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P2 House - Garage/Laundry

Pollution Prevention (P2) House


Revised On: April 30, 2024 - 8:20 a.m.


Hazardous materials commonly found in garages include used oil, paints, antifreeze, brake fluids, insect repellants, and pesticides. When storing hazardous materials in your garage, take the proper precautions to ensure safety. Handle the chemicals carefully and follow all recommended safety guidelines. Be sure to read each label carefully, research chemical interactions, and take note of clean-up instructions. One of the most important things you can do is keep the material in a secure area that's out of reach of children and pets. By taking these small precautionary steps, you can help reduce waste and protect yourself and your family from potential hazards.

Vehicle Maintenance

Changing oil, refilling fluids, changing tires, and washing, detailing, or waxing your vehicle generates waste that requires proper handling to ensure a clean and safe environment. To reduce potential environmental harm, safely contain waste and take it to your local Household Hazardous Waste Collection center. Many of these centers offer annual pick-up and drop-off events. There are several Maricopa Transfer Stations available for hazardous waste drop-off year-round | Learn More >

Check with your neighborhood community forum to see if sharing vehicle maintenance materials is plausible.

  • Avoid disposing of chemicals down garage drains, home sinks, or toilets. 
  • Safely collect used oil and filters and dispose at your local household hazardous waste events or other collection centers, such as automotive supply stores | Learn More >
  • Use biodegradable cleaning agents: See the EPA’s Safer Choice Chemical List | View List >
  • Purchase only chemicals needed for a project, or ask a neighbor if they already possess the chemicals you need.
  • Determine necessary products for projects by keeping an inventory of unused chemicals.
  • Refer to the P2 House painting page for tips on handling interior and exterior paint | View >
  • If there is a spill, it's important first to determine how severe it is. This will help you address the hazard and contain the spill appropriately. Knowing what chemical is spilled is also crucial in determining the best response.
    • Minor spills: These are low-volume, easily contained, do not pose a threat, and the substance is known. Use the appropriate cleaning supplies and techniques, as well as dispose of any contaminated materials safely. Appropriate cleanup methods and warnings can often be found on the container of the spilled material.
    • Major Spills: If a large quantity of a chemical(s) is spilled or you find a spill of an unknown substance, evacuate your home immediately and contact emergency services.
  • To ensure safety, store chemicals in a location shielded from direct sunlight, free from heat sources, and away from incompatible waste materials. Additionally, it is crucial to label waste and check for leaks regularly.
  • Keep waste out of reach of children by storing materials safely on a shelf.
  • Never dispose of chemical products in water bodies to preserve our watershed and riparian habitats. This includes riverbanks, streams, and floodplains.
  • Reduce discharge to storm drains using permeable areas, such as gravel or grass, for non-hazardous materials. Per the EPA: Illegal dumping is the disposal of waste in an unpermitted area, such as in the back of a yard, along a stream bank, in an alley, in a public right-of-way, or at some other off-road area. Pouring liquid wastes or disposing of trash down storm drains is a form of illegal dumping that can also qualify as an illicit discharge.
Air Quality

Toxic chemicals can penetrate walls and pollute the air in other rooms. Make air quality in the garage a top priority to maintain a healthy and breathable space by:

  • Only turning on your car, motorcycle, lawnmower, or other gas-powered equipment outside the garage
  • Minimize the idling of any gas-powered equipment.
  • Keeping paint buckets and chemicals tightly sealed to avoid releasing fumes. Arizona’s extreme summers can cause evaporation of paint fumes. Paint and thinners are combustible materials. Store them in a dry, cool location.
  • When dealing with propane tanks, one must exercise caution. It's important to store them in a well-ventilated area, far from any sources of electrical activity. Additionally, it's crucial to keep them in a cool environment, as higher temperatures can lead to leaks or combustion.
  • Opening the garage door for ventilation. Home garages are not legally required to have a ventilation system; however, the EPA recommends ventilating your garage to protect you from carbon monoxide and toxic fumes. Installing vents, fans, and additional windows are effective ways to protect your home. If you already have a ventilation system, regularly check that the vents are not obstructed.
  • Immediately cleaning up spills and chemical releases.
  • Airing out the garage when spraying for pests.
  • Avoiding storing used oil in the garage. Check with a nearby automotive supply store to see if they accept used oil.
  • Avoiding smoking in the garage.
  • Keeping combustibles away from heat sources.
  • Consider renting or borrowing tools and equipment that are seldom used —
    • Ladders, chainsaws, garden tillers, etc., can all be rented at your local hardware store for an appropriate price. 
    • Check with your local community center or apartment community.
    • Find your nearest tool libraries/banks. 

Laundry Area

Most of us rely on scents to tell us when something is clean, so it seems counterintuitive to purchase a detergent or laundry soap that is unscented, free of dyes or low in suds. But with a little research and courage to try new things, switching to products that contain fewer or no toxic chemicals will benefit your household in the long run. 

Where does all the dirty water go? It flows through your community’s sanitary sewer system to a wastewater treatment facility. Once treated, it’s released to local waterways to irrigate crops, sustain aquatic life, and more! The best way to protect our local waterways is to avoid pouring chemicals down the drain, this includes your washing machine! Wastewater treatment facilities are designed to treat organic materials, not hazardous chemicals. What goes down the drain may end up in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. To find safer products for your home, visit EPA’s Safer Choice page | View >

Consider hanging your clothes outside to dry! This will reduce your electricity bill, especially in the summer months.

Detergents and Fabric Softeners

Beware of ‘greenwashing.’Manufacturers invest a large amount a lot of time and money into designing green products that appeal to consumers looking for environmentally friendly options. However, a “green” label does not mean the product is actually environmentally friendly. In fact, they may still contain endocrine-disrupting and hormone-mimicking ingredients, which can produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans and wildlife. In addition, many of these products contain irritants and allergens that can affect the skin and lungs. This can be true for personal care items, like cosmetics and hair products, as well.  To identify environmentally friendly products:

  • Look for the full disclosure of all ingredients on the label of your cleaning products
  • Determine the source of scents and dyes
  • Find detergents and softeners derived from plants and minerals, such as oils from citrus, seed, vegetables and pine
  • Ensure ingredients are biodegradable and safe for septic tanks
  • Avoid products that are corrosive or contain compounds that cause pollution
Environmentally Friendly Products

When searching for cleaning products, check labels for these words:

  • Phthalate-free
  • Biodegradable
  • Non-toxic
  • Phosphate-free
  • Petroleum-free
  • Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)-free
  • Naturally derived
  • “Free and clear” of dyes and perfumes
  • Petroleum-free
  • Surfactant-free
DIY Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergent

Regular laundry detergent contains chemicals that can be harmful to fish and aquatic species. Try this environmentally friendly laundry detergent recipe as an alternative:

  • 1 bar of your favorite environmentally-friendly soap
  • 1 to 1½ cups washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup powdered citric acid

Start by boiling 8 – 10 cups of water to make your own cleaning solution. Once the water is boiling, slowly add your ingredients. If you are using a bar of soap, make sure to grate it beforehand. Once all your ingredients are added, pour another 8 – 10 cups of boiling water. After allowing your solution to cool down, transfer it into a container for future use. If you want to add a pleasant scent, consider adding 10 – 50 drops of your favorite essential oil. Also, hydrogen peroxide is a sustainable chemical that can bleach, oxidize, and disinfect your clothes.