How do I Recycle Oil That Has Water in It?

by Ki West

With normal usage, motor oil can become contaminated with various impurities including water. Most recycling centers consider this type of mixture to be a hazardous material and designate a special day to collect it. Oil that has been mixed with water can be recycled if the water is removed, which you can do a couple of ways. Since water and oil don’t mix, the first step to getting this mixture into a recyclable form is to let them separate. Water will naturally go to the bottom and the oil will float to the top.

Drain The Water Out


Pour the oil and water mixture into a see-through container like a milk jug. Let it settle so that the oil rises to the top and the water goes to the bottom.


Punch a pinhole into the top of the milk jug and another pinhole into the bottom side of the milk jug. Place your finger over the top hole to control the speed of the water coming out of the bottom of the milk jug. Drain the water into a pot or other flat container. Watch as the oil gets close to the hole and stop the oil before it comes out by placing your finger over the top hole.


Drain the remaining oil from the milk jug into a another milk jug. Take the used oil to a local recycle center and dump it into the collecting container as instructed there.

Freeze The Water


Put the oil and water mixture in a pot and freeze it overnight. Take the mixture out of the freezer and flip it over into a flat pan so that the frozen water is on top.


Shave off the frozen water if it comes out of the pan, or it may stick to the bottom of the pan depending on the way it froze. Pour the remaining oil into a container to be recycled.


Take the used oil to a local recycle center and dump it into the collecting container.

Force The Water To Rise


Pour the oil and water solution into a pot. Get a bigger flat pan and place it under it. Let the water and oil sit to separate.


Insert a water hose into the solution toward the bottom of the container. Turn the water on slowly to make the water rise, forcing the oil over the top of the first container. Let the oil fill into the second container completely. Turn the water off.


Pour the oil into an acceptable recyclable container like a milk jug. Take the used oil to a local recycle center and dump it into the collecting container.


  • Most cities offer a free site at a government facility like a fire station to collect used motor oil. Some cities work with local companies like a quick oil change company to collect oil.
  • To find your local recycling center, look in the Earth 911 link in References. At that website, enter your zip code at the top of the page and then click "Search." Click on "Automotive" to find an oil recycling center in your area.

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