: the electronics, like the computers, the TVs. Any tips for those?
KEVIN: Well, believe it or not, if you gather everything up and you visit your local, say, Best Buy or Office Depot, a lot of those retailers recycle these old electronics  for you. And for smaller products – like an iPhone, for example – you can check with the manufacturer for recycling programs. And sometimes, Apple lets you trade in your old iPhone and they give you a gift card to purchase new stuff.
TOM: Yeah, what a deal.
LESLIE: You guys are so Apple-biased. The AT&T store did the same with my Blackberry.
KEVIN: “My Blackberry.”
LESLIE: See? I still have a Blackberry and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
TOM: Well, the point is that there are a lot of retailers and a lot of manufacturers that will actually – part of their green program is to help you give your stuff back to them and they’ll make it worth your while to do that.
LESLIE: Which was funny because in upgrading my phone, my son so desperately wanted my old Blackberry. He kept being like, “When you get a new one, I can have this, I can have this,” just for fun as pretend play. And I was totally for it until the lady was like, “And I can give you a $57 gift card.” I was like, “Sorry, Henry.” I was like, “That’s $57.”
TOM: Go on. That was the price.
KEVIN: Here’s a piece of cardboard; play with this.
LESLIE: I think I gave him a picture of an iPhone. I was like, “Here you go.”
TOM: There you go.
KEVIN: There you go.
TOM: Alright. Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit and helping us clean up our act.
KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.