Safely Using Cleaning Chemicals

by April Reinhardt
(last updated March 20, 2017)

Out of my parent's home, and living in my first apartment, I wanted to keep my new place clean and tidy. The first time I cleaned my tiny bathroom, I thought I'd take a shortcut to clean the toilet, deviating from the usual Comet-and-water method Mom had taught me. Thinking myself clever and wise, I poured bleach into the toilet bowl along with a hefty does of ammonia, and let it stand for a few moments. Even with the exhaust fan on, the fumes quickly permeated the entire apartment, and I found myself outside gasping for air.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Never mix household chemicals. Simply because a household chemical is inexpensively available on a grocery store shelf, doesn't mean that you can safely mix them. The fumes are toxic and can be lethal.

There are labels on cleaning products with instructions for their use, ingredients, whether you need ventilation when using them, and cautions about mixing with other chemicals. The label is akin to an abbreviated material safety data sheet (MSDS). Industrial chemicals used in businesses do come with MSDSs and, by law, the company must keep a record of those sheets and post them for employee reference. Some toxic and corrosive chemicals available to the public include MSDSs, as well. Any time you purchase a cleaning agent, it is wise to heed the instructions or MSDS that accompanies it, and you can follow these tips to safely use cleaning chemicals:

  • Always use chemicals in the proper amounts. If the instructions say to mix one gallon of water with six ounces of the product, precisely measure six ounces, and don't guess.
  • Never combine different chemicals.
  • Do not substitute chemicals.
  • Never use a chemical if it is in an unlabeled container. Also, never place chemicals into another container without first labeling the product. Preferably, transfer the instructions for use as well as the ingredient label from the old container onto the new container.
  • Always read the entire instructions before using a cleaning chemical.
  • If the product states that you must wear protective equipment, then wear goggles and rubber gloves.
  • If there is a toll-free phone number to call in case of accidental ingestion or other emergency situation after using the product, know where to find that number on the product.
  • Post the phone number to the National Capital Poison Center in a prominent place in your home, near a phone. That number is 800-222-1222. Or, you can call 911.

If you spill cleaning chemicals onto your clothing, wash the clothes immediately. Never leave cleaning products open around pets or children, and never leave mixed cleaning solutions unattended. Do not smoke while using chemicals, and extinguish candles or other open flames when cleaning with chemicals.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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