How to Dispose of Methanol

By Sarah Parrish; Updated April 24, 2017
Prevent fire in the laboratory by exercising appropriate control methods when dealing with flammable liquids like methanol.

Methanol is an alcohol that's often used in laboratory experiments. Because it's flammable and poses health risks, it's important not to rinse methanol down the drain or combine it with other materials that may cause it to combust. To dispose of methanol appropriately, either discard it in appropriate hazardous waste containers or allow it to evaporate.

Small Amounts

Pour the methanol into a shallow glass or Pyrex dish. Don't pour it into a plastic dish since methanol can dissolve some plastics.

Set the shallow dish in a fume hood and allow the methanol to evaporate. The fume hood will evaporate the methanol and dissipate the fumes quickly to a safe level.

Wipe the shallow dish with a wet, disposable paper towel, and discard the paper towel in the regular trash.

Wash the shallow dish as you would normally wash laboratory glassware.

Large Amounts

Contain the methanol in a flame-proof hazardous waste disposal container.

Contact a local medical research institution or university. Be sure the institution you contact is local to help you follow state and local city laws regarding hazardous waste disposal.

Request the information for hazardous waste pickup control. The reason you'll want to contact a local research institution rather than a local hazardous waste pickup company directly, is two-fold. Primarily, you might be able to simply bring your methanol to the research institution and discard it there for free. Many research institutions have their own methods of dealing with hazardous waste and they could take care of the problem for you, perhaps for a small fee. The second reason is the fact that they've already done some shopping around and even if they don't dispose of their own hazardous waste, they know the best local company that does.

Place the methanol container in the trunk of your car or another area that will keep passengers safe, should the methanol spill. Consider secondary containment.

Bring your methanol container to the appropriate disposal site.

Tip

If some methanol gets on your gloves while handling it, change them. Methanol can dissolve some plastics.

Warning

Some areas allow small quantities of methanol to be disposed of by rinsing it down the sink with copious amounts of water. This is an unsafe environmental practice, regardless of local laws. Avoid breathing methanol fumes.

About the Author

Sarah Parrish is a writer based in Heidelberg, Germany. She has contributed to websites such as 1H2O, where she won an award in citizen journalism. Parrish has also coauthored publications in scientific journals and received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Oregon.