Every homeowner will tell you that there’s much you can accomplish with a bottle of acetone by your side. Dissolving plastics, cleaning paint stains, removing nail polish, degreasing surfaces, and so much more. In other words, acetone is simply a must-have chemical for every home.
So yes, you just finished using acetone. It did the work perfectly. In fact, no other product could have done a better job. You are happy with the results. It’s now time to clean things up. But one thing is standing in your way – you don’t know how to dispose of acetone.
Well, you aren’t alone. And yes, as you might have thought earlier, acetone disposal isn’t like that of any other chemical you use at home. Just read to get some nuggets of information on how to go about it – SAFELY!
What is Acetone, Anyway?
Before we dig deep into finding the correct way to dispose of acetone, it’s best to ensure that we all are in the same school of thought. To do that, let’s begin by answering the most basic question;
What is acetone?
Well, acetone, also known as Propanone, is a colorless liquid often used as a solvent in industrial and domestic use.
Of course, the name acetone or Propanone may not ring a bell to you. However, nail polish remover should. Yes! Just in case you didn’t know, acetone basically is the nail polish remover you perhaps have been using for years.
And when we say that acetone (or nail polish remover if you like) is a solvent, we mean that it’s a product whose primary work is to dissolve substances. As such, it’s a popular ingredient among hair and skincare products, fragrance products, and skin-lightening substances.
Generally, there are lots of areas where acetone is a pure delight. But again, that doesn’t mean everything about it is a plus point. Like any other chemical, acetone has a dark side, too, and that’s why you have to dispose of it the right way.
How Dangerous is Acetone?
Although popular in homes and industries, acetone is one of the most dangerous substances to have in your home. But if you are good at following precautions, you can harness all the benefits of acetone without facing its other side.
So, what are some of these dangers?
Well, to start off, acetone is highly flammable. That’s because this substance is a gaseous hydrocarbon. In a more straightforward explanation, the inter-molecular bonds and bonds between the atoms of acetone are weak. What that means is they readily break with exposure to heat – and that’s what makes it highly flammable.
In addition, nail polish remover can cause some irritation. When inhaled in moderate to high amounts, Propanone fumes affect the eyes, nose, lungs, and throat. But at minimal levels, it won’t cause adverse effects on either of these organs.
In the case of swallowing, nail polish remover can damage the lining in the mouth just as much as it would affect the skin. For large volumes of ingestion, passing out becomes likely. But other than that, acetone can also affect kidneys, nerves, and the liver. In women, acetone may bring about a shorter menstrual cycle.
With all these effects and others not mentioned, acetone isn’t a product you will want to handle anyhow. You have to be extra careful when dealing with this substance, whether when using it or after.
Luckily, we have several ways you can safely dispose of acetone. But not many people know how they can go about it. The vast majority opt for pouring it down the drain.
But is that the right thing to do?
Let’s find out!
Can Acetone Go Down The Drain?
Unfortunately, acetone shouldn’t go down the drain – and for a good reason. Of course, it’s a strong solvent and would do the unclogging work perfectly. But again, the very reason it would dissolve a clog is the same reason you should avoid pouring it down your drain.
Let me explain…
You see, as much as acetone is aggressive in dissolving clogs, it doesn’t get any gentle when it comes into contact with plastics and other synthetics. When it encounters either of these materials, acetone will discolor and sometimes even melt them.
In other words, poured down the drain, acetone would leave irreparable damage to your pipes. And when that happens, it comes with a cost.
For instance, you have to acquire new pipes. You also have to spend a bundle on a professional plumber to correct the mess.
Personally, I would never choose that route for my drain. Not even in a thousand years. I bet the same applies to you and everyone else, too. As such, always ensure that you don’t pour acetone down your drain.
Can You Reuse Acetone?
One way to get the most out of anything is reusing it. But that doesn’t apply to all products. We have some substances that you can’t use the second time once they’ve performed their initial duty.
But does that apply to acetone?
Now, if you just used acetone for one task and are wondering if you can use it somewhere else, there’s no straight answer to that. In other words, whether or not you can reuse acetone depends.
