How to Dispose of Motor Oil Safely How to Dispose of Motor Oil Safely

There is something very satisfying about doing your own oil change until you wonder how to dispose of motor oil.  Changing the oil in your vehicle may be a great weekend DIY job to undertake, and it also saves you money. However, it does leave you with an oily problem to clean up.

Something frequently overlooked after a successful oil change is the safe disposal of the old oil. The oil change seemed like a good idea at the time, but we seldom give a thought to the by-product of our hard work. Consequently, we end up in a position where we need to find out how to dispose of motor oil.

How to Dispose of Motor Oil

After an oil change, you may find yourself wondering how to dispose of motor oil. Make sure you capture the oil correctly and use appropriate screw tight containers in which to store it. Additionally, you may wish to find stores that accept oil for recycling purposes.

It is worth finding out if your area provides a curbside recycling program when researching how to dispose of motor oil. Failing that, you may take the containers to a recycling center.

Oil Change
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Why Dispose of Motor Oil Safely?

The resultant waste from an oil change is a hazardous and toxic by-product that may cause significant damage to the environment and wildlife. Motor oil remains one of the most common causes of pollution in the USA. It is estimated that Americans spill 180 million gallons of used oil per year into our environment.

A mix of toxic ingredients

The oil you remove from your vehicle when performing an oil change contains numerous toxic substances. Furthermore, such toxins may prove carcinogenic in nature. Similarly, tiny particles of metal from the filter and engine remain suspended in the oil and cause further pollution to the environment and waterways.

The oil is heated up in the engine, which changes its chemical composition. Consequently, the oil becomes heavy and sticky and contains several poisonous ingredients. The resultant pollutant may continue to build up and contaminate the environment for many years.

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A sticky mess

If you have ever had to deal with spent motor oil, you understand how sticky it is. It will attach itself to virtually anything, including water. When you consider how to dispose of motor oil, pouring it down the drain remains one of the worst things you can do. The oil will contaminate the water and will harm animals and plant life alike.

One gallon of oil has the potential to pollute up to one million gallons of water.

Your responsibility

When you wonder how to dispose of motor oil, you must remember that it is illegal to dispose of it incorrectly. Consequently, you may face a fine, jail time and find yourself responsible for the cost of the cleanup. Therefore, it remains essential that you dispose of used motor oil correctly and safely.

How to Dispose of Motor Oil Safely

We have a responsibility to safely dispose of motor oil to negate the negative consequences of illegal and careless dumping.  There exist several ways we may dispose of motor oil safely and protect the environment.

Recycling Cans
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One way to safely solve the problem is to take your spent motor oil to a recycling center. Recycled motor oil is refined and redistributed indefinitely. Two and a half quarts of new motor oil requires some 42 gallons of crude oil to produce. However, a gallon of used motor oil, recycled, may make the same amount of fresh motor oil. Consequently, the recycling process proves one of the best ways to dispose of motor oil and remains environmentally friendly.

Capture your oil

When you perform an oil change, you must capture the spent oil correctly by placing a tarp over your work area. It would help if you positioned a container underneath the engine to capture the oil as it drains.

Try to use a drip pan with a spout as this will make it easier for you to decant the spent oil into safe, screw-top containers.

Include the filter

The filter contains a large amount of oil, so puncture it and hold it above your drain pan to remove as much spent oil from the filter as possible. Furthermore, you may take your filter for recycling any residual oil as well as the metal.

Once the oil drains from the filter, seal the filter in a thick plastic bag ready for transportation.

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Safe transportation of spent oil

With the oil change complete, and the oil successfully captured in your drip pan, you need to consider the storage and transportation of the waste.

If you use a drip pan with a spout, it remains a relatively simple procedure to decant the spent oil into screw-top containers. However, choosing the correct type of containers remains essential.

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Random containers you find around the house, such as empty milk and juice cartons, will not suffice. The oil will eat through the containers and most likely spill over. The containers must prove robust, safe, and include a screw-on top to keep the liquid contained.

If you have the old container form your original purchase of the oil, this is ideal for us for decanting the spent oil. However, any container made from polyethylene or sturdy plastic may prove suited to the job. As long as it has a tightly screwing lid, a thick plastic container will allow you to transport the waste safely.

Some oil pans come with a lid that you may seal closed. Therefore, this type of drip pan may prove very useful.

Oil Containers
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An Important Note About Recycling

It is worth noting that oil contaminated with any other fluid is not suitable for recycling. Therefore, you must ensure your chosen vessel is clean and dry and remains free of any other contaminants, including water and gasoline.

Storing Spent Oil

When you consider how to dispose of motor oil, you may find yourself unable to visit a recycling center immediately. Once you have decanted the oil into safe storage vessels, keep the containers in a cool place away from direct heat or flame. That way, the containers may remain safe and undisturbed until you visit a recycling center or arrange for a curbside collection.

Dispose of the Oil

Every state has its own rules and regulations for the safe disposal of motor oil. Therefore, check with the authorities before you take action.

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Curbside collection

Many areas provide a curbside collection for waste oil. As long as you have contained the oil in the appropriate containers, you may arrange for curbside collection. This method offers a safe and convenient solution when you consider how to dispose of motor oil.

Recycling center

If curbside collection is not an option, you may find many recycling centers where you may drop off the spent oil.

Remember that many stores and even local mechanics may accept used oil for recycling.

Follow Instructions

In most cases, it is not necessary to perform an oil filter change more than once or twice a year. Check with your vehicle manufacturer for advice on oil changes. If in doubt, then consult a mechanic.


Always make sure you use a suitable, good quality product for your oil change. Quality motor oil will protect your engine and perform to a much higher grade, making regular oil changes unnecessary. Always consult your vehicle instructions and ensure you use a product fir for the purpose.

If in doubt

If in doubt, take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic to perform the oil change. Furthermore, the mechanic will safely collect, contain, and dispose of the oil for you.

Classic Cars
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How to Dispose of Motor Oil Explored

Changing the filter and performing an oil change is a satisfying job to perform on the weekend. The chance to save money may seem irresistible. However, you must ensure you follow safety precautions and complete the job to the letter of the law.

The careless and illegal disposal of motor oil may prove harmful to the environment. Furthermore, you may face a hefty fine or jail time if you dispose of the motor oil incorrectly.

Use a tarp to protect the area and a drip pan with a spout to capture the oil. Decant the oil into appropriate containers that have screw-on lids. If storing the oil temporarily, place in a dry, cool area away from direct heat and flames.

You may take your spent oil to a recycling center. Additionally, some stores and mechanics will take the oil off your hands for safe disposal. Alternatively, you may arrange for curbside collection of the containers.

Disposing of your motor oil safely is a responsible action and applies to every individual when undertaking an oil change.

Do you have experience with oil changes? Why not share your knowledge with us in the space below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Featured Image by Jacob Campbell on Unsplash

Sean Kerr lives in Cardiff, Wales, and is a published author with over 10 novels to his name so far and still counting. As well as writing his next bestseller, Sean also runs a successful Jewelry making business and sells his creations online. You can find more of Sean’s helpful automotive advice at SpeedFinal.

Last update on 2021-05-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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