What to Know About Junk Removal: Free Options, Tips, and More

Lisa Gauthier Mitchison
Updated September 14, 2021
Man removing waste in trash back
Photo: Lovelyday12 / Adobe Stock

Before you have your junk hauled away, read these eight tips for a stress-free experience

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When it’s time to purge an attic or garage, clean out a rental, get rid of remodeling debris, or remove a worn-out appliance, a junk removal service is the perfect option. But junk removal and hauling is more than just taking out the trash. 

Junk haulers will remove boxes for recycling as well as tear down and haul away sheds, barns, and more. Before you have your junk hauled away for good, read these eight tips to ensure a stress-free experience.

Consider What Type of Junk You Need Removed

Junk removal companies accept a variety of items, but you’ll want to confirm they have the capability to pick up your specific items. Keep in mind that heavy items will cost more as well. On average, junk hauling costs $230, but can be more, depending on size, weight, and quantity. 

Typical items that junk removers will haul away include:

  • Furniture

  • Appliances

  • Carpeting

  • Mattresses

  • Scrap metal

  • Renovation debris

  • Trash 

  • Yard waste removal

  • Electronic equipment

Know the Difference Between Junk Hauling vs. Dumpster Rental

A junk removal service will bring their own containers, fill them with your items, and then dispose of the contents. If you rent a dumpster, a junk removal company will drop it off at your location. (Sometimes, a company will offer both junk hauling and dumpster rental services.)

You fill the dumpster over a predetermined amount of time (days or weeks), and then they haul the dumpster away. Dumpster rental is a good option if you are planning to clean out a space over the course of several days or if you are doing DIY home renovations.

Check Out Free Junk Removal Options

Don’t want to pay to haul your junk away? In some cases, it’s inevitable. But in others, you may have free alternatives.

Here’s a look at junk hauling options to recycle or redistribute your items.

Yard Waste

If you have a ton of yard waste and don’t want to compost it, check with your regular trash removal company. During certain seasons, especially fall, they may pick up your properly bagged yard debris or Christmas tree and dispose of it for free. Parks and recreation organizations will sometimes offer this service as well to create mulch for their trails and gardens.

Charity Pickup

Charitable organizations, such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, will pick up your large donations for free. If you’re getting rid of furniture or many bags of clothing and/or household goods, you might save yourself the cost of hauling. Call your favorite charity and ask about this service.

Free With Pickup

If you have items that still have some life in them, like an old shed or swing set, consider posting them on Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Craigslist, or Freecycle.org as “free with pickup only.” 

You can set the item on your curb and let whoever’s interested come haul it away for you without spending a dime. 

Check into your city’s bulk trash day as well. You can put any unwanted items on the curb or alley and they’ll be picked up by a certain date. However, these items will often be claimed by a passerby before the trash collector ever arrives, depending on the shape it’s in.

Junk Removal Tips

Nothing feels better than a tidy home. Use the tips above to have unwanted items from your house, garage, and backyard hauled away so you can freshen up your space. Not too into sorting through clutter yourself? Hire a professional organizer in your area to take care of it for you.

1. Ask the Junk Hauling Company Crucial Questions

  • How will you haul the junk?

  • What kind of space do you need for your vehicle?

  • Do you need permits for your containers?

Ask if There Are Items They Won’t Take

When getting a quote, ask if there is anything the hauler won’t take. This can vary from company to company.  

Some common items they won’t take include:

  • Open cans of paint

  • Chemicals, such as solvents, gasoline, and any other kind of toxic and/or hazardous waste

  • Materials containing asbestos 

  • Oil drums and tanks

  • Tires

Inquire About Recycling

People moving junk in a trash bag
Photo: Araya / Adobe Stock

To keep your belongings out of the landfill, some hauling companies have dedicated warehouse space to sort and properly dispose of or recycle everything they collect. Others take items to the local landfill or other trash collection sites. Don’t hesitate to ask if this is a question you want answered. 

Many electronics contain materials that can be reused, but they also contain some hazardous materials. For example, mobile phones can contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and beryllium. These metals must be disposed of correctly.  

While still-functioning electronics can be donated to a charity, broken items should be sent to the proper recycling facility. Similarly, a recycling center must collect freon from old refrigerators and air conditioners before the appliance is recycled.  

Even mattresses, box springs, and large furniture can contain harmful chemicals. Thankfully, 80% to 90% of mattress materials are recyclable, and most furniture can be recycled or reused. 

Non-recyclable items include: 

  • Garden hoses

  • Sewing needles

  • Food-soiled paper

  • Propane tanks or cylinders

  • Aerosol cans that aren’t empty

  • Certain plastics and glass

  • Certain batteries

  • Certain light bulbs

2. Check the Weather and Your Calendar Before Scheduling

If you can, schedule the hauling on a day with a clear forecast. No one wants to schlep anything in the rain—and you risk the junk haulers canceling if the weather is bad.  

Also, aim to schedule on a slow day where you can be home. If you don’t have any other plans that day, you won’t feel rushed if something unexpected happens. Plan to be there the entire time to make sure everything gets loaded and to answer any questions.

3. Clearly Mark or Label Your Items for Pickup

Planning is key when hiring a local junk hauling service. Make sure everything you want hauled away is in a single place, or have it clearly marked, either with labels or in a detailed list for the haulers. Ask the company what their preferences are. 

If you have items in good condition that you’re planning to donate to charity, make sure you label them as such. Ask your hauler about donations when you first speak to them. They might have a relationship with a local charity and may take donations at the same time, saving you a trip.

4. Prep Your Space

You might need to clear a path to the door, move other vehicles in the vicinity, or have everything in one place. If you have anything tricky, such as a piano on the second floor or trunks in the attic, let them know.

Does the hauler want everything outside or are they willing to carry the items from your home? This could be a key factor in what company you choose if you’re unable to move things yourself.

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