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How to Dispose of Kerosene and Other Old Fuels from Home or Business

January 10, 2024

This blog entry discusses environmental problems and RCRA legal concerns relative to the disposal of kerosene, gasoline, and diesel fuels. Q&As include:


  1. How long can you store kerosene?
  2. How long can you store diesel fuel?
  3. How long can you store gasoline?
  4. Is there an alternative to disposing of kerosene?
  5. How do you dispose of small amounts of kerosene?
  6. How do you dispose of large amounts of kerosene?
  7. How do you dispose of small quantities of diesel fuel?
  8. How do you dispose of small quantities of old gasoline?
  9. How do you dispose of large quantities of old gasoline?
  10. Can you mix old gasoline with new to get rid of it?
  11. Can stale gas be recycled?
  12. What’s the general EPA guidance on fuel disposal?


How long can you store kerosene?


About three months. Past that, it begins to break down, lose its flammable potency, and support harmful molds and bacteria.


How long can you store diesel fuel?


Diesel fuel can be stored for six to 12 months without significant degradation if you keep it in a clean, dry, cool place. Conversely, if it’s exposed to high temperatures, moisture, or other contaminants, its shelf life will be significantly shorter (see source).


How long can you store gasoline?


Pure gasoline typically lasts up to six months before it begins to degrade from oxidation.  However, more than 80 percent of gasoline sold in the U.S. contains up to ten percent ethanol (E10). Ethanol tends to absorb water, and that water effectively becomes part of the gasoline, making it less combustible. Given this liability, it’s accurate to say that most gasoline sold at your local filling station will only last up to three months (see source).


Is there an alternative to disposing of kerosene?


Instead of enduring the time, trouble, and expense of properly ridding yourself of unwanted kerosene, you might advertise it on a community bulletin board (e.g., Craigslist) under Free Stuff. Alternatively, you can donate it to a nonprofit organization that might use kerosene (e.g., Boy Scouts). But in either case, only if it’s still fresh (i.e., less than three months old).


How do you dispose of small amounts of kerosene?


To rid yourself of small amounts of stale kerosene, search online for your local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection site, probably sponsored by your local waste district. Also, many service stations that accept old fuel and oil might also accept kerosene—if you deliver it in a marked container so that it doesn’t get mixed with any other type of hydrocarbon fuel.

And while it might seem obvious, it’s nonetheless worth mentioning: Don’t buy more kerosene than you need. Larger containers might seem more cost-efficient, but not if you’re throwing away a substantial portion of it.


How do you dispose of large amounts of kerosene?


If you need to dispose of industrial/commercial amounts of kerosene, it’s probable that your local HHW isn’t going to accept it. Under such circumstances, your first option is to ring up your local disposal company—whoever’s picking up your garbage now—to see if they’ll accept kerosene. If so, query whether you’ll need to deliver the kerosene to their site, or if they’ll come and get it.

If your general waste contractor doesn’t cotton to handling kerosene—many don’t—then you’ll need to investigate the hazardous waste management resources in your area, which is the point at which we historically counsel: get expert advice.


How do you dispose of small quantities of diesel fuel?


Most city landfills accept household amounts of uncontaminated diesel fuel if you deliver it in a spill-proof container and label it as hazardous trash—usually for a fee.

Also, some auto repair shops accept hazardous fluids such as gasoline, diesel fuel, transmission fluids, and/or automotive lubricants. Call around.

Another option: deliver it to a fire station. Some fire departments use diesel fuel to ignite conflagrations for training purposes. Call to see if they’re interested.


How do you dispose of small quantities of old gasoline?


