How to Dispose of Cooking Oil the Right (and Safe) Way

We love a good fried treat, but tossing the oil after frying can be a pain. Learn how to safely dispose of your old cooking oil for a cleaner, safer kitchen.

From finger-licking fried chicken to deep-fried treats inspired by summer fairs, cooking fried foods can leave a lot of oil behind once you’re finished in the kitchen. Before you toss that oil in the trash or let it drain down your sink, you’ll want to read these disposal options that are safe for the environment and your kitchen.

When to Save Frying Oil for Later

If you’re planning to deep fry again in the future, you don’t need to worry at all about disposing the oil. Save the oil for later. To keep it in read-to-fry condition, strain the oil through a coffee filter or a few layers of cheesecloth to remove any crumbs or bits of food. Store the remaining oil in a cool, airtight container in a dark area of your kitchen.

There’s a limit to how many times you can reuse oil, though, so give it a sniff test before use. If it smells rotten or rancid, then it’s not safe to cook with. It’s important to note that each time you reuse the oil it deteriorates and is more susceptible to burning.

How to Dispose of Cooking Oil

Before you begin to consider disposal options, you may want to check with your local waste department to see if they have any guidelines or protocols for getting rid of cooking grease. Some areas have places where you can recycle leftover oil, so check with Earth911.com to see if that is an option for you. If not, follow the following steps, being sure to always let your oil cool first.

  • The container method: One way to safely toss oil is pouring the cooled liquid into a disposable container (think old sour cream or cottage cheese containers) and sealing it shut. You can then simply throw the container away.
  • The freezer method: You can also pour leftover oil into an old can and place it in the freezer until it’s hardened. Once the oil is firm, you should scoop it out and into the trash with a spoon. If you’re using smaller amounts of oil you can also allow the oil to harden in a coffee mug, scoop into the trash and then wash the mug as usual.
  • The plastic bag method: Finally, you can always toss cooled oil into a plastic trash bag, provided it already has some debris inside. Old paper towels, veggie peels and more can help soak up some of the grease so you don’t have such a mess.

Whichever method you choose, don’t ever attempt to toss oil while it’s still hot–this can be dangerous! Also, you should never pour oil down the drain or toilet. Oil has the potential to clog your drains and damage your pipes, which can leave you with a nasty mess and a big repair bill.

Now that you know cleanup can be simple, we hope you feel like tackling a few more of our favorite fried treats, like these tasty homemade potato chips.

Lauren Rearick
Lauren Rearick is a freelance writer/editor based out Pittsburgh, specalizing in arts, entertainment, music, health and wellness as well as lifestyle writing. Her work has appeared in CNN Opinions, The Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, Teen Vogue, Travel + Leisure, the Pittsburgh City Paper, Vinyl Me Please, Hello Giggles and more.

She founded the music blog, The Grey Estates, which was selected as one of the top 100 indie music blogs by Style of Sound. In 2016, she was recognized with a Keystone State Press Award for a personality profile.