How to Dispose of Acetone

How to Dispose of Acetone (With Best Practices)

Disposing of Acetone

Acetone, despite being a common product in many households, is a rather dangerous chemical. If it is not disposed of correctly, it can cause some pretty serious damage.

Acetone needs to be disposed of properly. Small amounts of contaminated rags or cotton balls can be thrown in the trash, but larger amounts or acetone containers need to be taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

On this page, we want to walk through absolutely everything that you need to know about acetone and, perhaps more importantly, how you can dispose of it in the safest possible way.

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a solvent. It is incredibly common in many products around the home. For example, it is often found in certain wood varnishes and stains.

It is used as a paint stripper. It is even used in some adhesives.

However, most people will be familiar with acetone through nail-polish remover. That product is pretty much just acetone with a small amount isopropyl alcohol mixed into it (also dangerous!)

How Dangerous is Acetone?

Whenever you use an acetone-based product, you will have to keep the windows open. In some cases, you may even have to wear a mask.

This is because acetone is an incredibly harsh chemical. Even small amounts can cause serious breathing problems.

Acetone is also a highly flammable liquid. If a naked flame even gets close to it, it will ignite. In fact, not only will the acetone light up but pretty much everything close to the acetone will too.

As you can probably guess, acetone is a chemical that you really need to take care with when you are disposing of it. If you don’t, then your garbage can is at risk of catching alight.

In fact, everywhere that acetone travels from your home to the landfill is at risk of catching alight. It is just that flammable. Granted, it is rare that something will ignite the acetone, but the risk is there.

Disposing of Acetone

Once improperly disposed of acetone is in the ground, then it is going to start leaking into the surrounding soil. This will contribute to making the land completely infertile (acetone is just one of a few chemicals that can do this).

There is also a good chance that the acetone will get into the local water supply. This is going to be dangerous for both humans and animals.

Thankfully, disposing of acetone safely isn’t going to be all that difficult.  How to dispose of acetone properly is something that we want to discuss in the next section.

How Do You Dispose of Acetone?

How you dispose of the acetone will be dependent on how much of it you actually have. If you have smaller amounts, then you can throw it into your normal garbage. However, you will need to do a small amount of preparation beforehand.

Small Amounts of Acetone

If you are using acetone as a nail polish remover, then put the cotton balls that you used to apply the nail polish remover into a metal container. The metal container needs to have a lid that can be completely sealed.

You do not want any of that acetone leaking out. Before you place the metal container into your garbage can, you will want to ensure that you double bag it. This means that the acetone now has double the amount of protection.

The chances of it leaking out of the metal container are virtually nil. The bag will provide a bit of added protection if it does.

It is important that you only use metal containers for the acetone. Because acetone is a very powerful chemical, it will ‘eat through’ every other type of container.

In fact, it could probably get through a normal plastic container in just a couple of hours. There will be absolutely no protection there.

If you are using cotton balls to apply the acetone, then for a bit of added protection you may want to squeeze the cotton balls out. You can then have one metal container for the cotton balls and another for the loose acetone.

Sure, it is going to be a tiny bit of extra effort, but it really is going to be worth it. After all, the acetone won’t all be concentrated in a singular place, particularly with something as flammable as cotton balls.

Larger Amounts of Acetone

If you have larger amounts of acetone e.g. paint thinners etc. then you cannot throw it in the normal trash. In fact, this may be illegal in many parts of the United States.

Larger amounts of acetone will always need to be taken to your local hazardous waste disposal facility. These places are scattered all over the United States so it really shouldn’t be that difficult to find somewhere to take your acetone.

Once you have dropped the acetone off, the hazardous waste disposal facility will make sure that they dispose of the acetone in a safe manner. A lot of the time, this means that they are going to be putting the acetone into large metal containers. In fact, it is pretty similar to what you would have been doing with small amounts of acetone, albeit at a far grander scale.

Empty Acetone Bottles

Empty bottles that contained acetone should always be taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility. This includes small nail polish remover bottles.

It may seem like a huge hassle, but we promise you that this is the safest option. It is going to be a whole lot better for the environment too.

Can You Reuse Acetone?

Acetone can be reused in some situations. For example, there are some people that clean old coins in acetone. As long as you filter out any dirt and grime inside of the acetone, then it can be reused.

This is the only situation in which acetone can be reused e.g. you wouldn’t reuse acetone once you have used it to remove nail polish. It won’t be anywhere near as effective.


Acetone is an incredibly dangerous chemical. It is important that you dispose of it properly. Thankfully, there will almost certainly be a hazardous waste disposal facility close by. Under no circumstances should you ever be disposing of more than a small amount in the normal trash.