Cleaning Products Can Be Dangerous When Mixed
December 13, 2019
10 Safety tips to follow when using cleaning products
Did you know that mixing cleaning products can kill or seriously harm you? A recent fatality in the USA involving the use of cleaning agents at Buffalo Wilds Wings serves as a tragic reminder that common janitorial products can be hazardous or lethal when mixed or used improperly.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind in order to stay 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.
- 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?
3. Read labels before using cleaning products
Reading the label before using any cleaning product is a safe work practice and habit everyone should follow. Some products may require you to wear protective gloves, goggles, or a mask while using them. Others may require you to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling toxic fumes.
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 an exhaust fan where possible.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Wear gloves to protect skin
Many cleaning products have corrosive properties and can burn the skin. A barrier to protect your skin is important, so make sure you are wearing puncture-resistant gloves to reduce the risk of skin damage. After use, gloves should carefully be removed and disposed of properly to avoid contamination.
8. Store cleaning products properly
A good practice is to store products in a dry, locked closet away from direct heat and sunlight. It’s also important to ensure that secondary containers, such as spray bottles, are also properly labelled to avoid confusion and misuse.
9. Dispose of cleaning products properly
Disposing of cleaning products properly is important for both safety and environmental reasons. Some cleaning products have special disposal needs, such as aerosols, which may require special recycling or disposal methods.
10. Look for a less toxic product to use
Ask your employer if there is a safer product for the job. Or a safer method to clean without chemicals. Those chemical substitutions may have their own hazards, so research your options thoroughly.
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