It's time for spring cleanup!

(This page adapted from MPCA News Release: Keeping Things Green This Spring, 03/17/2004.)

If you are like most Minnesotans, the last of the melting snow signals that it's time to start thinking about spring cleaning and getting your home and yard ready for the warmer months ahead. While you are bustling about the garage and basement battling clutter that has accumulated during the winter months, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) offer a few environment-friendly tips:


  • Planning on spiffing up the yard with a good raking? Keep leaves and other debris out of the street; leaves and grass can go in your backyard composter or bag them and bring them to the WLSSD Yard waste composting site. Just make sure to only bring the leaves and twigs, not the sand and grit. Here are the hours of operation. The sand and dirt mixed with the leaves belongs on your lawn, it's good for the soil and vegetation. Also, remember to pick up pet waste and bury it, flush it down the toilet (pull out the twigs and stones) or put it in the trash.

 DON'Ts for spring raking:

DON'T rake yard waste onto the street. Your spring lawn and driveway litter is mostly pieces of dead leaves, sand and soil, the worst stuff to get into our streams. So please don't pile it in the curb or in the street like this fellow.

 DOs for spring raking:

DO collect yard waste for proper disposal DO bag leaves and bring them to the WLSSD yard composting site DO compost leaves in a compost bin or in a wooded area of your yard
  • If your spring plans include more extensive landscaping, look into planting native species that, once established, seldom need watering, mulching, protection from frost or mowing. More information about gardening with native species is available at the bottom and right side of the rain garden page.
  • Consider using phosphorus-free fertilizers if you fertilize your lawn. They can help maintain a healthy lawn without contributing excess phosphorus to stormwater runoff. This helps to keep our lakes and wetlands free of excessive algae growth. Learn more about the impacts of lawn fertilizer.
  • Always read and follow directions when using lawn care products and disposing their containers.
  • Wait until the grass starts growing before applying fertilizer. Sweep up and reuse fertilizer that falls on streets, sidewalks and driveways.


  • If you need to get rid of fertilizers, pesticides, or other household chemicals, check this Disposal Guide from WLSSD to find out how. If you live outside of Duluth, visit Earth 911 to find the best place to dispose of these wastes.
  • If sweeping out the garage is a part of your spring cleaning routine, be sure not to sweep debris into the street where oil-soaked dirt and grime can get washed into storm sewers and eventually end up in nearby streams, rivers or lakes. This material should go in the trash. Learn more about the impacts of oil on Duluth Streams.
  • If you are changing the oil in your vehicle, yard equipment or recreational vehicle, be sure to dispose of used oil and oil filters properly at a household hazardous waste drop off site. The impacts of oil page tells you where.
  • Too much stuff in general? Consider donating used bikes, lawn furniture and yard equipment and other unneeded items to charitable organizations.


  • Need to clean off some shelf space to make room for new home remodeling projects? Someone else may be able to use paint you no longer need. Drop it off at the WLSSD Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Solvents and other chemicals can be taken there for proper disposal, too.
  • If old computers, televisions or other electronic items are cluttering up valuable storage space, you can dispose of them for a small fee. Find the details on our electronics recycling page.
  • If you have other unwanted or unneeded household items to get rid of, don't forget that yard sale season is just around the corner. Talk to your neighbors about organizing a neighborhood-wide yard sale.
  • When doing spring cleaning in the home, keep your home healthy by using products that are free of toxic chemicals. Single-ingredient, common household materials such as baking soda, vinegar or plant-based soaps and detergents can often do the job on your carpet or other surfaces. Soap and water have been shown to keep surfaces as free of bacteria as antibacterial soaps do. Learn more with WLSSD’s Healthy Homes program.