How to Dispose Brake Fluid the Right Way

After bleeding your brakes, it’s only right to dispose of your brake fluid the right way. This not only helps to protect the environment but also keeps you from getting on the wrong side of the law.

There are different ways that you can dispose of old brake fluid. For starters, avoid pouring it on the ground. Follow the tips below.

How to dispose of old brake fluid

1.     Use clean kitty litter

Kitty litter or car litter is a loose absorbent and granular material used to collect metabolic waste excreted by cats and other indoor pets.

To dispose of your old brake fluid, simply put some kitty litter in a pan or bucket and pour your brake fluid into it.  

Let the pan sit somewhere for 4 days. The kitty litter will absorb the brake fluid. If the fluid contains alcohol, some of it will also evaporate.

Most brake fluids contain diethylene glycol (DEG), a sweet-tasting and colorless liquid that is very dangerous when ingested. Keep the kitty litter out of reach of children and pets throughout and away from any sources of heat or fire.

After the 4 days, confirm that there’s no more brake fluid and that the cat litter is dry. If not, leave it to sit a little longer. Pour it into a sealed plastic bag and throw it into the trash.  

You can use other absorbent items such as dirt or paper towels if you do not have kitty litter. Dig for some dirt from the ground then pour it on the brake fluid.

Do not pour brake fluid directly on the ground. This isn’t safe for the environment and neither is it proper disposal.

2.     Recycling center

A recycling center is a great way to dispose brake fluid if you have a lot of it. It could be that you’ve been working on more than one car and need a much better solution than cat litter.

Recycling centers mix old brake fluid with special liquids to make other automotive fluids and fuel that is safe for use.  

Start by pouring all the brake fluid that you have in a jar(s). Seal the jar tightly to make it easier to transport the fluid without spilling any in your car.

Search for recycling centers near you, brake fluid disposal centers near you, or a waste management facility. Earth911 provides a convenient way to find one by entering your zip code.

You can also enquire at your local waste management district office. Some auto parts stores also work in partnership with recycling centers.

Reach out to the one near you through a phone call to confirm if they collect old brake fluid. They may provide a special container for you to dispose of your fluid before taking it to them.  

3.     Waste collection days

Some communities organize special hazardous waste collection days and events where you can take your hazardous waste. They take old car batteries, car fluids, and other automotive waste.

Some regions like El Paso, Texas, have a household waste facility that is open every day. In Columbia, Missouri, a similar waste facility is open on two Saturdays every month.

Locals in Belton, Missouri host several collection events every year where vehicle owners can drive through and leave their hazardous waste. Similarly, there are 7 such events every year in Jacksonville, Florida.

You can find out about the next collection event near you from the local waste management district office. Some events encourage car owners to make a donation to a cause or local food bank.

Can you reuse brake fluid when bleeding brakes?

No. Brake fluid is hygroscopic. This means that it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. The moisture alters its composition and makes it corrosive. As such, it will not be able to compress as it should inside your braking system.

It will also corrode the wheel cylinders and master cylinders and ruin the brakes. It’s possible that the brake fluid you want to reuse is already full of moisture. Also, it may have deteriorated due to contamination from the brake lines and hoses.

Replace your old brake fluid with a new brake fluid. You’re guaranteed that the new fluid will perform as it should. Do not mix the old fluid with the new fluid. The former will only compromise the performance of the latter.

Can you recycle brake fluid with motor oil?

No. You should not recycle brake fluid with motor oil. Recycling them separately makes it easier to break them down for reuse in other applications. Most people that mix the two are looking for ways to dispose of old brake fluid.

Simply take the brake fluid and oil to a recycling facility in separate containers. Many recycling centers will accept hazardous material for free and help you to dispose of it safely. Recycling brake fluid with motor oil only contaminates the latter.

Is brake fluid hazardous waste?

New brake fluid is not hazardous on its own. However, once it has sat in your car for a long time, it absorbs moisture and reacts with the metal. It becomes acidic and gets contaminated.

This makes it toxic for animal or human consumption. It turns hazardous after use. Old brake fluid should be kept away from children and disposed of safely.

Can brake fluid be thrown away?

No. Brake fluid should not be thrown away or poured into a drain, sink, septic tank, or on the ground. It is considered hazardous waste that should be taken to a waste treatment facility or local recycling center.

If you’re looking for a way to clean up a small amount of brake fluid, use kitty litter or any other absorbent material. Seal the kitty litter in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash.

Is brake fluid harmful to the environment?

Yes. Brake fluid is not safe for the environment. After it has sat for a while, it absorbs heavy metals such as zinc and copper that make it poisonous and harmful to the environment.

When discarded in public, it can find its way to places where animals and human beings spend their time. Some of the health risks that this poses include liver and kidney damage, eye damage, dizziness and headaches, as well as drowsiness and nausea.

Does O’Reilly’s take used brake fluid?

It is not clear if O’Reilly’s accepts used brake fluid. However, they do state clearly on their website that they collect used car batteries, motor oil, gear oil, oil filters, and transmission fluid for recycling. This is done free of charge.

Is brake fluid biodegradable?

Most brake fluids are made using glycol or silicone-based products. As such, they are not environmentally friendly and neither are they biodegradable. The level of toxicity in a brake fluid depends on its initial composition and level of contamination.

Some brands use hazardous constituents to make brake fluid. Others make sure the end product is water-soluble and has low environmental toxicity. Fortunately, research into cost-effective and environmentally friendly bio-based lubricating oils for the automotive industry is being encouraged by various researchers.

Is brake fluid flammable?

Yes. Brake fluid contains alcohol which is highly inflammable. This means it is easily set on fire. It does not ignite on its own. However, the flame produced can burn and spread to other parts of the car. It should be kept away from any sources of fire.