How to Handle Used Engine Oil

Noria Corporation

"What is the best way to handle used engine oil?"

During normal use, impurities such as dirt, metal catalysts, water and chemicals can become mixed in with oil, so in time, the oil no longer performs well. Eventually, this used oil must be replaced with new or re-refined oil to lubricate the engine properly.

If you change your own motor oil, you need to know how to properly handle and dispose of the used oil. Used motor oil is insoluble and can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Always be aware that prolonged skin contact with used oil can be very bad for your health.


Each month more than 16 million gallons of used oil is disposed of improperly. That is more than the amount lost by the Exxon Valdez super-tanker off the coast of Alaska.

For proper disposal of used oil, employ the following practices:

  1. Never dispose of used motor oil on the ground; in a ditch, creek, river or lake; in a storm sewer; or in the garbage.
  2. Do not mix used motor oil with anything else, such as gasoline, solvents, antifreeze, pesticides, etc.
  3. Transfer used motor oil to a clean, leak-proof plastic container with a screw-on top (milk jug, empty oil container, etc.) and firmly screw on the top to prevent leaking or spilling.
  4. Search for your nearest disposal station.
  5. Prior to discarding a used oil filter, punch an air hole in the dome end. You may use a screwdriver, but be careful not to puncture your hand. Also, puncture the anti-drain back valve (if present) located at the flat end of the filter. Allow oil to drain from the filter for several hours. Combine this oil with the rest of the used motor oil for recycling. Once you find a disposal station, ask if it will take your used oil filter as well.

Used Oil Facts

  • The used oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water.
  • It only takes one cup of used motor oil to put an oil sheen on a 1-acre pond.
  • The United States produces 1.3 billion gallons of waste oil each year, of which 800 million gallons are recycled. (Almost 40 percent is not being recycled).
  • If all the waste oil in the United States was recycled in a single year, it would save half the output of the Alaskan pipeline for the same period.
  • Recycled used motor oil can be re-refined into new oil, processed into fuel oils and used as raw materials for the petroleum industry.
  • One gallon of used motor oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.
  • If all the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers was recycled, it would be enough motor oil for more than 50 million cars a year.
Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication