Cleaning Safely

cleaning chemicals

Do not mix cleaning products that contain bleach and ammonia and make sure you use cleaning chemicals in a well-ventilated space.

Cleaning chemicals are a part of our everyday life and part of big business. It’s estimated there are more than 3.4 million cleaning workers in the U.S., but we all use some sort of cleaning chemicals in our homes, and that includes laundry detergents.

One study estimated that Americans spent $14.4 billion dollars on household cleaning chemicals in 2005, including oven cleaners, floor cleaners, disinfectants, drain cleaners, soaps, detergents, air fresheners and pesticides.

These chemicals can cause physical reactions including:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Asthma

Data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers indicates, that children younger than age six accounted for about half of all the poison exposure calls to poison centers in 2010, many of these from exposure to chemical cleaners.

Poison control centers have seen a rise in recent months regarding children who have swallowed or been exposed to laundry detergent, particularly the new highly concentrated single use detergent packages. From Jan. 1 to July 31, 2013, poison centers received 5,753 calls of children five and younger who had been exposed to these packets. In 2012, the number of calls totaled 6,231 for the year.

The housekeeping staff who keep our campus buildings clean are trained in how to use cleaning chemicals and Safety Data Sheets are kept in each building for the cleaning chemicals used. There are some general precautions that we should all be aware of:

  • Always store cleaning chemicals away from children
  • Make sure you are using cleaning chemicals in a well-ventilated space
  • Do not mix cleaning products that contain bleach and ammonia
  • Read the directions–know how and when to dilute cleaning chemicals
  • Store food and cleaning chemicals in separate areas
  • Do Not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household cleaning chemicals
  • Know if you need protective equipment such as gloves and/or goggles
  • Make sure all cleaning chemicals are properly labeled if they are not in their original containers. In the near future, chemicals will begin to be labeled with newly adopted hazard symbols. (see Hazard Communication Labels and Pictograms Changing post)
  • Always wash up after using cleaning chemicals
  • Keep the Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near home phones and programmed into cell phones

You can download an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) poster on Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health in the following languages:

For more information, see the OSHA information sheet on protecting workers who use cleaning chemicals >>

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