Under the Hood

Motor Oil FAQ: How to Properly Dispose of Used Car Oil

September 9, 2019

So, you’re sticking it to the man and changing your car’s oil at home? Good for you, you savvy DIY-er! But if it’s your first time performing an oil change, you might have some questions about the “disposal” process that typical how-to YouTube videos won’t answer. Before you simply toss out that motor oil and filter, it’s important to realize that just 4 quarts of motor oil—the average amount coursing through the veins of standard SUVs—can contaminate 1 million gallons of water. Do you really want that hanging on your conscience? I think not.

Read through these FAQs to ensure your conscience—and the environment—stays clean as a whistle.


Is it really necessary to recycle used car oil?

It is absolutely necessary, for the sake of all that’s holy, to properly dispose of engine oil after a DIY oil change! In Kansas and at least 38 total U.S. states, it’s even against the law to dispose of any used oil in the trash, sewers, drains, or anywhere that will allow it to mix with groundwater. Recycling oil also allows it to be re-refined and reused virtually infinitely.


Do I need to recycle my oil filter, too?

Yes, you should recycle any old oil filters along with your engine oil. Even a few drops of old oil from your oil filter can pollute hundreds of gallons of water!


Where should I bring old motor oil for disposal?

You have several options when it comes to recycling engine oil and oil filters:

  • Most retail auto parts stores and auto service centers will accept and recycle your used motor oil—provided the oil is clean and hasn’t been contaminated by other auto fluids. If you live in the Kansas City area, you can drop off your used engine oil (or any other type of automotive fluid) at your nearest McCarthy Auto Service Center.
  • Some states do allow you to recycle motor oil and oil filters via curbside recycling programs. Kansas and Missouri do not have these, but they do offer numerous public household waste (HHW) disposal sites: search Kansas locations and Missouri locations.
  • Simply head to com to find out where to recycle old, used motor oil near you.
  • You can contact your state department (environmental quality department) for more information, advice, or a current list of local drop-off locations.


How do I get engine oil ready for recycling?

First and foremost, be sure you’re not mixing motor oil with any other potential contaminants, including coolant, gasoline, or household chemicals. Oil can’t be re-refined if there’s any added unwanted hazardous waste. I can’t stress this enough—keep your oil separate!

Otherwise, follow these tips to prep your oil for disposal:

  1. What should you store your old engine oil in? Funnel the oil into a clean, uncontaminated container. Most recycling centers suggest using the oil’s original container as it’s recyclable, but if your 5-quart is still partially full, any appropriately sized HDPE plastic container will probably work. (I’ve used clean cat litter pails in the past, and they’re excellent storage solutions for multiple oil changes.)
  2. Adequately drain your old oil filter into the container, potentially overnight. Then place the filter in the replacement’s box.
  3. Label the container as HAZARDOUS.
  4. Tighten and seal the lid well, ensuring no drips or leaks are evident.
  5. Store the container and oil filter box in a cool, dry place, away from animals, water, and flames.
  6. When transporting your used oil to a recycling facility, place it in the trunk or cargo area.
  7. For protection against leaks, consider putting the container in a larger plastic bin, and surround it with cat litter.


What’s the best way to clean up an oil stain on my driveway?

Didn’t catch all your old oil in the oil drain pan? Hey, we’ve all done it at least once! Here are some solutions to remove those unsightly oil stains:

Cat Litter

  • First, be sure the stain is motor oil, not another type of automotive fluid.
  • If the oil is still wet, cover the stain entirely with non-clumping clay cat litter (cat litter is apparently a cure-all when it comes to oil), baking soda, or cornstarch. Wait 30 minutes, then add more if you can see the oil stain soak up to the top of the mound.
  • Once you no longer see oil, allow it to sit for up to 2 days.
  • Sweep up until all debris is cleared away.
  • Squirt a healthy dose of liquid dish soap to the stain, and let it sit for 60 minutes.
  • Using a wire scrub brush and a little bit of water, scrub the stain away. Add small amounts of water if needed.
  • Rinse clean and let dry.

Laundry Detergent

  • Dry laundry detergent powder can be used as an alternative to liquid dish soap (above).

Baking Soda

  • You can try baking soda as a scrubbing agent, too, though soaps are best.


  • The acidity of everyone’s favorite soda pop can eat up grease and oil, though it’s best used on non-porous surfaces like your garage floor.

Engine Degreaser

  • If the oil stain has already had a chance to set and dry, try pouring some engine degreaser on the stain before covering with kitty litter.


  • Similarly, you can douse the area with WD-40 or another type of spray lubricant.


Recycling your old engine oil and oil filters is just one small way to make the world a better, cleaner, and safer place. And isn’t that what everyone should strive to accomplish? If you have any other tips for recycling oil or cleaning up car oil spills, hit me up in the comments section.








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