Nail polish remover chemical can be reusable but only in some situations. So yes, provided that the initial use supports reuse, then you can proceed and use the substance for another task.
For instance, if you used acetone for cleaning coins, you can go ahead and use it for some other task like removing paint. However, if you initially used it for applications like removing nail polish, there’s no way you can put the same acetone into another use.
But again, if you have to reuse acetone, there are conditions. Ensure that you find out to remove any dirt in the chemical. That means if you initially had dipped your old coins into the chemical, you’ll first have to remove all the grime before using it somewhere else.
Is Acetone Soluble in Water?
Yes, acetone is soluble in water. The chemical formula for this organic solvent is C3H6O. More elaborately, acetone (or Propanone) has C-C bonds, C-H bonds, and a C=O bond. Here is what an acetone molecule looks like;
From this structure, you can see that acetone molecules have a polar carbonyl group. That means it can work with hydrogen molecules from other compounds. Hence, when dissolved in water, these polar bond forms hydrogen bonds with water dipoles. That’s what makes it soluble in water.
The nonpolar bonds (C-C, C-H) in acetone keep it from forming hydrogen bonds with other like molecules, that is acetone molecules. Nonetheless, acetone is soluble in oil and will dissolve in it just as it does in water.
3 Safe Ways To Dispose of Acetone
With everything we’ve said about acetone, you should now have a better understanding of it. But in case you don’t remember everything we’ve covered, make sure you don’t forget that this acetone can be dangerous. That’s why you should handle and dispose of it with care.
So, what is the safest way for disposal? Below are some of the safest ways to go about it;
1. Use a Garbage Bag
If you just used a small amount of acetone, either soaked in cotton balls or swabs, it’s okay to stash these products in a small garbage bag. It shouldn’t be the same one you use for the regular trash.
Now, once you put all acetone cleaning products in a separate bag, tie it securely, and throw it in the rest of the trash. That should be fine most of the time. However, if you have one of the curious pets or young ones, don’t put the bag in the rest of the trash. Instead, throw it away separately.
Where the cotton balls (or swabs) are saturated, leave them out for some time to dry before you put them in the bag. The good thing is that acetone is a volatile substance, so it doesn’t take much time to dry out.
Alternatively, you can wring them out to remove any excess acetone. Use a separate container with a secure lid for the acetone. Then, drop the container into a recycling center as the rest of the swabs and cotton balls go into a separate garbage bag inside your trash.
2. Use Hazardous Waste Facilities
Unlike tiny amounts of acetone, there’s no way you can put acetone with the rest of your trash. In large quantities, this clear flammable liquid can be dangerous. For that reason, we recommend stricter disposal methods.
In this case, ensure that you put all the acetone in a container with a tight seal. That will keep the substance from evaporating and potentially encountering other flammable elements. Keep in mind that acetone fumes are also highly flammable.
Once you have everything put in a sealed container, you can drop it at a hazardous waste treatment, storage, disposal, or recycling facility (TSDR). If you don’t know of one facility near you, you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website to help you locate one.
3. Contact With TSDR
Perhaps you don’t have the time to take the container to a hazardous waste facility. Don’t worry – it’s still possible to safely get rid of your acetone without sacrificing your time. In this case, you can think of contacting a TSDR (Treat, Store, Dispose of, Recycle) facility near you.
After you strike a deal with TSDR, they’ll send someone from time to time as agreed to come and pick up the container from your place of work. Only ensure that you keep the container away from any hot surface or combustible item as you wait for someone to pick it up.
Now, you can use either of these three methods depending on what’s more convenient for you. And just to warn you again, don’t fall into the common trap of pouring your acetone into a drain.
Also, when handling acetone, always make use of protective clothing. A pair of gloves and a face mask come in handy. The gloves are to prevent skin contact. As for the latter, it will keep you safe from inhaling the fumes.
Acetone is a dangerous solvent that requires careful handling and disposal. When working with it, it’s advisable to equip oneself with protective gear. That’s to stay safe from the health effects acetone can cause.
As for disposal, there are a couple of options. It depends on the quantity of acetone. Sometimes one’s availability can also be a determinant. But no matter the way one chooses, following precautions is necessary.