How to Dispose of Tumbler Water Safely: A Beginner’s Guide

In world where most things can be tossed into the trash or poured down the drain, disposing of waste tumbler water is not quite so simple. In this article, we will cover ___ things you need to know before you dispose of tumbler water.

Tumbler Water Is More Than Water

When you wet tumble, the action over days or even weeks takes off thousands of tiny fragments off the rocks. Those tiny pieces are usually pretty obvious in the waste water. These tiny pieces (most too small to see or even strain) are the reason why you need to think before you dispose of it.

Depending on what you’ve tumbled, the fragments may congeal and solidify once the water evaporates out or is strained out. The water may be full of innocuous clay, or of something toxic to you or the environment such as metal, abestos, or arsenic. (See, for example, what can happen when you ingest too much copper).

The water may also be full of the remains of whatever you used as rock tumbler grit. This could include materials that don’t belong down the drain, in your septic system, or in the yard.

Knowing what you are tumbling is the first step in deciding what to do (and how to do) with the waste water.

Protect Your House Fixtures and Infrastructure

In most cases, you will never find us recommending that you take anything out of your tumbler (even if you tumble the rocks without grit) and flush it down the toilet, pour it into a sink, or pour it into the bathtub. The pipes in and under your house curve and may twist. There may already be gunk in there from the kitchen area (solidified fats).

Pouring tumbler water full of granules of a substances that wants to clump (like clay does) is a recipe for clogged pipes and an expensive plumbing bill.

Even if a blog post you’ve read says that it is okay to throw your waste water from cleaning up rocks by tumbling or even soaking in an acid solution down the sink, we don’t.

Instead, pursue other ways of disposing of the waste liquid that bypass your fixtures and plumbing.

Protect Your Vegetation and Outdoor Areas

It is fairly common for folks to take the rocks out of the tumbler and then just throw the tumbler water out the door of the garage into the driveway, dirt piles, or the lawn.

This can be a decent way to dispose of the water. It definitely avoids the pipes after all. But before you do this, it is important to understand just what you are pouring onto the ground and to mark where you’ve poured it.

If you are tumbling a stone that is full of something toxic (as many beautiful pieces are), the last place you would want to throw that leftover water is some place where your pets or children can get into it or play in it.

You also wouldn’t want to throw it in or near your garden, or into areas where you are purposefully trying to grow plants/lawn/greenery.

And if you are doing A LOT of tumbling and end up with A LOT of waste water full of toxic yuck, I wouldn’t feel good about dumping it into any areas where drinking water is pulled from.

Not to mention that the slurry (once it dries) could harden into a irregular patch of something unsightly that is hard like concrete.

Method #1 to Dispose of Waste Tumbler: Our Preferred Method to Dispose of Tumbler Water

Here’s what we like to do:

  • Find a 5 gallon bucket and mark it as your waste water bucket.
  • Line the bucket with a plastic track bag.
  • When you finish tumbling and you need to get rid of the water, pour it into the trash bag.
  • Leave the bucket in the garage or in a place safe from pets and children. Cover if needed for safety, but make sure there are some holes to allow evaporated water to escape.
  • Allow the water to evaporate.
  • Throw in more tumbler water as you make it.
  • When the bucket is partially full of the dried up grit and material, pull the bag out of the bucket, twist off the top, and drop it in the garbage to be picked up by your garbage service.

The reason we like this method is that it keeps the metals and other toxins out of the areas where our children run and play.

Some people just take the tumbler water and put it in a plastic container with a lid and dispose of it straight into the trash without evaporating it off as well.

Others take the dried up material and bury it instead of tossing it in the trash.

Method #2 to Dispose of Waste Tumbler Water: Not Our Favorite, But Common

Another method of disposing of tumbler water is:

  • Find an area where a hole a few feet deep can be safely dug.
  • Dig the hole.
  • Cover it enough to make it safe, without closing it off.
  • Pour all waste tumbler water in the hole to allow the water to evaporate off. Whenever you like, just fill in the hole but throwing dirt over the top.
  • Then dig another hole.

The reason we don’t like this is that we don’t like putting materials that are toxic into the ground. People will argue that the metals and other materials came from the land, so there shouldn’t be any harm in returning them from whence they came. And not only that, but the amounts buried are so very small as to be considered negligible.

Others will argue that people are dumping oil, gasoline, paint, bleach, laundry waste water, and human waste into the land, so it doesn’t matter if you dispose of your tumbler water out the back door.

To each their own, we say.

Final Considerations When Disposing of Tumbler Water

As we said in the beginning of this article, understanding what you’ve tumbled is an important part of the equation. There are some solutions and materials that don’t play nice together, and others that will create dangerous fumes.

If you are using a disposal method that involves dumping your waste water into a bucket or hole for weeks or months before disposing of it, then you wouldn’t want to throw just anything in it. While troubleshooting every single possible chemical reaction possible is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth knowing what you’ve tumbled and whether the substance is something reactive.

You also need to understand that some substances are not that safe in water, and the mere mixture of water with the substance (like materials full of copper) can create fumes. You might not currently be working with copper, but if you dump water into a bucket with slurry that is full of copper, you might again create fumes that you weren’t expecting.

In general, it is bad for humans to breath in particulate from rocks being mined, worked, ground, cut, tumbled, or polished. When you dispose of dried slurry, take care that you don’t breath in any dust from the bucket or the bag as you pull it out and take it to the trash.

Looking to learn more about rock tumbling or rockhounding? Check out our Rockhounding Knowledge page for more articles, or our travel page to plan a rockhounding trip.