Cleaning Products Can Be Dangerous When Mixed

December 13, 2019

Cleaning Products

10 Safety tips to follow when using cleaning products

Did you know certain cleaning products can kill or seriously harm you when mixed. A recent fatality in the USA at Buffalo Wilds Wings involving the death of a worker due to the misuse of a cleaning product is a tragic reminder that common janitorial products can be hazardous or lethal when mixed or used improperly.

Here are some best practices to keep safe while cleaning.

  1. Have a label and SDS for cleaning products at the workplace

    All cleaning products require a label. Cleaning supplies are frequently poured into smaller, secondary containers for the job. You need to make sure they have a workplace label on that secondary container, so people know what the product is. Make sure this information is on the label: the name of the product, the hazards of the product, how to safely handle the product; and a reference to the SDS. An SDS should be available to the worker. If contact with the chemical occurs, you will want to quickly find the SDS to know what to do in an emergency. 
  2. Be aware of the hazards

Consumer products can have physical and health hazards. Basic WHMIS training should be provided to all workers. A measurement of successful training is whether someone understands what they are working with. This can easily be measured by asking 4 basic questions. Can you answer: What is this product?  What are its hazards? How do I protect myself? What do I do if there is an emergency like contact with the eyes or skin?

  1. Read labels before using cleaning products

Reading the label before using any cleaning product is a safe work practice and habit everyone should follow.

  1. Ventilate

Make sure the area you are cleaning is well ventilated. Keep fresh air moving through a room while you are using cleaning products by opening doors and windows. Use the exhaust fan if one exists.  

  1. Don’t mix cleaning products

A good rule of thumb is to not mix cleaning products. There are many potential combinations that may cause unknown and potential adverse health reactions. Keep it simple with one cleaning product for the task at hand.

  1. Use bleach on its own

Bleach is often considered the go-to for getting all sorts of cleaning jobs done, but there are many things it shouldn’t be mixed with including:

Bleach + Ammonia => Chloramine

Bleach + Glass Cleaner (with Ammonia) => Chloramine

Bleach + Vinegar => Chlorine Gas

Bleach + Toilet Bowl Cleaner => Toxic Fumes

Bleach + Mildew Stain Remover => Chlorine Gas

Bleach + Lysol => Toxic fumes

Bleach + Oven Cleaner => Chlorine Gas

Bleach + Dish Detergent (with Ammonia) => Toxic Fumes

Bleach + Drain Cleaner => Chlorine Gas

Signs of exposure include breathing trouble and eye irritation. Chloramines are a group of related compounds well-known to be respiratory irritants. In addition to respiratory irritation, chlorine gas as well as other toxic fumes can cause headache, nausea, vomiting and at high levels, fluid build up in the lungs and even death.

  1. Wear gloves to protect skin

Many cleaning products have corrosive properties and can burn the skin. A barrier to protect your skin is important.   

  1. Store cleaning products properly

A good practice is to store products in a dry, locked closet away from direct heat and sunlight. Check that secondary containers are also properly labelled.

  1. Dispose of cleaning products properly

There may be special disposal needs for some products especially if they are aerosols.

  1. Look for a less toxic product to use.

Ask if there is a safer product for the job. Or a safer method to clean without chemicals. Those substitutions may have their own hazards, so research your options thoroughly.