Changing the oil regularly is important to the health of your vehicle, but you may not know there is a right and wrong way to dispose of the used oil after you've changed it.
Pouring it down the drain or just letting it run into the street are the wrong ways to dispose of the liquid. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it is wasteful as well. Oil contains harmful contaminants including lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic that are dangerous. A single gallon of used oil is enough to pollute one million gallons of water, according to the California Department of Resources.
While the motor oil that's been running through your car for the past few months is now dirty, it can actually be cleaned and reused in many cases. Processing plants can clean used oil and repurpose it for fuel. However, if your oil has been contaminated by any other fluids - water, antifreeze or gasoline, for example - it cannot be reused. In this case, you may need to do a bit of research to find a place that will properly dispose of the oil.
When you bring your car to a professional for an oil change, they will handle the disposal for you, but if you prefer to change the oil at home, there are a few things you should know before you begin. First, you will need to have an oil drain pan to catch the liquid when you remove it from the car. You may be able to find a pan that comes with a lid for easy transportation, but you can also use empty jugs. A car typically holds a few quarts of oil, so make sure you have enough containers to store the liquid. You will also want to get a funnel to make transferring the oil easier.
Make sure the liquid is cool before you pour it into the storage containers, so you don't accidentally melt the plastic bottles and wind up with a major mess. Once you have successfully transferred all the used oil, make sure each container is sealed tightly and load them up in your car. As an added precaution, it can be a good idea to put some sort of protective barrier between the car and the bottles just in case. A cardboard box lined with plastic or newspaper should do the trick.
There are typically multiple options when it comes to disposal locations. Some auto parts stores accept used oil, but if they do not, the employees may be able to point you in the right direction. Gas stations and auto repair shops may take your car fluids, but they might charge a fee for the service. You can also contact your town's or state's department of resources to get more information about recycling your used car oil. Some towns' recycling services may include used oil, as long as it is properly packaged, and all you'll need to do is leave it on the curb next to your recycling bin.
Whether you can leave the oil on your curb or you have to bring it to a drop off center, the most important thing is to handle the fluid with care. Wear gloves when dealing with motor oil, even if it is in sealed containers just in case. While the liquid is not corrosive, all the nasty elements found in used oil can be dangerous for your health. If you do get any on your skin, make sure to wash the area right away.