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See if this scenario sounds familiar: you’re cooking up a storm in your kitchen, using a pan coated in cooking oil to whip up a tasty dish. When it’s all nice and browned and perfect, you take the food out of the pan and serve it up to your hungry family or friends, or maybe just to yourself. Everything is tasty, and everything is fine… until you look back in the pan and discover a dirty puddle of cooking oil lurking inside it like an oil slick on the surface of a body of water.
Now you’re faced with the dilemma of how to dispose of cooking oil. You’ve probably tried one or more of the following ill-advised “solutions”:
How To Dispose Of Cooking Oil: What NOT To Do
Don’t Pour It Down The Drain
You’re probably shaking your head in shame right now if you tried this method of disposing of your cooking oil. Pouring cooking oil down your kitchen sink drain is not just gross, it’s terrible for your plumbing. The grease coats and clogs your pipes and stops the water from draining out quickly like you’re supposed to. It even trickles down into the city sewer system where it can also coat and clog pipes. Only these pipes are connected to all the other houses in the city. If they go down, everyone’s plumbing is affected. The whole affair is a globby, grimy mess.
Don’t Pour It Directly Into The Trash Can
We’re just going to come out and say it right now: pouring cooking oil into something else as a way to dispose of it is never, ever a good idea. The fact that you’re pouring it indicates that it’s still hot. Not only do you risk burning yourself when you handle hot grease, you are also making your city’s waste smellier and harder to process when you just slop it down into your trash can and then dump the can to the dumpster.
Don’t Rinse It Off With Water
Remember the old saying, “Oil and water don’t mix”? Well, it turns out it’s not just a metaphor. It’s literally true. If you try to rinse cooking oil off with water, the water won’t do anything to break up the grease. The grease will just end up in the drain, and you’re back to clogging your plumbing and the city sewers.
Safe Ways To Dispose Of Cooking Oil In Your Home
If you’ve used any of the above unsafe methods, just shake it off and start following the below safe practices to dispose of cooking oil in your home.
Pour It Into A Sealable Container And Let It Cool, THEN Throw It Away
We talked about how pouring liquid oil into trash cans or down drains is a huge no-no. The key to disposing of cooking oil is to let it cool first. You can do this by pouring the oil into a sealable container, such as a jar or a plastic bag, and then letting it cool (it will cool down faster if you put it in the freezer). Once it’s solidified in its container, just throw it and the container away. That way it stays contained and solid, and doesn’t gum up the works at the city sewer and the dump.
Wipe It Out Of Your Dishes With Paper Towels
This practice of using paper towels to wipe the cooking oil out of your dishes is great if you don’t have much leftover oil to speak of. The paper towel absorbs the oil and keeps it contained so that it doesn’t turn into a problem when it reaches the city dump.
Mix It With Cat Litter And Then Throw The Mixture Away
This one sounds bizarre, but keep reading: most cat litter is designed to absorb liquid such as cat urine and then clump it into a solid mass. So when you mix it with cooking oil, it absorbs it and clumps it into a solid mass which you can then easily and safely dispose of in a trash bag.
Eco-Friendly Ways To Reuse Or Recycle Your Cooking Oil
If you’re at all environmentally conscious or aware of how much we treat essential items like food as disposable, you probably realize that all that leftover cooking oil is just going to waste when we throw it in the trash. Fortunately, there are plenty of other eco-friendly alternatives for disposing of cooking oil.
Yes, you read that right: cooking oil can be recycled. When it’s recycled, it’s often put into fuel such as bio-diesel; feedstocks and fertilizers; and soaps and cosmetics.
To recycle your cooking oil, first call your local recycling center and make sure they have the capability to process it. Once you confirm that they do, prepare the oil by putting it in a sealable container and letting it cool and solidify (make sure it’s not mixed with any other substances). The final step is to drop the container off at the recycling center.
You might wonder how you could possibly reuse cooking oil, especially if you’re currently looking at what appears to be a dirty looking, food-filled puddle in your frying pan. But if you can look even further, past its unattractive appearance, you’ll find a world of potential uses at your fingertips. And not just in cooking!