If you have only a small amount of gasoline to get rid of, your best answer is to take it to your local hazardous-waste disposal center. If that’s not on your speed dialer, call your town or city hall. They’ll put you in touch. (Your call is important to them.) But bear in mind:

  • You should only transport gasoline in approved gas cans, preferably in the open bed of pickup, or on an open trailer.
  • Never put gasoline containers inside the passenger compartment of your car or truck. If the fumes don’t get you, the ensuing explosion might.
  • If you must use the trunk of your car (not recommended), make sure the cans are well sealed, tie them down so they don’t fall over, and remove them from the vehicle ASAP after you get to where you’re going.
  • Never leave gasoline containers in a hot, enclosed space (such as in a vehicle passenger compartment or trunk).
  • Also, it would be a good idea to steer clear of sparks, flames, or hot surfaces.


How do you dispose of large quantities of old gasoline?


Bear in mind that gasoline is both toxic and flammable—and you could probably make a case that it’s explosive. Thus, in the case of industrial quantities of stale gasoline, the need for a qualified hazardous waste disposal company is manifest.

Consider: a single gallon of gasoline has the potential to pollute 750,000 gallons of water; and you’re responsible for the generation, transport, and treatment (or disposal) of toxic waste from “cradle to grave.”

Thus, the legal, financial, and reputational consequences of improper gasoline disposal—whether relatively minor or spectacularly catastrophic—will be yours forever…not to mention being really expensive by way of fines and lawyers.


Can you mix old gasoline with new to get rid of it?


Rather than going through the trouble of properly disposing of it, some folks will recommend mixing “old” gasoline with “fresh” to render it usable; but we’re fairly confident they’ve never priced a set of new fuel injectors for a piece of equipment (or the family Subaru).

Stale gasoline is anathema to modern fuel-injected (or even carbureted) engines; and putting it into your workplace equipment (to save the cost of its proper disposal) is the epitome of false economy. And remember, no additive will restore old gasoline. I.e., fuel stabilizers are solutions of petroleum antioxidants and lubricants that protect fresh gasoline as it might languish in a can or tank. But they do not turn old gas into new.

BTW, a case can be made for mixing “old” gasoline with three-parts “fresh” and using it in your lawnmower or snow-thrower. But small-engine manufacturers practically beg you to use high-quality non-ethanol gasoline in their products (see source). So, we leave it up to you. And read that warranty carefully.


Can stale gas be recycled?


You can try reconditioning stale gasoline yourself. But remember that gasoline is highly flammable and extremely toxic. Use caution. Work outside. Stay far away from any heat source or open flame. And bear in mind that smoking is bad for your health. All that said:

To remove foreign particles from gasoline, pour it into a new container through a coffee filter or two layers of thin cloth. (Allow the filter to fully dry, then place it in the trash.)

Next, pour the gasoline into a transparent container. Wait until the water settles to the bottom. Then, carefully pour off as much of the gasoline as possible, leaving the water in the original container. Add isopropyl alcohol to the reconditioned gasoline to break up any remaining water: about 12 ounces of isopropyl alcohol for every 10 gallons of gas (see source).

Of course, you wouldn’t want to pour this stuff directly into your new $6,000 Cub Cadet (or $80,000 SUV) and just hope for the best. Instead, you must mix this reconditioned gasoline with fresh gasoline in a 1:5 ratio (see source). Then start hoping for the best.


What’s the general EPA guidance on fuel disposal?


The EPA deems many everyday products as toxic wastes when you want to dispose of them. The focus here has been on kerosene, diesel fuel, and gasoline. But much of this discussion also applies to paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides. In sum, anything that might be flammable, explosive, corrosive, or toxic.

You also must be sure that whatever you want to throw into your general waste stream isn’t “reactive,” meaning that while it might be innocent in isolation, it can nonetheless cause all sorts of mayhem in the presence of something else.

E.g., some otherwise benign chemicals create toxic fumes when exposed to water under normal handling conditions. More dangerously, some explode. Others react violently with temperature and/or pressure changes.

So, if you have a potpourri of old fuels or chemicals that you need to toss, and you don’t have a chemist on site—or even if you do—we advise getting expert advice before making a toxic soup and storing it in that barrel outback. And as always, thank you for reading our blog!


Contact us today or call 877.200.2029

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.