For information specific to aerosol paint cans, please click here.
Aerosol cans provide numerous challenges in their disposal. In addition to the chemicals that they contain, aerosol cans are pressurized and can decompress violently if punctured. In order to determine the best way to dispose of these items, consider the following:
What is in the can?
The easiest way to dispose of aerosol cans requires that they be empty, so if you can use the product, that will go a long way to that end.
Is there anyway to get rid of the contents if I do not want them or if I do not intend to use them?
Some products can be safely discharged in order to empty the can containing them. Compressed air dusters (typically used for electronics) can be discharged outside (please note that they do become very cold when used constantly, so controlled bursts is recommended). Spray paint can be discharged per the link above. Other products may be disposed of per the methods described in other sections of this website. However, if you are not sure what the can contains, or if you are not sure what effects a product can have, it is best to not dispose of these items and to treat them as hazardous waste.
The can is empty. What do I do now?
First, read the label on the can. If there are specialized disposal instructions, please disregard this section and follow said instructions. If not, please continue.
If the aerosol has been completely discharged, then the pressure in the can is close to the pressure outside of the can. In this case, the risk associated has been greatly reduced. Also, most aerosol products include only enough aerosol to discharge the contents of the can; if the aerosol is used up, most of the product should be used up, as well. In this case, the can can be discarded with your regular household waste. Please note that a small amount of product may remain in the can. Combined with the agitator, this can make the can feel as though it is still partially full. As long as the contents of the can were discharged per the instructions, this should not be an issue. However, if you are concerned that the can may still contain aerosol or product, please skip to the next section.
The can is still partially full. What can I do now?
There are many reasons why an aerosol can may still have product in it. Whether there is no preferred alternative disposal for the product, the make-up of the product is unknown, the nozzle is broken and will not release aerosol, or the product is hazardous by itself, there may be no other means of disposing of the product in a responsible manner. In that case, the aerosol can and the product are both considered to be hazardous waste. Please see our Household Hazardous Waste page for more information.