How to Dispose of Oily Rags OSHA


Oily rags can quickly become combustible when they are discarded in trash cans or dumpsters. If the oily rags ignite inside the trash receptacle, nearby materials (such as other trash) will catch fire, creating a larger hazard for responding firefighters and building occupants. In this article, I will discuss how to dispose of oily rags OSHA. So let us get started.

OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is a branch of the United States Department of Labor, and it exists to ensure that American workers will “work in safe and healthful environments free from recognized hazards.”

The regulation of safety procedures in factories, worksites, and offices falls under the responsibility of this agency. Oily rags are any cloths or paper towels that have been saturated with mineral spirits, paint thinner, turpentine, lamp oil, or other solvents.

What Kinds of Buildings Generate Oily Rags? How Common Is This Problem?

Many industrial facilities release oily rags into their regular trash because there are no available options to discard them on-site safely. However, many shops also collect oily clothing separately from general laundry loads. These dirty clothes and rags may be disposed of in the garbage.

Industrial laundries that clean clothing for their customers can also generate significant quantities of oily rags.

Offices often have a receptacle into which excess paper, scrap toner cartridges, or other materials are placed to keep them out of landfills. This is also an opportunity to prevent oil spills from becoming pollution problems by properly disposing oily of rags.

Wherever they accumulate, oily rags are potential sources of hazardous chemical wastes created at some point during industry or business operations. Although they are not generally considered hazardous waste, oily rags consist primarily of aliphatic hydrocarbons-liquid chemicals containing carbon chains between 5-12 atoms long -which are likely to cause environmental damage if their residues are not properly disposed of.

How Much Oil Can One Rag Contain? 

Oily rags can vary from totally wet with used machine oils to those that appear dry but have absorbed significant quantities of solvents and other materials. The average rag contains between 0.5% and 5% oil by weight. The percentages may be higher for rags containing used engine oil or other highly viscous lubricants but less for oily rags containing spent cleaning fluids or paints. Although some fluid loss occurs due to evaporation over time, it is safe to assume that all oily rags contain some liquid hazardous material.

How Much Oil Can One Rag Contain 

If someone were to put their hand in an oily rag container, it would likely be contaminated with machine oil that may contain harmful additives such as zinc dithiophosphate. If the person then decided to eat their lunch immediately after this incident, they could potentially ingest some of these chemicals, which have been linked to reproductive damage and liver toxicity.

What Are the Potential Consequences of Not Disposing of Oily Rags Properly?

Not properly disposing of oily rags has several consequences. First, oily rags are fire hazards, so removing them from regulated areas can reduce the risk of a fire starting. Additionally, if the clothes are placed into ordinary trash bins, there is also potential for fires inside the landfill, as well as the risk that someone will handle them and become contaminated.

Once they are combined with general trash, it is difficult to determine the types of chemicals present in the rags. It is also possible for employees to mistakenly believe that these materials are a non-hazardous waste because they appear dry.

Finally, since oily rags can attract rodents and other pests, their disposal requires special safety precautions to avoid creating health hazards for workers who may come into contact with them during clean-up.

As a result of not properly disposing of oily rags, many people have already experienced injuries requiring medical attention. If you fall victim to one or more of these consequences, you should immediately consult an attorney specializing in labor to discuss your legal options.

How to Dispose of Oily Rags OSHA:

Step 1: Use Rags

Place rags used to clean greasy surfaces or metal into a container with a lid before discarding the rags.

Step 2: Use Empty Containers

Empty containers should be labeled with “oily waste” and later be sorted for recycling. You can also use transparent plastic shopping bags, which are thicker and more durable than paper bags. When filling, make sure to leave an inch or two of space at the top of the container for expansion and don’t overfill.

Step 3: Use Wipes

If you do not have an appropriate container, the oily wipes can also be soaked in kitty litter or placed in plastic bags and disposed of as normal trash (do not flush them down the toilet).

Step 4: Use Bag

The bag should then be tied up and taken to a local landfill for disposal.

Step 5: Use Absorbent Material

When disposing of small quantities of diesel oil, mineral spirits, paint thinner, or other organic solvents, use an absorbent material such as vermiculite, sand, sawdust, or shredded paper to soak up the liquid.

Step 6 : Use Normal Trash

The absorbent material should be placed into a container with a tight-fitting lid and disposed of as normal trash.

Step 7: Use Solvent

The used solvent may also be allowed to evaporate outdoors, away from ignition sources such as sparks or open flames. Keep in mind that some solvents are flammable.

Never dispose of unused or used solvent down the drain, as it can contaminate water sources. The solvent may damage plumbing. As well, the solvent can eventually evaporate leaving a sticky residue.

Step 8: Avoid Fire Hazards

Wastes soaked in solvents should never be incinerated since they may explode or catch fire during disposal. Using a solvent that burns in air, such as methylene chloride, may help to avoid fire hazards.

Step 9: Don’t Mix It With Other Materials

Keep oily rags separate from other solid waste. Don’t mix it with other materials like recyclables or yard trimmings; this will make it easier for recycling companies to process the rags appropriately at their local facilities.

Precautions While Disposing Oily Rags:

Precautions While Disposing Oily Rags

OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard require that employees who handle hazardous substances be trained in proper waste disposal, including procedures for rags that are soaked with oil. In addition, employers may not allow any employee to clean machinery or equipment unless the work area is:

Disposable rags contaminated with a hazardous chemical must be placed in a red bag before being thrown into regular trash containers. The use of cardboard boxes lined with plastic bags is highly recommended as an effective way to contain and dispose of wastes contaminated with hazardous chemicals. Containers for oily and other industrial wastes should be labeled as such and be properly marked to avoid inadvertent mixing during storage or transport.


It is important to know what hazardous chemicals are in the workplace and how they affect your health. Even if you don’t work with hazardous substances, handling chemical waste may expose you to these potentially harmful elements that should be handled carefully. You can easily avoid getting sick by following proper procedures for storing and disposing of hazardous wastes. I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how to dispose of oily rags OSHA. Thank you and have a nice day!

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