A clean home is satisfying, but it’s important to consider the well-being of household members when using and storing cleaning products.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting your house, you have plenty of effective options to choose from.
But it’s essential to learn and understand how to use and store products safely. According to a National Safety Council analysis, over 10,000 soap- and detergent-related injuries occurred in U.S. children 4 years old and under in 2021.
Children and pets aren’t the only ones who can get hurt by cleaning products. Improper use can also harm the people using the cleaning product.
Here are seven tips for safer cleaning.
Keep products in their original packaging if possible. That way, instructions for use and safety warnings are always within easy reach. Take a quick look at the label each time you use the product to refresh yourself on any warnings and directions.
Look for information like:
- how much of the product to use
- whether you should ventilate the space while using the product
- what to do in case of an accident
- the protective gear you should wear, like masks, gloves, or goggles
If you use them properly, cleaning products are safe to use. But improper use can cause:
- respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or asthma
- red, irritated eyes or a burning sensation in the eyes
- skin burns or rash
Consider also looking into potential product recalls, especially if you have cleaning products that have been sitting around your cupboard for a while. You can find this information at cpsc.gov/Recalls.
This is a big no-no.
Mixing cleaning products does not make them more effective or save time.
Combining vinegar, bleach, or ammonia can release dangerous gasses like chloroform. These can cause eye, skin, or respiratory irritation. They may also cause you to lose consciousness — and in some cases, breathing in these gasses can be fatal.
The no-mixing rule also applies to cleaning formulas that contain vinegar, bleach, or ammonia. Many popular disinfectants contain bleach. And several products contain ammonia, such as:
- window cleaners
- bathroom cleaners
- glass cleaners
- furniture polish
The safest cleaning strategy is to use one product at a time.
Protecting your skin and eyes may be necessary when using certain harsh cleaners. You can check the label to find out if the manufacturer recommends hand or eye protection.
When using bleach, try not to let it come into contact with your skin or eyes. Wear gloves and eye protection, the
Wear a mask when using spray cleaners, which can irritate your respiratory system. A
And if you have children or pets in the home, keep them out of rooms when using harsh cleaning products like bleach.
Particles from cleaners can hang in the air for several minutes after use. These can cause eye, skin, or throat irritation. Your risk of
Adequate ventilation can help prevent you from breathing in the chemicals.
To increase ventilation in a room:
Children under age 5 are the most likely age group to end up in the emergency room after ingesting cleaning products like bleach. Keep cleaning products sealed and stored out of reach when not in use to prevent accidental ingestion.
And don’t forget to dispose of cleaning products safely. In most cases, empty cleaning product containers go in the trash and can’t be recycled. You should take anything with warning labels or the words “toxic,” “hazardous,” or “poison” to a safe disposal site in your city or town.
If you have leftover cleaning products you didn’t like or can’t use, try offering them to neighbors for free to prevent waste. And if you’re ever unsure whether it’s okay to toss something, check your city or county website for information on disposal regulations.
If the chemical gets in your eyes
Flush your eye with water immediately. After about 20 minutes of rinsing, seek medical care.
Try hopping in the shower if you’re having trouble getting this done using a sink. Hold your eyes open and let large amounts of water rinse out the chemical. Occasionally lift and lower your eyelids and turn your head from side to side to work the chemical out.
If a child gets chemicals in their eyes, lie them down, so their eyes are under a faucet. Use a low-pressure setting. Gently rinse the child’s eyes, lifting and lowering the eyelid occasionally.
For a chemical burn on the skin
Wash any skin that came into contact with the cleaning product. Put a bandage over it to protect the skin. If you feel a burning sensation again, remove the bandage and re-rinse the affected area.
A splash from a household cleaner doesn’t require medical care unless it looks severe or the irritation lasts several days.
However, if the affected area is large or was burned by a strong acid like gasoline, drain cleaner, or paint thinner, seek immediate medical care. Sometimes it can take several hours for signs of a chemical burn to appear.
If someone swallows a cleaning product
Seek immediate emergency medical care. Bring the cleaner bottle to the hospital or urgent care, so the doctor knows what was ingested.
“Green” cleaners might be safer for human and environmental health, but while manufacturers can use terms like “organic,” “green,” or “natural,” the market is largely unregulated.
If you’re on the lookout for eco-friendly products, look for a seal from an independent party, such as Green Seal.
Green cleaners can be as effective as conventional cleaners at cleaning and disinfecting. But it’s still important to take precautions and wear the necessary protection when using them.
Cleaning products are essential tools for sanitizing and disinfecting your home. And while they’re generally safe to use, it’s important to use them properly.
Taking the time to read labels and store cleaners in a place out of reach can help keep everyone in your household safe — including you.