How to Dispose of Cooking Oil Properly—and One Thing You Should Never Do

Whatever you do, don't pour your oil down the drain.

Cooking oil being poured onto a spoon on a yellow background
Photo: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm

If you had to pick the most frequently used item in your pantry, it would likely be a cooking oil of some kind, right? Whether you're sautéing veggies, crisping up chicken cutlets, or deep-frying meatballs, oil is usually the first thing to hit the pan. But what about all that extra oil that doesn't get used up? If you've been disposing of leftover oil by pouring it down your sink drain or tossing it outside in your yard, you're going to want to find a different method moving forward.

While dumping excess oil in your drain may seem like the most convenient option, there could be extreme consequences. SeQuential, a West Coast-based company that specializes in used cooking oil recycling and proper disposal, has some preferred methods you should employ instead. The SeQuential website explains that "improper oil disposal, like dumping down the drain, is illegal and dangerous. The grease congeals into a lump that clings to your pipes. If this happens enough, you can get a severe drain clog". This disposal method can also result in other issues like backwashes, flooding, and environmental hazards.

How to Dispose of Used Cooking Oil

There are many ways to dispose of your cooking oil in a clean and healthy manner. Try some of the below options to make sure you're responsibly throwing away your oil. Using one of these methods isn't just conscious for our eco-system, it will also prevent any unwanted smells from lingering in your drain or trash can.

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Yes, you can reuse cooking oil

Did you know you can recycle your cooking oil? This is especially helpful if you deep-fry food often or use a lot of cooking oil. All you have to do is let the oil cool down to room temperature, strain it through a cheese cloth, and pour it into an air-tight container. You may need to strain it a few times to make sure all the crumbs are gone, but once it's clean, you can reuse up to two times. Keep in mind, you should try to reuse the oil within a day or two if you can.

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Pour cooking oil into a container

If you only have a little bit of excess oil after cooking, it may not be enough to recycle. An easy and efficient way to get rid of it is to let it cool and then pour it into a disposable container, like a cardboard milk carton or takeout box. Before tossing the oil-filled container, make sure there's something absorbent in your trash can like paper towels or food scraps.

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Add cooking oil to your compost

If you used your oil to cook a plant-based meal, consider adding it to your compost bin. Your bugs and worms will thank you! Just make sure you don't do this with any oil that meat was cooked in. You'll end up attracting unwanted critters like rodents, skunks, and raccoons.

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Make your own non-toxic pesticide

Have you ever noticed little insect bites on the leaves of your plants? Well, your leftover oil may be just the trick to nip those bugs in the bud. Add some oil and water to a spray bottle and give those leaves a spritz to rid those pesky insects for good. And just like with the tip above, you'll want to make sure your oil was used for a plant-based meal and not something containing meat. Otherwise, you may end up with more bugs than you started with.

RELATED: 5 Types of House Plants Every Home Should Have

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Take your cooking oil to a local restaurant

Most restaurants have a method for properly disposing of hazardous materials. If you work at a restaurant or know the owner of a local spot, it may be worth your while to see if you can drop off your leftover cooking oil. You can also call a hazardous waste disposal company or use a service like, ACTenviro, which will dispose of your cooking oil for you.

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