Never Mix These Cleaning Products 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

The super disinfecting son and dad duo
Maybe you are the 10-minute tidy kind of cleaner: A quick vacuum, a few swipes with some germ-killing wipes and you’re done. Or perhaps you’re a dedicated deep-cleaner, setting aside an hour a week to disinfect the shower, scrub the sinks and clean the drains. Either way, we’re betting there is a collection of different cleaning products under your sink or in your supply closet. But did you know that mixing certain cleaning products can be dangerous? Combining some products can cause injury or even death. Let’s look at what cleaning products not to mix. 

Where is the danger?

Sure, lots of cleaning products contain water, fragrances and static ingredients. But most of them contain different forms of chemicals. And not all those chemicals interact well. Mixing some of these ingredients by using different types of cleaners in the same space can cause fumes that can injure your eyes, lungs or cause other health hazards.

Chlorine and chloramine gas

Two of the most dangerous by-products of accidentally mixing cleaning products are chlorine gas and chloramine gas, according to the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C. How these are generated:
If you mix bleach and ammonia – or use bleach and ammonia-based products in close proximity to each other – chloramine gas is created.
If you mix bleach with any acid-based cleaner, it creates chlorine gas. This substance is so harmful it was used in World War I as a type of chemical warfare. Examples of acidic cleaners include drain cleaners, mold removers, tub and tile cleaners, decalcification cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners.

Symptoms to watch for

Here are some health issues to watch for when using cleaning products, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. These symptoms may signal a problem, especially if you are using products containing bleach and ammonia in an enclosed space, like a bathroom or a kitchen.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Irritated throat or nasal passages
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of fluid in lungs

Health emergency

If you feel like you’ve been exposed to dangerous ingredients from accidentally mixing cleaning products, monitor your symptoms and seek help when needed.
If you are having trouble breathing, call 911 or get medical help immediately.
If your eyes are burning or your vision becomes blurry, rinse your eyes with water for several minutes and seek medical attention.
If you spill bleach on your skin or clothing, remove the bleach-covered clothing and rinse your skin with water.

Long-term dangers

Low-level exposures to these types of toxic gasses can lead to chronic conditions like shortness of breath, bronchitis, or other types of permanent lung diseases, according to state health experts.

Safety tips

To help keep yourself safe while cleaning, never mix bleach and ammonia-based cleaning products, and follow these guidelines:
  • Always use cleaning products according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Always use these products in a well-ventilated space.
  • Wear rubber or disposable gloves to limit skin contact.
  • Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after using cleaning products.
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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