It’s almost that time of year again for the dreaded spring cleaning. For many people, the garage stands out the as the place they’d rather avoid (if not skip altogether).

However, your garage can be one of the most important places for you to keep clean and organized in your house.However, your garage can be one of the most important places for you to keep clean and organized in your house.

In addition to all the random junk that gets tossed in the garage over the course of a Colorado winter, you’ve probably got stacks of cans and bottles full of certain chemicals that could be a hazard to your family or pets.

Plus, those boxes of books and piles of papers can be festering grounds for dust and mold, which won’t help any allergy problems you or your family may suffer from.

The old bikes and basketballs for Goodwill can wait to be dug out until the summer. But here are 7 hazardous items you should get out of your garage today for the safety of yourself and your entire family (furry friends included).

1. Old Paint

Did you know that paint can expire? Once paint expires it can be hazardous. The same goes for paint thinner, too.

Check all the cans in your garage and set aside the ones that are past their expiration date. You can always keep a small sample of paint for future color-referencing in a tightly sealed container, out of reach of pets or kids.

How to dispose of it:

Paint tins can be disposed of at your local recycling center or hardware store.

While you’re at it, throw out any used paintbrushes or pans that past their prime. The dried-up paint on those can be just as dangerous to curious dogs and kids as what’s in the cans.

2. Car Fluids

Your garage probably keeps all the essentials you need to keep your car running smoothly: motor oil (and the dirty rags you use to check your oil), anti-freeze, windshield washer fluid, gear oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid…the list goes on.

Your car uses a lot of different fluids, all of which can be hazardous to humans and animals.

Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid are especially dangerous. They can cause blindness, kidney damage, or even death, particularly in small children or pets.

If you need to keep any of these fluids on-hand, store them out of reach of children or family pets in child-proof containers (check the label for storage instructions). Otherwise, get rid of them.

How to get rid of them:

Like paint, most of these fluids can be disposed of at a local recycling center.

Looking for a more natural way to degrease those car tools and bike chains? Read on to discover natural DIY cleaning solutions for everything in your house >

3. Pest Control

Mouse traps, rat poison, insect killers: if you aren’t directly addressing a pest problem, you should either throw these out or store them safely in tightly sealed containers where your dogs and children can’t get into them.

Many of the chemicals used to kill pests can cause stomach pains and vomiting in humans, and kill dogs and cats. Mouse and rat traps can also be dangerous to kids and small pets.

How to get rid of it:

Traps can just be disarmed and thrown away. Pesticides should come with a “Storage and Disposal” statement somewhere on the label. Follow those instructions.

If there’s any residue left in the container, you should consider it as hazardous and recycle it along with any other hazardous materials as described above.

Before you throw out an empty pesticide container, wash it out with soap and water. Wear gloves and eye protection when doing this, and be sure not to pour the used water down the drain.

4. Garbage & Expired Food

The stink itself should be enough to make you want to get rid of garbage and old food in your garage. But waste can also pose a health hazard.
Expired foods and trash can attract dust, bacteria and mold, all of which are sure to agitate allergies. It’ll also likely turn into a hangout for bugs and mice that spread disease.

Finally, in Colorado, food and trash can attract raccoons, which can make a big mess (and carry rabies). Not to mention how the smell of trash can attract bears — a dangerous critter you don’t hanging about the house.

5. Propane Tanks

While you’re moving all that stuff around in the garage, keep an eye out for propane tanks, as propane is highly combustible.
Never store a propane tank indoors. If the container has a leak (an increased likelihood if it gets bumped around by the car or if your children touch it), the gas can collect and become an explosion hazard.

Propane is also an extreme health hazard if you breathe it in. Propane is heavier than oxygen, which means it’ll take the place of oxygen in your lungs, which will make it extremely difficult or impossible to breathe.

Not to mention a whole host of other effects like irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, convulsions, skin irritation, and more.
Propane tanks should be stored outside year-round. Make sure it’s at least 10 feet from the house or any other structure that could go up in flames should it combust.

How to get rid of it:

You can’t simply throw your old propane tank in the trash. It’s possible that the company where you purchased the tank has a “take back” policy, so start by calling them. Otherwise, your county’s recycling center will provide a way to recycle it.

6. Books & Paperwork

You know that bin of books you’ve been meaning to read for the last 10 years, or your tax receipts from 1992? Dust loves to collect in between every page. And when mixed with moisture build-up from humid weather, you could have a serious mold problem on your hands.

Plus, all that old paper can be a fire danger — especially if it’s stored near other hazardous of combustible materials.

How to get rid of it:

Take those boxes of books to a thrift store or re-seller, or donate them to a Little Free Library if there’s one in your neighborhood.

You can also consider donating them to organizations that distribute them to prison libraries (Books Through Bars), soldiers (Books for Soldiers), or people in Africa (Books for Africa).

As for tax documents or other paperwork, consider electronically storing the important stuff. There are cheap or even free phone apps that can scan documents by simply snapping a photo then converting it to a digital record.

7. Junk You Don’t Need

Unused sporting/camping equipment, old furniture, that set of golf clubs you never use — it all takes up space and collects dust, cobwebs and mold.

If you’re going through your garage to look for the more hazardous stuff anyway, you might as well get rid of any junk you find along the way.

How to get rid of it:

If you’ve got junk to get rid of that isn’t ready for the trash, here are a few ways to give them new life:

  • Host a garage sale
  • Post online: Craigslist, NextDoor, and freecycle.org are great, especially if you have bigger stuff you’re willing to give away for free. Pianos, furniture, etc. As always, watch out for scams!
  • Donate: Goodwill and Salvation Army are common go-tos, but assisted living facilities may also be interested in your furniture (if it’s in good condition). Day cares may take your kids’ old toys (if they’re clean and in good condition).
  • Curbside: When all else fails, put it on the curb with a free sign. You might want to check the forecast in advance — a rain-soaked overstuffed couch probably won’t be too appealing to passers-by.

If it looks like your garage cleanup could take days (or even weeks), GSC’s home cleaning professionals to take care of it for you.

Learn more about GSC’s home cleaning services here >