What Should I Do with Used Motor Oil?

While most motorists pay someone to change their oil, 25 percent of us still crawl under our vehicles and do it ourselves. When we’re done, what do we do with the used motor oil?

It should go without saying, but dispose of it properly.

I remember my father draining blackened motor oil from our Oldsmobile Delta 88 back in the early ’80s and burying it in the backyard.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the used oil from a single oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water – a year’s supply for 50 people. Just one quart of used oil can produce a two-acre slick.

Nice job, dad.

Don’t be like my father. Here are a few options for properly disposing of used motor oil.

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Take used motor oil to an auto parts store or quick lube

Many businesses that sell or change motor oil accept oil for recycling free of charge. For example, most Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone stores accept used motor oil. Likewise, many Jiffy Lube stores are designated oil recycling collection centers. Call the businesses in your area to ensure they’ll take your used oil.

You can also look for places that accept used motor oil on www.earth911.com.

Do these businesses a favor and ensure the used motor oil is properly stored in clean plastic containers (not with dirty oil dripping down the sides). It’s convenient to simply use your empty oil bottles as used-oil storage containers.

Avoid mixing used motor oil with antifreeze. Some collection centers won’t take motor oil mixed with antifreeze.

Don’t forget the oil filter. Most collection centers also recycle used oil filters. In fact, since used oil from discarded oil filters can leak into the soil and water, many state and local governments have banned their disposal in area landfills. Like used motor oil, used oil filters are highly recyclable, and the steel can be used to manufacture a variety of new products, such as construction materials, vehicles and appliances.

Take used oil to a municipal recycling facility

In Duluth, Minn., where I live, our local government operates a couple materials recovery centers that accept used motor oil and filters (among other household goods) for recycling. Once a year I head over with my five-gallon container of used oil and all my filters. It only takes a few minutes and it’s free. Plus, I sleep well at night knowing my used oil isn’t buried in the back yard.

How to change your oil

What happens to used motor oil that’s recycled?

Used motor oil can be used to power industrial plant boilers or other industrial heating applications. In fact, recycling just two gallons of waste oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for nearly 24 hours. It can also be distilled into diesel or marine fuel.

Used motor oil can also be re-refined and used to make new motor oil. Refiners can restore the lubricating qualities of base oils, remove contaminants and introduce new additives to create a new product.

Here’s another option – create less waste oil

The best way to deal with used motor oil is to create as little as possible.

The motor oil market today contains multiple oils recommended for extended drain intervals. Some even allow you to go a full year between oil changes if you choose.

At the risk of sounding immodest, AMSOIL was the first oil company to promote extended drain intervals. Back in 1972 we were making synthetic oil recommended for up to 25,000 miles or one year, whichever came first.

Today, we offer AMSOIL Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil, which provides extended drain intervals up to 25,000 miles (normal service), one year or 700 hours of operation, whichever comes first.

AMSOIL Signature Series

Buy AMSOIL Signature Series

We also offer XL Synthetic Motor Oil, which is recommended for up to 12,000 miles/one year, or longer when recommended in owner’s manuals or indicated by electronic oil life monitoring systems.

AMSOIL XL Synthetic Motor Oil

Buy AMSOIL XL Synthetic Motor Oil

Extending drain intervals dramatically reduces the amount of waste oil generated.

If all the vehicles in North America used AMSOIL synthetic motor oil for extended drain intervals, we could eliminate billions of gallons of used oil.

Not only that, but changing oil less often also reduces packaging waste, not to mention the time you spend changing oil.

What about the oil filter?

Our line of Ea® Oil Filters is recommended for up to 25,000 miles (normal service) or one year, whichever comes first, helping you generate fewer used oil filters each year while providing your engine excellent protection.

AMSOIL Oil Filters

Shop AMSOIL Ea Oil Filters

Regardless how often you elect to change oil, just make sure you dispose of used motor oil properly. Your backyard will thank you.


  1. Used motor oil recycling is very important as it is bad for our environment!! We manufacture used oil true turnkey recycling plant

  2. It really helped when you mentioned that you should take used oil to a recycling facility! My husband works at an auto shop and has a lot of leftover oil and he wasn’t sure what he should do with it. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to him so he can consider recycling it!

  3. We service lawn mowers out of our garage and my husband got a great idea when he bought a 55 gallon drum to dispose the waste oil instead of putting it back into the oil containers the new oil came in.. now I have no idea how to get rid of it without paying a price and it’s taking up space!

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Paula,

      In Duluth, Minn., where I live, one may dispose of large quantities of used motor oil free of charge at our public recycling facility. Check to see if such a service exists in your area. Start with Google. If that doesn’t bear fruit, try contacting a local government office or official. Aside from that, you might try contacting a quick lube in your area; most take used oil free of charge, although they might not want 55 gallons of it. You can always post a craigslist or Facebook Marketplace ad: “Free used motor oil for your waste-oil heater. You haul.” Never be surprised at what people will claim as long as it’s free.



  4. Thanks for helping me understand that it would be better to take the used oil to recycling centers since it can lead to the soil and water which can be bad for the environment. I will follow your advice since we have lots of them due to the car and motorcycle collection of my husband. He would just put the used oil in a bottle and leave it in the garage. I don’t know how to dispose of them, so thanks for the information!

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