Below, we listed 5 ways you can put that extra oil to good use in your everyday life.
1. More Cooking Oil
The simplest way to reuse cooking oil is save it and use it for cooking again later on. Just strain it out, pour it in a sealable container, and store it in a cool, dry place such as your pantry. You can also add some fresh oil to it if there’s not quite enough of the old batch to use on its own for the next meal.
There are a couple things you need to be aware of when you’re reusing cooking oil, though. Oil degrades overtime, so keep an eye out for signs that it’s going bad, like smoking before it reaches the proper frying temperature, appearing dark and dirty with little floaters in it, and smelling fishy – literally fishy. At this point, it’s usually best to throw it out.
You can make soap bars to use when washing your hands or body. Use a tutorial such as this one by EcoKnights on YouTube (just remember to wear plenty of protective gear on your eyes and hands, since you’ll be handling hot and caustic materials during the soap making process).
3. Household Lubricant
You probably have a household lubricant such as WD 40 lying around in your garage somewhere. To save yourself the trouble of digging around for it or buying a new can, just reuse your old cooking oil. Let it cool and solidify, and then scrape up a little bit into your hands and use the warmth of your fingers to turn it back into a semi-liquid state. Then you can rub it into hinges or key locks or whatever it is in your home that needs a little grease to get its gears turning again.
4. Lamp Oil
Do you have one of those old-timey oil lamps in your attic? Use your leftover cooking oil to fuel the lamp and add some vintage illumination into your home.
5. Weed Killer
In an article published in Organic Agriculture in 2019, researchers revealed that “culinary oils” (or cooking oil, specifically the vegetable kind) is an effective deterrent against weed growth in gardens and lawns. This method of reusing cooking oil is particularly exciting because it’s so environmentally friendly.
Compost helps plants grow. What better way to reuse cooking oil in which we prepare many foods grown from the ground, than by putting it in compost? You can do just that, as long as the oil is a vegetable oil such as olive or sunflower seed. Don’t overdo it, though; if you add too much oil, you’ll just make a smelly, greasy mess. Add a little at a time to your compost, and enjoy disposing of your leftover cooking oil in an eco-friendly way.
Summary: All The Safe Ways You Can Dispose Of Cooking Oil
In the beginning of this article, we set out to show you all the different (and safe) ways you can dispose of cooking oil. First, we had to show you why some of the most popular ways of disposing of cooking oil are actually not very safe, and certainly aren’t eco-friendly. Second, we told you about all the safe ways you can dispose of this tricky substance in your home.
But we didn’t want to stop there. We told you how you could go a more eco-friendly route and either recycle, reuse, or compost your leftover cooking oil. Surprisingly, you can recycle oil, as long as you remove any impurities from it and cool it before turning it in at your local recycling center. It’s also amazing how many different ways you can reuse cooking oil; ways like a soap, a household lubricant, and a weed killer. Finally, composting cooking oil (as long as it’s a vegetable oil) will help keep your garden thriving and your trash can happily free of grease.
Q&A About Cooking Oil
Is used cooking oil dangerous to the environment?
Not all cooking oil is dangerous to the environment. If you’re going to use it for compost or to stop weeds from growing in your yard, you need to make sure it’s a type of vegetable oil. But all used cooking oil is bad for the sewer system and your city’s plumbing system, so make sure you never pour it down the drain.
Can you reuse cooking oil (for cooking) and how many times?
You can reuse cooking oil 4-8 times. Keep an eye on it for telltale signs of degrading, such as a low smoking temperature, a foam on the surface, a dark appearance, and a bad smell.
How to store used cooking oil?
The best way to store cooking oil is in an airtight container, which you should then place in a cool, dry place such as your pantry.
Is used cooking oil biodegradable?
Yes, used cooking oil is biodegradable as long as it is a vegetable oil. It can be used in compost or to kill weeds. If you are interested in using eco-friendly household items, check out our review on biodegradable plates for parties.