Stay Safe with Household Cleaners

April 9, 2024

We frequently encourage safe handling of household hazardous waste, which is typically about properly disposing of products you no longer use. However, handling these chemicals responsibly while you are still using them is equally important.

You likely pull out cleaners every week for regular household cleaning, and as we jump into spring cleaning season, you may find yourself reaching for multiple cleaners at a time. These cleaners come in various colors, smells, and chemicals and help clean surfaces and appliances quickly. However, you should always be aware of how to safely handle these chemicals to avoid any accidents and reactions.

For example, accidentally combining commercial-grade bleach and an acid while cleaning can result in deadly fumes. Cleaners with bleach and acid are likely next to each other in your home, and you don’t even realize it. Vinegar, some glass/window cleaners, automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, rust removal products, and brick and concrete cleaners all contain acid. Ammonia is another chemical compound that can react with bleach, and common window/glass cleaners and paint products may contain ammonia.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, accidental chlorine gas exposure from mixing bleach and acid occurred 2,284 times in 2017. Even at a low level of reaction, this combination will irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, but worse symptoms can appear quickly. Dangerous chemical reactions can be avoided by knowing what chemicals are in the cleaners in your house and using precautions when using multiple cleaners at the same time.

Tips to keep your household safe while cleaning

Here are a few tips and tricks to help keep you and your household safe.

  • Store your bleach products separately from other household cleaners, and keep all products in a safe spot where pets and small children can’t reach them.
  • Never mix household cleaners in the same bottle or by spraying them on the same surface immediately after the other.
  • Read the label instructions before using a cleaner.
  • Ventilate the area you’re cleaning by leaving the door open, using an exhaust fan, or opening a window.
  • Wear gloves when using products that can burn your skin or cause irritation, such as alkalis (drain and oven cleaners and bleach).

If you ever experience a chemical exposure of any kind, seek medical attention or call Poison Control 24/7 at 800-222-1222 immediately. For more information about household cleaners and safety practices, read Tips for Safe Spring Cleaning.

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