šŸŽ¶Burning Down the HousešŸŽ¶
June 6, 2019 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I live in a NYC apartment. I just stained a coffee table (on purpose) with mineral spirit based stain. I have approximately 12 paper towels coated in completely dry stain that I need to dispose of. What's a safe/acceptable way to do this?

I know that you aren't supposed to throw any sort of oily rags in the trash but I'm in a bit of a quandary:
I'm not a large-scale operation (you should see the coffee table...I'm barely functional when it comes to this shit), so I don't have access to the proper sort of "oily rag disposal" can that I know exist in carpentry/paint/scene shops.

That said....
It's about a dozen paper towels. They are bone-dry (they've been drying all day), I know that doesn't get rid of ALL of the volatile compounds...but by the sniff test and the touch test there is nothing left in them outgassing.
If I try to store them to throw them out properly at some sort of collection center (of which I'm having trouble finding any) I won't be able to do that until tomorrow, so it would seem counterproductive to store them at home if they are indeed unsafe.

Would it be crazy/wildly irresponsible/a mortal sin for me to just get them wet with water...put them in a gallon ziplock bag, and throw them in an outside trash can?
-Are there other options?
-Am I just overthinking this?
-Should I just go out on the street and set them on fire in some sort of pagan ritual?
-If I do that do I need to be naked for it to work?
-Will the cops come and arrest me?
-Can anyone post bail for me in Sunnyside?
posted by aloiv2 to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This artists space in Woodside might be able to give you a good answer about the risks involved here.
posted by vrakatar at 3:40 PM on June 6, 2019

If they're dry then just throw them away. If they have an oily feel, let them dry more, maybe on a porch? Then throw them away. Mineral spirits have already had most of the VOCs removed through the process of making them "mineral spirits."

The benzine and toluene have been removed, the threat of disposing oily rags is from combustion not VOC seepage. There may have been other elements in the stain that also are VOCs, but they have off gassed, and if they exist still are floating around your environment.

A bag with water would be fine to.
posted by Max Power at 5:00 PM on June 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

If they're completely dry, they're no more dangerous than your finished coffee table. Throw them in the trash. No special treatment necessary.
posted by jon1270 at 5:17 PM on June 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

The important thing is not to put them in any container / garbage receptacle with a tight fitting lid.

This is back to front. Oils that can spontaneously combust (linseed etc) do so when on soaked, heaped, rags with good access to oxygen. Tightly sealing a container with them is precisely what you should do.
posted by deadwax at 5:23 PM on June 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

That said, dry rags will not spontaneously combust however you treat them.
posted by deadwax at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ooh, deadwax is right. My apologies, I did have it back to front. I was dead wrong, please disregard earlier comment.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:19 PM on June 6, 2019

The easiest safe way to dispose of them is to burn them in a controlled manner: a coffee tin or similar should work just fine.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:48 PM on June 6, 2019

The kinds of oil that have given oily rags a well deserved reputation for sneakily and spontaneously burning stuff down are drying vegetable oils, not mineral oils.

Safest thing to do with any kind of oily rag is spread it out flat and peg it to a line or rail outdoors for a few days. This gives any drying oil that's soaked into the rag time to cure, which it will do safely because the spread-out shape lets the heat of the curing reaction escape without raising the temperature anywhere even close to ignition point; it also gives any particularly flash-prone volatile organic compounds, like paint thinners and so forth, plenty of time to evaporate and dissipate.

No oily rag that's been pegged up outside for a week is ever going to cause spontaneous combustion afterwards.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 PM on June 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

By the way, I fundamentally disagree with the snippet of advice near the end of the This Old House video about stuffing oily rags into a sealed paint can full of water.

Yes this will stop them spontaneously combusting for as long as they stay in the can, but all it takes is some inquisitive child to open the can and dump them out, and now you have a pile of oily rags that will begin to cure as the water dries out, wadded together enough to retain enough heat to that combustion becomes a real risk. Even sneakier combustion because it's going to take the water a while to dry out.

Just spread them out to dry. It's all you need to do.
posted by flabdablet at 10:06 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

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