Cleaning Supplies and Safety

This is a blog post that I never thought I’d write, until I knew someone who put Dawn in the dishwasher. If you have ever wondered about this, this is not a good idea. Different cleansers are formulated to tackle different problems and generate varying amounts of suds in the process. Using a cleaner for a purpose or in a way not indicated on the label may result in damage to the object being cleaned, personal injury, or just an unholy mess.

Ground Rules

Many cleaning supplies are toxic, acidic, basic, or some combination of the three. Observe these safety precautions when handling cleaning supplies to prevent accidental poisoning or irritation.

  • Always read the label first. The label will indicate if the cleaner is safe to use on a given surface, will discolor or stain fabric, should be used in a ventilated area, and more.
  • If your hands are easily irritated, consider using gloves and/or a mask when using cleaning products. Some of them absolutely require it. Asthmatics should keep an inhaler handy and use a mask.
  • Ventilate the space when using a strong cleaner. Turn on the bathroom exhaust fan, or open a window. Opening two windows, one on each side of the domicile, creates an air current that will move air through the house very nicely.
  • Never store cleaning supplies in the same area as food or anything that handles food. An entire locked cabinet somewhere in your house or flat should be reserved for these items. It is safe for them to share shelf space with non-food items such as pesticides, herbicides, gardening items, tools, paper products, and similar, but should not be stored with anything that comes into contact with food for humans or pets.
  • Similarly, whether you do self-checkout at the grocery store or have a checker do it, cleaning supplies should never be sent home in the same bag as a food or food item. Never do it yourself and don’t be afraid to correct a grocery store checker who does it.
  • Do not mix cleaners unless directed, and if multiple types of cleaner need to be applied to an area, rinse well between cleaners. Failing to observe this rule can produce toxic fumes or even an explosion.

‼️ Bleach and Ammonia

Advice regarding mixing ammonia and bleach can be summed up in one word: NEVER. Here’s why.

To put this into perspective for you, here’s some fun factoids about the chemicals described in that link.

  • Hydrazine was one of the components of the liquid rocket fuel used by the space shuttles.
  • Hydrochloric acid is present in your stomach acid. It’s also an industrial acid along with sulfuric acid.
  • It is possible for chlorine gas to escape this chain reaction. If it does, it’s corrosive and toxic and will appear as a green gas hugging the floor.
  • It is not true that mixing urine and bleach produces mustard gas. Mustard gas has sulfur in it, which is not present in this reaction.

Some things to keep in mind to keep this from happening:

  • This reaction can also happen if you are using concentrated chlorine products such as bleach or pool chlorine in the presence of water to clean something that has a lot of decomposed organic matter, such as an old fish pond or a composting toilet.
  • Urine is composed of ammonium salts and water. Under normal circumstances such as a bathroom or dirty diapers, the concentration of ammonia salts isn’t high enough to cause a dangerous reaction, and bleach is safe. However, a cat’s litterbox or a source of stale urine will have higher concentrations of ammonium salts in the urine and use of chlorine products such as bleach could cause this reaction to occur.
  • Use vinegar to denature the ammonium salts present before attempting to bleach items of this nature. In the case of the catbox, a mixture of Dawn and water to scrub it out followed by a cup of vinegar left in it for five minutes will suffice.

If you should accidentally cause this chemical reaction to occur:

  • Remove pets and children from the area.
  • Close interior vents and ventilate to the outside (open a window or turn on exhaust fan or both).
  • Get out of the area for several hours.
  • If you or anyone in the area experience any burning on skin or eyes or have trouble breathing after doing this, go to the nearest emergency room.
  • If any pets appear to be in distress, take them to an emergency vet.

A Final Word

Always remember: cleaning supplies, while necessary to the maintenance of any home, are usually toxic chemicals. Treat them as such, and treat them with respect and care.