Plus, the safest way to store harsh chemical cleaners.

By Katie Holdefehr
April 30, 2020
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During the coronavirus crisis, even those of us who typically swear by all-natural cleaning solutions are suddenly stocking up on harsh chemical cleaners. Personally, I've invited more chemical cleaners into my home over the past two months than over the past five years. For those of us who aren't accustomed to dealing with bleach, ammonia, and other serious chemicals, it's worth a refresher on the right way to use and store them to keep us and our families safe.

These cleaners are powerful—powerful enough to destroy 99.9 percent of microorganisms—but that also makes them dangerous if not handled correctly. Here are some common mistakes to avoid, along with the right way to store all of the new additions to your cleaning supply stash.

1

You've probably heard before that you should never mix bleach with ammonia—this hazardous combo produces toxic chloramine gas. But to be extra safe, it's a good idea to avoid mixing bleach with any other cleaners. Combining bleach and vinegar or bleach and rubbing alcohol is also dangerous. Plus, many cleaning products contain these ingredients, so if you don't read the fine print, you may not even know what chemicals you're combining. To play it safe, only dilute bleach with water and never mix it with other products.

2

When using chemical cleaners, it's always a good idea to keep the room well ventilated so you don't breathe in as many fumes. Opening a window or a door and turning on a fan can help. Try to keep your cleaning routine fast and efficient so you're not exposed to these chemicals for too long.

If you can, limit the chemical cleaners to high-touch surfaces (countertops, doorknobs, faucets) and continue to use more natural solutions on other areas, such as windows and mirrors.

3

If you typically store cleaning supplies under your kitchen sink, you may want to reconsider. Especially if you have children or pets at home, this is an easy spot for them to access.

First, read the storage recommendations on each product. Then, pick a spot that kids and pets can't reach, like a shelf in a closet. Stop short of storing them above eye level, where they'll be difficult for you to reach and could potentially spill. Avoid spots that experience extreme temperature fluctuations, like the garage or basement.

If you own a label maker, time to pull it out! Make sure each bottle is clearly labeled so everyone in your household knows what chemicals they're working with. Similarly, avoid decanting cleaners into unmarked bottles or cups, but keep them in their original containers if possible.

4

If you have cleaning wipes designed for household surfaces, don't use them to clean your hands. Sanitizing products intended for use on your hands or body are formulated differently than those created for countertops, faucets, and doorknobs. Household cleaning products have not been tested or approved for use on your hands—and in fact, it's a good idea to wear gloves while using them and wash your hands afterward.

Never, ever ingest household cleaning products—and don't use them to clean produce either. If you ever have any questions or concerns, call the National Poison Control center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

5

First, check if the label has directions for disposal. To avoid a clog, don't flush down the toilet any cleaning wipes that are supposed to be thrown in the trash. For chemical cleaners, call your local hazardous waste disposal facility for their recommendations and to see if they're planning a collection day.