How to Dispose of Brake Fluid Safely

Brake fluid is an essential part of a car’s brake system. This fluid transfers the pressure of your foot on the brake pedal to other parts of the system to make your car slow down or stop. Your vehicle needs to have an adequate amount of brake fluid to function correctly. However, sometimes you may experience problems with contamination or leakage and may need to clear out the reservoir or bleed your brakes.

So, how should brake fluid be disposed of? It’s crucial to dispose of brake fluid safely because it’s alcohol-based and highly flammable. The safest way to dispose of brake fluid is to use kitty litter, a pan, or bucket of some sort for small amounts of brake fluid or dispose of the brake fluid at a waste management facility.

You can leave unused brake fluid in a container for refilling purposes when you need it. However, make sure that the container is kept in a safe place away from children, pets, or anything that may start a fire. This article will explain how to safely dispose of used brake fluid.

How to Dispose of Brake Fluid Safely

If it’s your first time handling brake fluid and you know nothing about the liquid, you may not be sure of how to handle the waste. Can you pour brake fluid down the drain, dump it in the toilet, or wait for the trash pickup company to come and take care of it? Just to be clear – you shouldn’t do any of those.

Brake fluid is an alcohol-based fluid, and it’s highly flammable. For this reason, you need to handle it with care. In most cases, trash companies are not allowed to handle this type of waste. You’re supposed to deal with it at home if it’s only a small amount or rely on waste management facilities to dispose of it the right way.

Disposing Brake Fluid at Home

If you only have a small amount of brake fluid, you don’t have to make the trip to a waste management facility. According to Your Mechanic, you can safely get rid of the waste using kitty litter. Follow the steps below.

  1. Fill a pan or container with unused kitty litter. Any container measuring 9 by 12 inches will suffice. You can also use the metal pan you use to catch mechanical fluid as you work on your vehicle. If you don’t have kitty litter, you can get it online or at a pet supply store.
  2. Pour the brake fluid on the kitty litter: Once you’ve poured the brake fluid over the kitty litter, ensure it’s in an area where your pets or children can’t reach it because it can be toxic when ingested. Also, keep it away from flames and other sources of heat because brake fluid is flammable.
  3. Leave the container undisturbed for 3 to 4 days: Because brake fluid is alcohol-based, the alcohol will evaporate with time, and the kitty litter will absorb most of it. If you shake the pan and still see some fluid, allow it to stay undisturbed for a few more days until all the liquid is gone.
  4. Throw out the kitty litter: Once there are no traces of the brake fluid in the kitty litter, pour it into a trash bag, wrap it tightly, and throw it away as you would the rest of your trash.

Using a Waste Management Facility

If you’re dealing with a large amount of brake fluid that you can’t dispose of at the comfort of your home, you’ll need to seek assistance from a waste management facility. Follow these steps:

  1. Research: The first step is finding out if there’s a public waste disposal center in your area. Make sure you find out if they handle hazardous fluids like brake fluid before heading out to give them your waste. You can get this information on their website.
  2. Get clarification: If the information on their website isn’t clear or there’s no information about handling hazardous waste, call the facility to find out. If they do, ask how they go about it. Do they have pickups, or do you have to drop off the waste to them?
  3. Drop off the brake fluid: Most waste management facilities will require you to drop off the waste to their centers. Find out their operation hours and store the brake fluid in a tight container so that it doesn’t spill in your car during transportation.
  4. Pay the waste disposal fee: This may cost about $15. However, the price varies from one facility to another. In some cases, the plant may dispose of the waste for free but ask you for a donation in exchange.

Can You Recycle Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid, on its own, is not considered a toxic substance (Recycle Nation). The fluid becomes dangerous when it gets contaminated with other toxic solvents. For instance, when the liquid is sitting in your vehicle, it gets contaminated with heavy metals such as copper and zinc.

Therefore, when you’re trying to decide how to deal with brake fluid, you need to consider its state – is it contaminated or not? If the brake fluid is contaminated, follow the steps above to dispose of it safely.

However, if you’re sure the brake fluid can be used, but you no longer have any use for it, you should take it to a recycling plant.

  1. Research: Do an online search to find out if there are any recycling plants in your area. If there are, find out from their website if they offer brake fluid recycling services.
  2. Call for more information: If you can’t get the information you’re looking for on their site, call them and ask about the services you want.
  3. Find out about drop-offs: Ask if they pick up or require you to drop off the brake fluid. In most cases, you’ll need to drop off the brake fluid.
  4. Store the brake fluid in an acceptable container: Some recycling plants will require you to store the brake fluid in a specific type of container. Find out if they have any requirements and if they offer the containers to avoid a situation where they reject it. Also, make sure you seal the container tightly during transportation to prevent the brake fluid from spilling in your car.

How Should You Store Brake Fluid?

Knowing how to store brake fluid is equally essential to understand how to dispose of it.  Total recommends storing brake fluid in its original container in a clean, dry area that’s below room temperature.

Additionally, you should avoid storing the brake fluid next to other petroleum products. Always ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent the absorption of moisture or the brake fluid getting contaminated by other things.

Wrapping Up

It’s crucial to dispose of brake fluid and other potentially toxic fluids safely. To recap, use kitty litter for small amounts of brake fluid and rely on a waste disposal facility for large quantities of brake fluid. It’s also vital to ensure safety when handling brake fluid. Stay away from fire and heat-emitting devices when dealing with brake fluid because it is flammable. When it’s time to transport it for disposal, ensure the container is tightly sealed and positioned upright in your vehicle to avoid spills. If you don’t have the experience, it’s always best to seek a mechanic’s help to bleed your brakes or fix brake fluid leakage.


I'm Arwood, but the grandkids call me Big Papa. After retiring from teaching automotive classes for 30+ years I decided to create a blog about all the questions I used to get about brakes!

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