How to Dispose of Smoke Detectors: 5 Best Ways

Smoke detectors are a crucial part of any home’s fire safety. While changing the batteries might rejuvenate a smoke alarm, the detector will fail at some point and need to be disposed of correctly. You may adequately dispose of smoke alarms by determining the type of smoke alarm, removing it carefully, and ensuring that the battery is removed.

Smoke Detectors on the roof
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How to Dispose of Smoke Detectors?

1. Remove the Battery

Most smoke alarms, whether battery-operated or hardwired, have a 9-volt battery. A battery-powered smoke alarm solely relies on the battery for power, whereas some may have a 10-year lithium battery installed instead.

On the other hand, a hardwired smoke alarm connects to your home’s electrical system but usually needs a backup power source like batteries in case of an electricity outage. Remove the batteries from any smoke alarms before discarding them. Alkaline batteries are generally disposed of in the garbage. Locating some regions’ recycling facilities for lithium batteries might be tough. A neighborhood hazardous waste collection is another option.

2. Determine the Smoke Detector Type

Before you trash your smoke alarm, you should first identify its type. The two most common types of smoke alarms are ionization and photoelectric. Smoke detectors that use a photoelectric sensor don’t contain any hazardous materials. Ionization smoke alarms utilize a tiny amount of radioactive material to detect smoke. It’s not harmful to your family if the fire alarm is intact and undamaged. 

However, you should never take apart an ionization smoke alarm because you can expose the radioactive material. While you can throw away the smoke detector, it’s safer to dispose of it as hazardous waste. If you’re unsure what type of smoke alarm you have, turn over the unit–ionization alarms usually have an “I” printed on them, or they might say “ionization.”

3. Toss It in the Trash

Americans create about 7.1 million tons of electronic waste annually and only recycle 1.5%. If you have an old alarm that uses photoelectric technology, don’t add it to the problem—dispose of it properly!

You can toss your photoelectric alarms in the trash once you’ve removed the batteries; however, ionization alarms require special disposal methods. Check with your local government or utility company to see if they offer a recycling program for these devices.

4. Send It Back to the Manufacturer

Manufacturers of smoke alarms sometimes accept old smoke detectors as part of a disposal or recycling program. This can be a simple method to remove an ionization smoke alarm safely. Look for the name of the company that manufactured your smoke alarm to learn which brand it is. Inquire about the manufacturer’s disposal and recycling procedures to see how to return the device to them.

5. Dispose as Hazardous Waste

If your ionization smoke detector manufacturer does not offer a disposal program, you’ll need to look for one on your own. Local waste management services may provide hazardous waste disposal alternatives.

Contact them to see if they accept ionization smoke alarms as part of their service. Another option is to attend a community hazardous waste collection event, which occurs several times throughout the year in many towns. Check the guidelines for the event to ensure that you can drop off your smoke alarm and any other dangerous waste.


Be sure to check with your local laws and regulations regarding the proper disposal of smoke detectors in your area, as some places have specific requirements. Disposal of smoke detectors with regular trash is not recommended. If you’re unsure what to do with your old smoke detector, take it to an e-waste recycling center or call the company that made it for more instructions.


How do you destroy a smoke detector?

There are two types of smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization. When it’s time to get rid of an old one, take out the battery first; otherwise, you can put it straight in the trash.

Can you smash a smoke detector?

The radioactive source in a smoke detector is encased within a metal seal in the ionization chamber, which can only be broken by force. For example, if you were to take a hammer and smash the detector.

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