Use and store household chemicals safely

Connie thought mixing ammonia and bleach would give her a stronger cleaning compound for the large floor she was mopping. Instead, her concoction produced a deadly chlorine gas. Fortunately for her and others in the building, she mixed the chemicals in an open space and the gas dissipated before it could harm anyone.

"Never, ever mix bleach with any other cleaning solution or powder. The deadly fumes can quickly overcome you. Accidents also can happen when an area that has been cleaned with products containing ammonia is then cleaned with bleach. If you must clean the spot again with bleach, make sure you rinse the area thoroughly with water. If you clean with bleach, the Iowa Department of Health recommends a solution of ˝ cup bleach per gallon of water for general disinfectant use," says Brad Sayre, risk management and safety specialist at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company.

"Everyone has a long list of household cleaning chemicals in the home—from detergent to dishwasher soap, to tub and tile clean to furniture polish. The key to keeping everyone safe is to follow a few simple rules," he says.

Keep chemicals in their original containers and close the lids tightly after use.

Read the label before using any cleaner and follow the directions. Do not use date-expired cleaners.

Store cleaning agents in a locked cupboard out of the reach of children, and do not keep chemicals near food storage areas.

"The most common place to store dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent is under the kitchen sink. If you have small children, lock the cabinet doors or find another place for these items. You can purchase inexpensive safety latches at hardware or discount stores," Sayre says.

Ammonia, bleach and cleaners used for drains, showers, tubs, sinks, tile and toilet bowls are among the most dangerous household chemicals.

"Many of these solutions contain caustic agents which can damage skin and irritate a person’s eyes and nose. Carefully read the label information about what to do if the cleaner is spilled or ingested. Use these products with caution," Sayre says.

Another good idea is to add the Poison Control Center to your list of emergency numbers, he adds.

"Being able to quickly contact someone for help, and providing them with as much information about the chemical as possible, could save a life," he says.

Reprinted with permission by:
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company