Practicing healthy habits with household chemicals not only protects water quality, it protects fish and wildlife. Healthy habits promote a safe and healthy environment by keeping chemicals and detergents out of our lakes and rivers. Check out our new brochure - When it Comes to Household Chemicals - Change is a Good Thing!
DETERGENT USEUtilize non-toxic cleaning alternatives whenever possible. Common household items such as white vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can serve a multitude of cleaning functions. Keep drains clean by pouring 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Wait 10-15 minutes and rinse with hot water. This should be done at least once a year or more often if water is draining slowly. If you have a septic system, reduce the use of harsh chemicals that get washed down the drain and into your septic system. The chemicals can actually kill the beneficial bacteria necessary for the breakdown of the wastes entering your system.
Use non-toxic alternatives
when cleaning items outside.
VEHICLE WASHING & MAINTENANCEUse your local car wash which sends the wash water to the sewer system to be treated. Washing your car in your driveway sends the wash water with the detergents to the storm drain which goes directly to the river. When changing vehicle fluids yourself use appropriate containers to store gas, used oil, transmission fluid and power steering fluid that you can later dispose of at a household hazardous waste event in your community. Sweep your garage and dispose of in the trash to clean the floor instead of hosing it down where the water, with any contaminants, go into the storm drain. Oily rags used to work on your car contain hazardous fluids dangerous to the environment and if piled up in your garage can even cause spontaneous combustion fires. Put used rags in a large container that has a lid, like a drywall compound bucket, fill it halfway with water and put in a cup or two of powdered or liquid laundry detergent and mix it completely. Keep the lid on the container at all times and push used rags down to make sure they are covered in the water solution. Keep used oily rags in it until you can take them to a household hazardous waste event. Clean up leaks on pavement promptly with an appropriate absorbent material, such as cat litter, and dispose of it properly. Wash your boat on the grass with phosphate-free soaps and avoid solvent-based cleaners. Wash boats with water, elbow grease and a coarse cloth. Other natural cleaners include baking soda, borax and lemon or lime juice.
Keep used oily rags in a closed tub
half full of water with 1-2 cups of
laundry detergent to reduce fire hazard.
POWER WASHINGConsider using white vinegar as your cleaning solution in your power washer. It works well in removing mildew buildup on siding and is not damaging to the environment. Spray it on, let it sit and then wash off. When you do use detergent, reduce the amount that you use - a little goes a long way! Direct the wash water away from storm drains and onto a grassy area instead. Sweep your driveway before you powerwash it to gather dirt and dried spills so the contaminants don't go with the wash water and end up in the storm drain. Stay away from using hot wash water, it can disturb the temperature balance in the receiving waterbody (lake or river) which can harm aquatic life. If you own a powerwashing business, make sure you are following all permit requirements to prevent being fined and follow best management practices to save your company money and protect the lakes and rivers.
Sweep your garage or driveway and dispose of it
in the trash before you powerwash it so the contaminants
don't end up with the water in the storm drain.
PESTICIDE USEDon’t overuse pesticides. Many of them contain hazardous chemicals which can travel through the soil and contaminate ground water. When landscaping your yard, use Michigan native plants which are naturally resistant to pests and diseases, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides. Avoid using mothballs as a rodent deterrent in your flower beds. Mothballs contain chemicals and are considered poisonous to humans. In their place use cedar chips, lavender, rosemary, mint or even white peppercorns. Try doing things to discourage the pest, like removing the food source, water and shelter. If you find thier home, remove it from your yard and sometimes think about tolerating harmless pests instead of using harsh chemicals that can get into our water system. Choosing native grass and developing and maintaining healthy soil can prevent pest problems. Mow high with sharp blades and water your yard for a long period less often instead of watering for short periods often. Attract beneficial insects that are predators to pests - plant native flowers to attract pollinators to your yard to help manage pests.
Native flowers attract pollinators to your
yard to help manage pests natrually.
FERTILIZER USESweep excess fertilizer particles off paved surfaces and back onto the lawn. Don’t fertilize right before a heavy rain, use your sprinkler or hose to lightly water after fertilizing to move the nutrients into the root zone of the soil. Consider fertilizing only once a year—late summer or early fall is best since this is the time when the roots store nutrients over the winter months for future use in the spring growth season. When cutting the grass mulch leaves into your lawn which acts as a natural fertilizer. When landscaping your yard, use Michigan native plants which once established will require less fertilizing because they are adapted to the local soil and climate conditions.
Sweep excess fertilizer particles off paved surfaces and
back onto the lawn to keep it from going into the storm sewer.
Disposal of Chemicals
FIRST AND FOREMOST!NEVER dump cleaners, paint, fertilizers, pesticides or other materials down a storm drain, on the ground or into your septic system. Storm drains flow directly to the river without any treatment and materials on the ground seep into soils and can contaminate the groundwater supply.
FERTILIZER & PESTICIDESUnwanted garden chemicals should be disposed of through your community's Household Hazardous Waste event or check with stores that sell the product to see if they have a disposal program.
FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULBS & BATTERIESLook for collection bins at hardware stores or municipalities or dispose of at your community's Household Hazardous Waste event.
CLEANING SUPPLIESheck the back of cleaning products for proper disposal directions. Some liquid, powder or gel cleaners can be disposed of the same way that the product is used, like down the drain. Bottles of plastic and some aerosol may be able to be recycled when empty. Otherwise, if you aren't sure or the cleaners have hazardous chemicals (like oven cleaner) take them to your community's Household Hazardous Waste event.
Good on the left - BAD on the right: excess paint or wet concrete poured down the storm drain which goes right to the Rouge River.
PAINT & WOOD STAINContact a nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity to donate left overs or check with a home improvement store to see if they take old paint, otherwise paint and stains should be desposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste collection event in your community.
VEHICLE FLUIDSDispose of used vehicle fluids like oil, transmission fluid and brake & power steering fluids that you change yourself at a participaing collection site like a car repair shop or you can take the fluids to a household hazardous waste event in your community. In addition antifreeze, windshield washer fluid and car batteries should be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste event. Those rags you use when changing car fluids should also be disposed of at a household hazardous waste event.
Dispose of paint, used vehicle fluids,
fluorecent light bulbs and unused fertilizer
at your local household hazardous waste event.
Flushable wipes are becoming a big problem for
community sewer systems - they don't break down fast
enough and clog pipes (shown here) and become costly
for residents and the community