Household Toxics Reduction Program

Photograph of products considered HHW

The goal of the Household Toxics Reduction Program is to help people make safer choices with purchasing and the disposal of hazardous and toxic products. Many everyday consumer products can be dangerous when improperly used, stored or thrown away in the trash. Common examples include pesticides, oil-based paint, leftover fuel, mercury-containing items (CFLs, thermometers), household cleaners and automotive chemicals.

If these products have not expired and are considered safe to use per label instructions they can be shared with family, friends or neighbors that have a use for them. When they are no longer wanted they become household hazardous waste (HHW).

Be a Smart and Safe Consumer!

Research the type of products you need to effectively perform the job and that are best suited for the job.

  • Only purchase the amount of product you need.
  • Before you commit to buying a large container of a product, purchase a smaller container first so you can use it and make sure it meets your needs.
  • If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!

Choose products that contain the fewest toxic or hazardous ingredients. The easiest way to do this is to check for signal words and statements on product labels:

Signal Word Meaning
Poison Fatal if swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled
Danger Fatal if swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled
Warning May be fatal if swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled
Caution Harmful if swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled
No Word Least hazardous, still could cause adverse effects
  • Signal statements: harmful if swallowed; keep out of reach of children; may cause irritation of the throat or the eyes, may cause burns
  • Also look for: care, use, cleanup, storage, and first aid instructions

Reduce it! Purchase Less-toxic Alternatives

Tips for purchasing less-toxic household products:

  • Choose products that have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are toxic chemicals released into the air.
  • Choose chlorine-free products.
  • Choose water-based glues, adhesives and paints.

Many people are switching to household cleaners to reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals. Inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and soap and water often clean just as well as store-bought products. Here are a few less toxic cleaning recipes.

Household Toxics Reduction Resources

Safer Choices

  • EPA Safer Choice Program: Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform well and are safer for human health and the environment.

Safe Use

Safe Storage

Safe Disposal

Safe Use & Storage

Use it Safely, Use it Up

When using potentially hazardous products in the home be sure to take all necessary safety precautions. After the job is finished, try to reuse or recycle products instead of throwing them in the garbage.

Tips for safe use:
  • Use only what is needed.
  • Read product labels carefully.
  • Use products in well-ventilated areas. If working indoors open windows and use exhaust fans.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while using hazardous products.
  • Wear proper safety equipment and protective clothing.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher available.
  • Do not mix products unless directed to do so by the label directions.
  • Do not leave hazardous products unattended.
  • When finished, seal products and refasten all childproof caps.
  • Keep hazardous products up and away from children and pets.
  • Clean up after using hazardous products.
  • Post emergency numbers near your telephone.
  • If pregnant, avoid any potential exposure to toxic chemicals.

Reuse & Recycle


Many hazardous or toxic household products can be reused such as working computers, electronics and small appliances. These products can be donated to local organizations like Goodwill. Other hazardous household products such as lawn and garden fertilizers and camping-size propane cylinders can be shared with family, neighbors and friends. To find local reuse options, visit the Waste Reduction and Recycling Guide.

It’s important to note that when you donate or give away hazardous household products, they should always be kept in the original container with a readable label. This helps ensure the health and safety of those using or disposing of the product.


Hazardous household products that do not have a reuse option can often be easily recycled at local businesses. This includes used oil, mercury-containing products like CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries, fire extinguishers, cell phones, toner cartridges and gas-grill sized propane tanks. To find local recycling options visit the Waste Reduction and Recycling Guide.

Latex Paint

Latex or water-based paint is often assumed to be hazardous. While this might be true for older latex paint, new latex paint is not considered dangerous when used according to the label instructions.

Unusable and unwanted latex paint can be safely disposed of at home once dried. Theater departments and non-profit organizations might also have a need for useable latex paint. For more information on latex paint see our Managing Household Paint brochure.

To find local reuse & recycling options see the Waste Reduction and Recycling Guide.

Store it Safely

Photograph of stored products considered HHW

Always be aware of the type of hazards you are bringing into your home. Some products and containers are similar in appearance to food and beverages. Children who have not learned to read or adults that have problems with their vision may mistake a hazardous products for edible items.

Don’t forget your pets! Household pets cannot tell if a product is dangerous so it is important to prevent access to both stored and currently in use materials. For more information on keeping your pets safe, see the Humane Society’s “Common Household Dangers for Pets.”

Tips for Safe Storage:

  • Store all items out of the reach of pets and children.
  • Leave products in their original container with labels intact and visible.
  • Clearly label all hazardous products.
  • Always store hazardous materials in their original container.
  • Make sure lids and caps are tightly sealed and childproof.
  • Keep containers dry to prevent corrosion. Place corroded containers in a secured, labeled plastic bucket.
  • Store volatile chemicals in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not mix products unless directed to do so by the label directions.
  • Store the Nebraska Regional Poison Control phone number in your cell phone 1-888-222-1222.