Red Barn Renovation: Green Cleaning & Disposing of Toxic Chemicals

WoodWise

(Last week, I kicked off a series of posts in which I’ll document the transformation of an old barn into my future workshop.)

After spending my week tidying up a filthy barn, I understand why Mr. Clean pulled his hair out. As if the mildew and spider-monsters weren’t irksome enough, I stumbled upon a cache of leaky chemicals and rotten construction materials. And while stepping in masonry sealant is a nuisance, disposing of it in an eco-friendly way is actually a cinch.

It goes without saying that you should never dump toxins down the drain. CO2 emissions may have emerged as the environmental movement's marquee issue, but chemical pollution remains a massive treat. Paints, pesticides, fuels and cleaners can contaminate our drinking water, endangering animal and plant life. Luckily, in the words of Captain Planet, “the power is yours!”

To avoid amassing expired chemicals, buy only as much as you need. That may seem glaringly obvious, but most people over-buy DIY supplies. If you intend on using the product over an extended period of time, refer to the label for recommended storage conditions. (Don’t just toss them in the corner of a dingy barn for some unsuspecting sap to step in.) Below are additional tips for disposing of NACs (nasty-ass chemicals) and other hazardous materials:

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CHEMICALS (paints, pesticides, sealants) Most local dumps accept these types of common household waste. Earth911 offers a nifty search tool to locate nearby transfer stations and recycling facilities.

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FUELS Home Depot, Lowe’s and many small hardware stores recycle old propane tanks. Simply bring in your old tank when purchasing a new one. When disposing of old gasoline and oil, your best bet is an auto-body shop. They regularly process automotive waste and have the facilities to safely handle yours.

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FIBERGLASS INSULATION Be aware that fiberglass can cause severe skin irritation. Be sure to wash your clothes and take a warm shower after handling this type of insulation. As for disposal, if the insulation is still in good condition, you can donate it to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. If the insulation is wet or moldy, it will longer function and must be taken to a dump. Search "construction materials" on Earth911 to locate local landfills.

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FIREWORKS My inner tween rejoiced when I discovered a box of old bottlerockets and smoke bombs — after lighting one off, I remembered that they are scary and explosive. To dispose of fireworks, simply remove the fuses and soak them in water. It's then safe to put them out with your regular trash.

Images: Johnny Williams

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