How to Dispose of Motor Oil

August 24, 2023
Car tools on the ground

If you prefer to do your own oil changes, you might need to know how to responsibly dispose of the oil you’ve replaced. Here on some tips on disposing and recycling motor oil. [1]

Why recycle motor oil

Because oil sticks to everything it touches, pouring used oil into a gutter or down a storm drain can contaminate any body of water. This can also kill the animals and plants that live in the lakes, oceans and rivers. The oil from just one change can contaminate up to a million gallons of water. And if that wasn’t a good enough reason to recycle your oil, remember that it’s also illegal to dispose of your oil incorrectly. [1]

What you’ll need to recycle the oil

To prevent the process from being dangerous and messy, you’ll need safety glasses and gloves to keep the oil out of your eyes and off your hands.

To change the oil yourself, you’ll need the following items:

  1. Drain pan that doubles as a storage container,
  2. a punch tool to puncture and drain the filter,
  3. a plastic bag to contain the oil filter,
  4. a funnel,
  5. and a ground cover or tarp. [2]

How to recycle your motor oil

If you decide to do your own oil change at home, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Put down a tarp to capture any spills.
  2. Change the oil and filter, following your vehicle’s instructions.
  3. Avoid mixing the oil with other liquids.
  4. Puncture the top of your old oil filter and drain it into your oil pan.
  5. Seal the filter and recycle with the used oil.
  6. Seal the oil pan and pour it into an empty container.
  7. Transport your container to a facility that collects used oil. [3]

Where to bring your used motor oil

Most auto parts stores can accept used motor oil, but some might charge a small fee. If your oil is clean, some service stations that have recycling programs will accept your used oil. You can search for motor oil recycling locations online or go to Earth911 to find a drop-off location near you. [4]

Engine oil FAQs

Is it okay to reuse engine oil?

Once motor oil has been cleaned, it’s safe to use it for many things. Recycled oil can be used for flooring finish, mold oil, oil-based lubricants for bicycle chains or hydraulics, industrial burner oil, and fence stain. [5]

How should you dispose of old engine oil?

You might be able to turn your old oil into your city’s curbside recycling program, depending on where you live. Make sure to research the packaging requirements before you do so. If you can’t recycle curbside in your city, then make plans to drop off the old oil at a recycling center. [1]

Can I throw engine oil into the trash?

Because motor oil can be reused many times, recycling it is a more environmentally friendly option than throwing it away.

Can you burn used motor oil?

Burning used motor oil in an auxiliary heat source may be an option, but it’s important to research the regulations in your area before doing so. [6]

Where can you dispose of motor oil for free?

If businesses sell or change motor oil, most of the time they accept oil for recycling. Some may charge a fee for this service. To make sure they will take your oil, call the businesses in your area before going there. [7]

Do I need to recycle my oil filter?

Because used oil filters have 10 ounces of used oil in them, it’s important not to throw them in the trash. Recycling oil filters is good for the environment and easy to do. [8]

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[1] “Oil Recycling: How to Dispose of Motor Oil,” (accessed June 22, 2023).

[2] “Here’s How to Dispose of Motor Oil Without Causing an Environmental Incident,” Mark Webb, (March 10, 2022).

[3] “How to Properly Dispose of Motor Oil,” Craig Gustafson, (April 18, 2023).

[4] “How to Dispose of Motor Oil,” (Oct. 28, 2021).

[5] “8 Uses For Used Engine Oil,” Kati Sakurra, (May 5, 2020).

[6] “How to Dispose of Engine Oil Safely,” (Feb. 18, 2020).

[7] “Used Oil Disposal: How To Do It Right,” John Baker, (Dec. 28, 2021).

[8] “Recycle Your Used Oil Filters,” (accessed June 22, 2023).


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