Soaps, detergents, and some solvents are referred to as "cleaners." Simple acids and bases like baking soda and vinegar are often used as cleaners, as well. The general rule of thumb is to use the least-hazardous cleaner for the job.
Some types of cleaning agents, especially many solvents, are dangerous. Spent solvents may often be recycled. However, any are quite toxic, or even flammable or explosive. These are generally insoluble in water.
Wash waters and storm water
Some cleaners, like water-soluble soaps and detergents, are relatively safe before use, but become dangerous when they take on contaminants while cleaning. Even fairly benign cleaners can become toxic quickly after washing a car or floor. These wash waters must be contained and properly managed.
That is, if the wash water becomes dangerous waste, then it must be managed as dangerous waste.
Polluted runoff must never enter a septic system nor storm sewer. Remember that not all storm drains are marked. Every contaminant that falls or flows onto an unprotected parking lot or into the street can wind up in local surface waters. Help protect water quality by following the Stormwater Best Management Practices.
In some areas, some kinds of water wastes, usually with treatment, can be permitted to go down a sink drain to the sewer system. This would be permitted through the local Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) or similar entity. The facility must have a written permit on hand. Carefully maintain any treatment systems on site.
Floor-cleaning methods that reduce pollution include using dry sweeping of absorbents for small spills and using floor-washing machines that recirculate and reuse water. Old floor drains should be plugged. Using a berm to contain any floor-cleaning water is good sense, as well as a Best Management Practice in many stormwater jurisdictions. Never allow floor or parking lot pollution to reach storm drains.
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