Trash Talk 

How to Dispose of Used Cooking Oil

How to Dispose of Used Cooking Oil

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There are countless types of cooking oils: avocado, palm, peanut, vegetable shortening, coconut, sesame, corn, sunflower, canola oil, vegetable, olive oil, and oil leftover from cooking certain foods.

Although pouring used cooking oil or frying oil down the drain, sink, or toilet may seem like the easiest way to dispose of cooking oil, it can have negative effects on your home, the environment, and our communities. In the long term, pouring oil down the kitchen sink will clog the pipes and local sewer systems, and could even cause sewage backups. Even if you try to dilute the grease with soap and water, it clogs the pipes by bonding together with other fats and chemicals.

In addition, disposed oil outside could result in housefires, wildfires, injuries to wildlife, and water pollution.

In this blog, we’ll go over situations when you’ll have excess oil, when you should throw it away, how to throw it away, how to reuse and recycle cooking oil, and the impacts of improper disposal. Use the guide below to avoid costly plumbing bills, stop clogs in your drain, and you can help preserve the environment. We'll show you the proper way to dispose of cooking oil so you don't cause problems to sewer system.

High Fat Foods

Some foods don’t give off much oil when cooking. For example, lean chicken won’t produce much oil. However, chicken thighs can leave behind a good amount of fat.

Some other situations you’d have a lot of leftover cooking oil could be:

  • Leftover grease from cooking bacon
  • Frying hamburgers
  • Ground beef
  • Fried chicken
  • Frying sausage
  • Lard
  • Oil for French fries and other fry foods
  • Oil for frying breaded foods
  • Leftover oil from sautéing vegetables

When to Dispose of Cooking Oil

How do you know if the cooking oil is still good? As a rule of thumb, cooking oil can be reused two to three times before disposal.

You should never cook with used oil that is older than one or two months old. If the cooking oil is cloudy, has a funny odor, or has developed a foamy top layer, it is officially time to dispose of it!

Reheating old or burnt oil can become unstable and dangerous if it is heated over a certain temperature, or its smoke point.

If you ever encounter a grease fire in your home kitchen, your reaction may be to pour water on it. Avoid this at all cost, it will only make the fire worse! Instead, suffocate the fire by throwing a towel over it and turning off the heat source.

an infographic showing what you can do with used cooking oil. make soap, use as lubrication, cook with it, compost it, take to a recycling facility, or properly throw it away
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How to Dispose of Cooking Oil or Frying Oil

Solid Cooking Oil

Once the grease cools down to room temperature and then solidifies, it will be easier to dispose. When you are done cooking, strain the grease into a sealed container, such as a glass jar, metal coffee can, or plastic milk carton. You can use a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or a metal strainer to filter out the large food particles that could rot and cause the oil to go bad. To help soak up the oil quicker, you can mix flour, sawdust, cat litter, or sand into the oil. You can also put the cooking oil in the freezer so it solidifies faster.

If you throw even a small amount of hot oil directly into the trash can and the trash bag rips open, it will be very messy to clean up. Not only that, but it can attract vermin and insects. By placing the grease in a container, you prevent it from leaking onto the rest of the contents in the trash bag.

Make sure to throw out any greasy food into the trash can instead of down the garbage disposal. Wipe down any greasy dishes or cooking utensils before placing them in the dishwasher to prevent the grease from clogging your pipes.

Throwing in the Trash Can

You're able to dispose of cooking oil under a few circumstances. After it's gotten to room temperature, you can soak it up with a paper towel and throw the paper towel in a trash can or food waste bin. Remember, this method of cooking oil disposal is a waste of paper towels. Try to find another way to dispose of cooking oil to save paper towels.

Drain Guard - Grease Disposal System

There are products available for sale that can facilitate the grease disposal process. You may consider investing in a FOG safe grease & oil absorbing drain guard. It's a grease disposal system for your sink. Not only is it made from recycled paper, but the drain guard can absorb up to 4 ounces of oil. You can even take it on camping trips to avoid spilling oil onto the ground!

If you are looking for a long-term solution that requires minimal effort, consider investing in the Range Klein 600-02 Fat Trapper System. It includes a container made of recycled material, as well as high temperature fat trapper bags that can withstand up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The bags can be sealed for clean, easy disposal. Do not overfill the bags with more than 3 cups of grease before disposing of it. Customers who have purchased this product say it is effective at keeping odors at bay.

Recycle Cooking Oil

According to the AFDC,  “biodiesel produce 78% less CO2 than diesel fuel.” Cooking oil can be refined into environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel, but it must be processed safely by a professional. To find a list of drop-off recycling centers or a waste center near you, refer to your local government’s website for more information.

There are also companies who buy used cooking oil to make animal feed, makeup, oleo chemicals, and biodiesel fuels, but they typically buy in high volume from restaurants. According to the GlobalNewswire, the global used cooking oil market is expected to reach almost 8.5 billion by the end of 2027!

