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How to Safely Dispose of Engine Coolant: What You Need to Know!



Coolant, or antifreeze, is a necessary component of many machines, including cars and other vehicles. It mixes with water to maintain a healthy engine temperature, which is especially important in extreme environments and long drives. It makes the liquid water more stable – raising the boiling point and lowering the freezing point. This prevents the water from freezing or boiling, ensuring that it can perform its job in the engine.

While antifreeze is essential for our cars, it is sadly very toxic to humans and other animals. For this reason, you need to dispose of it properly. Not only can you get hit with hefty fines for disposing of it improperly, but you can also seriously hurt wild animals and passing people. Children are especially prone to antifreeze poisoning, as they are smaller and more likely to put stuff in their mouths. Animals can be attracted to the smell of antifreeze but will perish when they contact it.

If you have a car, you will likely be handling the antifreeze at some point. You will need to check your coolant levels at least twice a year, though those in more extreme climates may want to check it more. Even if you don’t notice a difference in your engine’s coolant levels, they still need to be changed regularly. Coolant breaks down over time and becomes acidic, which can cause corrosion in your car’s engine.

When it comes time to change the coolant in your car, keep reading to find out exactly what to do with it (and what not to do with it).

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Where Not to Pour Your Coolant

While you may be tempted to pour your antifreeze down the drain, this is not recommended in the least. Animals may have access to the location that your drain comes out. Antifreeze tastes sweet, so many animals are attracted to it.

Furthermore, most city’s pipes are not wholly maintained so that the antifreeze may leach out into the groundwater. This can cause harm to animals and people in the area. Antifreeze can cause birth defects, reproductive damage, and death.

The biggest problem with antifreeze is that it smells good and is sweet, which encourages animals to eat it. For this reason, you should avoid pouring it out on the ground.

If you do pour it on the ground, it is vital to clean it up. You should wear protective gear while you do so, including a mask and gloves. You should avoid touching the coolant directly. The spill should be cleaned up with an absorbent material, like baking soda or cat litter. Sand can be a useful option in a pinch. You should cover the material with paper towels and leave it there for about three hours.

Remove the absorbent material and place it in a bag. Wash the area with soap and water, preferably multiple times. Rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. It would help if you let the spot dry completely before using the area as usual.

pink antifreeze
Photo Credit: guruXOX, Shutterstock

How to Dispose of Coolant

There are no current EPA regulations involving the disposal of antifreeze. However, most people cannot dispose of it properly by themselves. Instead, you will need to take the antifreeze to a proper dumping location. This can be done in a few simple steps.

1. Find a Location Near You

The first step is to find a location that can handle the antifreeze appropriately. Service stations that deal with antifreeze changes will likely have the ability to do this. Locate a few in your area and give them a call.  Ask if they take used coolant and dispose of it. Some may charge a fee, but most do not.

2. Separate the Antifreeze into Different Containers

Antifreeze used for different things will require different disposal processes. Therefore, you should not just put all the antifreeze in a single bottle. Instead, separate each type of coolant if you’re collecting more than one. You should also label what it was used for, such as “private car.”

3. Consider Reusing Your Coolant

Specific service centers may have fancy machines that can remove the glycol from the old coolant. This makes it new again so that it can be reused. This is mostly available in larger cities, but it is becoming more widespread all the time. However, this process requires that it is pure antifreeze. Coolant that has come into contact with oil and other materials cannot be recycled.

4. Drop off the Coolant

After the bottles have been properly labeled, you can drop them off at your chosen disposal location. The exact details of this will depend on where you’re going, so be sure to ask when you’re calling around. You should be sure to hand the coolant directly to someone; don’t just leave it sitting somewhere. You don’t want someone to come into contact with it accidentally.

Featured Image Credit: Pawel Radomski, Shutterstock


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