New York Sea Grant's
Marina Pollution Prevention Web Site
Section 1: Mechanical Activities
Potential Environmental Impacts
Contaminated rags or shop towels that are improperly managed may
pose fire, health and environmental risks. Minimizing contamination
of rags reduces health risks to workers and emissions of volatile
organic compounds to the air, improves effluent discharge from
industrial laundries if you use launderable rags, decreases liability
risks, and saves money by minimizing solvent use.
- Keep oily
rags separate from rags that have been contaminated with hazardous
materials such as solvents.
- Use cloth
rags which can be recycled by an industrial laundry service.
with a permitted industrial laundry service that will pick up
soiled rags and deliver clean rags on a regular basis. The laundry
service may require you to limit the solvent and other chemical
content of the soiled rags because of the limits on their permit
to discharge wastewater into the sanitary sewer.
- Store ignitable
rags in NFPA approved, labeled containers until they can be laundered.
- Reduce the
amount of solvent used in cleaning through improved work practices.
Use solvents only when absolutely necessary. Use non-VOC cleaners.
- Remove excess
solvent from rags by wringing or pressing excess into coverable
- How used
cloth rags are managed depends on what the rags are contaminated
with and how much product they contain. If the used rag is:
with used oil, manage as used oil. For New York used oil compliance requirements, click
with used oil, but not dripping, test for hazardous waste
then properly manage. For New York Hazardous Waste compliance requirements, click here, pdf.
with paints or solvents, or other hazardous materials, manage
as hazardous waste. For New York Hazardous Waste compliance requirements, click here, pdf.
with other material (or only with mild cleaners or soaps),
dispose of in regular trash.
- If you lease
rags and have them laundered, and they are contaminated with hazardous
waste, you must manage them as hazardous waste until they are
picked up for laundering. However, they do not require a hazardous