You can take your cooking oil to a local restaurant; they will make sure it is properly recycled. You can even call your local fire department to see if they will accept the grease.

Improper Cooking Oil Disposal

Down the Drain

Pouring grease down the kitchen sink seems like an easy and convenient way to dispose of used cooking oil. But please, resist the temptation. The oil will solidify in the pipes and will clog.

Some people think pairing grease down the drain with hot water will allow oil to reach its destination with hardening in the pipes. This is a myth. You could potentially make the problem worse. The heat from the hot water will let the cooking oil go further down the pipes, but the oil still hardens. The deeper the clog, the harder and more expensive to fix.

Not only could oil down the drain damage your own plumbing, but it could also create problems for your city’s sewers. According to O’Connor Plumbing:

“If the grease doesn’t stick to your pipes but flows into the sewers, the problem gets worse. Here, oil from all the households and restaurants in the area combines. Over time, these grease formations break down to form fatty acids and glycerol.

The fatty acids bind with calcium in the sewers to form so-called fatbergs, which are soap-like compounds. When the sewer level rises, the fatbergs cling to the sewer ceilings where they grow in size, eventually clogging the entire sewer pipe.”

Reusing Cooking Oil

Don't let that oil go to waste!

If the oil is still in good shape after the first use, consider reusing it. Now that we’ve covered disposal, let’s talk about reusing and recycling used cooking oil. Use the following ideas in your own kitchen and beyond.

Filtering the Oil

an infographic on how to filter cooking oil. refer to the text below for the info on this infographic
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First, before you reuse your cooking oil, filter it to get rid of bits of gunk and other nasty contents. Try this pro tip to remove any remaining gunk:

  • Boil a half cup water and a teaspoon of powdered gelatin until the gelatin dissolves.
  • Mix it in with the oil and let it chill in the fridge overnight.
  • The gelatin will divide the oil from the sludge.
  • Use a coffee filter to get the rest of the food scraps.
  • You can label your containers based off what food it has been used to cook to make sure there are no gross flavor combinations (such as shrimp and funnel cake).

Containers for Used Cooking Oil

The smell of bacon fat on a hot frying pan brings me back to my childhood. My grandpa made bacon every single morning. He must’ve had three grease containers going at any given time.

After you’ve filtered your oil, you will need to store it properly. There are a few receptacles for storing used oil. My grandpa’s favorite was empty metal ground coffee containers. If you’re in a pinch, cut off the top of an empty seltzer water can and pour.

Use caution. The container can get very hot!

Here are a few ideas for used oil containers for hot oil:

  • Empty metal coffee can
  • Aluminum can
  • Glass container
  • Commercial kitchen metal grease bucket

If you’ve already let your oil cool or solidify, you can still use the containers listed above. You can also use plastic containers since the oil won’t burn them. But remember, DO NOT put hot oil in a plastic container. It will through and cause a huge mess.

Cooking with Used Cooking Oil

You can use your filtered oil for another round of cooking. As said above, only reuse it two or three times though unless you’re using it for light cooking such as frying potato chips. The oil will eventually becoming gross and cloudy.

Reusing cooking oil too many times can result in burning.

Composting Cooking Oil

If it is 100% vegetable oil, corn oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil, it can be composted in very small amounts. If you use too much, the oil creates water resistant barriers that displace water needed for aerobic composting.

Animal fat, however, should not be composted; it will attach bugs.

Avoid adding too much oil to the compost pile. It may block the air flow and slow down the composting process. Make sure your compost pile is between 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the oil.

You can also pour the cooking oil into a spray bottle and lightly spray your plants; it will kill and deter insects from munching on your plants.

You can add a little bit of cooking oil to your pet’s food. It will improve the taste and keep their coats shiny.

Other Ideas for Reusing Cooking Oil

Vegetable Oil as Lube

Oil can even be used to lubricate squeaky hinges around the house.

Specifically, vegetable oils act as a great lubricant for heavy machinery. When applied to tractor transmissions, vegetable oil reduces clutch slippage. The oil also has a high fire point at 610 degrees Fahrenheit so it won’t catch fire.

Another reason vegetable oil works as a great lubricant is because it is biodegradable and less toxic than petroleum oils.

Make Your Own Soap with Cooking Oil

Filtered olive oil can be used to make soap.

Palm oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil also make great soap alternatives.

Watch this video on how to make soap with used oil:

Cook Without Oil

You don’t need oil to cook delicious food.

Instead of deep frying, consider using an air fryer. You can get the same crispiness you would get from a deep fryer.

Steaming or baking are healthy alternatives to deep frying. Remember – the same idea of clogged pipes also applies to your arteries!

Final Thoughts

Before anything else, try to filter and reuse your used cooking oil. There are a ton of creative possibilities like soap making, homemade lubrication, composting opportunities, and using it to cook again. Whether you recycle or immediately dispose of your cooking oil, make sure you do it safely.

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