Safe handling of toxic household items

Last updated: 31 August 2022

Throwing chemicals items in your rubbish bin is dangerous. It can explode, ignite, leak or mix with other chemicals.

Pouring them down the drain will pollute the environment, harm animals and vegetation, contaminate our water supply and make rivers and beaches unsafe for swimming.

Follow these tips to safely buy, store, use and dispose of toxic items at home.

Buying chemicals

Being a smart consumer can help you manage the risk of harm and identify low-risk alternatives.

Make sure you understand what you are purchasing by finding out what you can from the retailer or manufacturer and checking the warnings on the label. Read the label carefully and ask someone if you don’t understand the information.

If there’s more than one product suitable for the job, choose the least dangerous product.

Handling and storing chemicals

Never mix chemicals during use or storage, as they may react.

Handling chemicals safely

Handle chemicals carefully and avoid direct contact. Wear gloves and protective clothing where possible.

Wash your hands after handling chemicals.

Store chemicals safely

Store chemicals out of reach of children and animals. If possible, store chemicals in a locked cupboard or storage unit.

Keep chemicals out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat, sparks, flames or ignition.

Do not store chemicals near food storage areas.

Check labels for correct storage advice. Some chemicals must not be stored together. For example, keep corrosive chemicals, such as battery acid, away from poisons.

If you can, keep liquid chemicals away from (or stored below) dry chemicals.

Keep oxidising agents, such as peroxide, away from all other materials.

Pool chemicals can be particularly dangerous when stored incorrectly. Two groups of swimming pool chemicals (oxidisers and corrosives) are highly reactive and need particular care.

Safe Work Australia has advice about storing pool chemicals.

Storage containers and labels

Keep chemicals in their original containers. Make sure they are tightly closed.

Label chemicals that are not in their original container. If you do not know what the chemical is, label it as 'unknown’. Never guess the chemical’s name.

Regularly check chemical containers are in good condition. If a container is damaged or leaking, place it within a larger, empty container with a tightly fitting lid and label outer container with contents.

Do not store chemicals in containers resembling food or drink packaging.

Some household products, such as detergents and soap powders may be repackaged safely into smaller containers if the original packaging is damaged or broken.

Disposing of chemicals

Never dispose of chemicals in your rubbish bin or drain. If you're unable to immediately dispose of household chemicals, make sure you safely store them until you can.

Many chemicals around the home can be safely disposed of at our free Detox Your Home events across Victoria. Registration is required.

View the items accepted at Detox Your Home.

Paint should be taken to your nearest Paintback collection site.

For any other items, check with your local council.

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