Mixing Household Chemicals Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

By
Home Inspector with Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

bleach

Don't Die Cleaning The House

Cleaning the house? Watch out... mixing common household cleaning products can cause serious injuries. And I am not being silly or alarmist. Some stuff just isn't mean to mix unless you are taping an episode of MythBusters.

Let's limit our chemicals to some simple cleaning items that should never be mixed. We'll cover why in a bit.

  1. Bleach and ammonia
  2. Bleach and acids
  3. Using two drain cleaners together (or one immediately following the other)

 

Where Is Bleach Found In The House?

Bleach is found in pool products, laundry products and many disinfectants.

The active ingredient in bleach is sodium hypochlorite, which reacts with ammonia, drain cleaners, and violently reacts with many acids. Check out that label: household products will state that they contain bleach.

Make sure pool chemicals never mix with household cleaners, since these pool items frequently contain calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite.

 

Where Is Ammonia Found In The House?

Ammonia is commonly found in household cleaning products, especially glass and window cleaners. But it also lurks in some unexpected areas... like urine (think the cat's litter box or a diaper pail), and some paints (both interior and exterior).

 

Where Are Acids Found In The House?

The reason we don't want to mix two drain cleaners together is that some contain acids (for that matter, so do some glass and window cleaners). If we mix an acid product with an ammonia product, we're going to get sick...or worse.

Acids are commonly found in these household items: vinegar, many diswasher detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, calcium and rust removal products, brick and concrete cleaners. This is not a comprehensive list.

 

So let's get down to business: What are the dangers of mixing these products?

 

The Dangers Of Mixing Bleach With Ammonia

When bleach meets ammonia, chloramines are released. These are toxic gases which can cause a myriad of health problems:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pains
  • watery eyes
  • nausea
  • Eyes/Nose/Throat irritaition
  • pneumonia/fluid in the lungs

 

The Dangers Of Mixing Bleach With Acids

Chlorine gas is given off when bleach is mixed with an acid. 

Since it is heavier than air, it will accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Since it is a strong oxidizer, it will react with flammable materials. And since it is a toxic gas, it will irritate the respiratory system. And it doesn't take much to cause trouble. Coughing and vomiting begin at 30 ppm, and at stronger levels, the chlorine begins to react with the water inside the body, and changes to hydrochloric acid.

Exposure, even at low levels, almost always irritates the mucous membranes, causing coughing and breathing problems, burning and watery eyes, and a runny nose. Higher levels of exposure can cause chest pain, severe breathing difficulties, vomiting, pneumonia, and fluid in the lungs.

Very high levels can cause death.

And chlorine can be absorbed through the skin, resulting in pain, inflammation, swelling, and blistering. Hydrochloric acid also causes burns to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, mouth and lungs.

 

 

So be safe, clean smart, and stay healthy!

 

 

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Jason Channell     Twitter - Home Inspection LinkedIn Twitter - Home Inspection

Diadem Property Inspections
(888) 699-8710

Learn more: michigan-indoor-air-quality.com

Learn more: HouseSleuth.com

Michigan Builder's License 2101198700
Environmental Solutions Association 3818 -- Certified Mold Inspector & Assessor, Certified Allergen Inspector
International Indoor Air Quality Commission CC1983 --  Indoor Environmental Certified Consultant

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. David Popoff 10/02/2010 09:47 AM
  2. Jackie Hawley 10/02/2010 10:31 AM
  3. Erica Ramus 10/02/2010 05:02 PM
  4. Graziella Bruner 10/02/2010 11:11 PM
Topic:
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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
850,702
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

I had a similar experience to Matt's #7 in high school. We also had a fatality recently with a homeowner who mixed chemicals while power washing his home in Rockland County

Oct 02, 2010 10:32 AM #11
Rainmaker
86,526
Curt Hess
Keller Williams Select Realtors - Annapolis - Annapolis, MD
Luxury Home Consultant, Team Leader & CEO

Indeed...I do recall an early chemistry class that talked about the power of bleach is in the CLORINE, a deadly gas.

From About.com: An oxidizing bleach works by breaking the chemical bonds of a chromophore (part of a molecule that has color). This changes the molecule so that it either has no color or else reflects color outside the visible spectrum. A reducing bleach works by changing the double bonds of a chromophore into single bonds. This alters the optical properties of the molecule, making it colorless. In addition to chemicals, energy can disrupt chemical bonds to bleach out color. For example, the high energy photons in sunlight (e.g., ultraviolet rays) can disrupt the bonds in chromophores to decolorize them.

Great way to start your real estate Saturday, heh? :-)

 

Oct 02, 2010 10:39 AM #12
Rainmaker
602,255
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

As an asthmatic, this information is vital for me to know - and I never knew about it.  Thank you for providing this.

Oct 02, 2010 10:42 AM #13
Rainmaker
446,368
Vickie McCartney
Maverick Realty - Owensboro, KY
Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY

Hi Jason~  Some people just don't know those combinations can be deadly!  I have found that baking soda and vinegar can be great for keeping drains clean!

Oct 02, 2010 11:50 AM #14
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Hey, hey! Congratulations on your featured post, Jason! As always, let me know if I can do anything to help you. I want my Invitees to be successful.

Oct 02, 2010 12:06 PM #15
Rainmaker
318,622
Rosalinda Morgan
Brookville, NY
"The Rose Lady"

Jason - Great post.  Keeping our houses clean can be dangerous to our health.  I have a friend who kept her house super clean and almost died because she used too much Lysol and Clorox around the house.

Oct 02, 2010 12:19 PM #16
Rainer
43,474
Mario Gattavara
IMPACT California Properties - Oroville, CA
(Lake Oroville Area)

Had a new washer and dryer installed yesterday and the wife was attempting to mix a few off the wall cleaners together to clean where the old ones were! Glad she had some supervision ;-)

Some people do not realize the dangers.

Good luck & success to you Jason!

Oct 02, 2010 01:32 PM #17
Rainer
29,810
Grace Culver
Michigan Homes Network - home advertising and search - Ferndale, MI
Advertising

Baking Soda is amazing and non-hazardous.  It's great for neutralizing odor.

Oct 02, 2010 02:27 PM #18
Rainer
35,824
Virginia OnullConnor
Realtor®, Photographer, Artist - Temecula, CA
Realtor - Temecula, Anza, SoCal

Good article, Jason. It's true, most people don't seem to kow about these household dangers. Why don't they teach this stuff in school? Along with how to balance a checkbook. Congrats on the feature!

Oct 02, 2010 03:01 PM #19
Rainer
95,472
Ed Pichette
RE/MAX South Shore Realty - Riverview, FL
RE/MAX South Shore Realty

Been there done that. A long time ago,  I Learned that bleach and amonia don't like each. Great blog about safety in using household cleaning chemicals.

Oct 02, 2010 03:03 PM #20
Ambassador
789,201
Charlie Ragonesi
AllMountainRealty.com - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

As we are on a septic system we are nopw more careful with the chemicals we use to make sure we do not mess up the system. but when we started to think about it the light went off and we said , What about OUR body systems!!!/ Nce post

Oct 02, 2010 04:52 PM #21
Ambassador
1,252,678
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Good post! I reblogged it.

 

Oct 02, 2010 05:02 PM #22
Rainmaker
719,522
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Real Estate Partners, LLC, Scottsdale, AZ - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Excellent post, Jason.  A great reminder.  Thank you for taking the time to keep people safe.  I have bookmarked this one. 

Oct 02, 2010 05:06 PM #23
Rainmaker
652,646
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

One can get terribly ill when breathing some of these products -- be careful out there.

Oct 02, 2010 05:48 PM #24
Ambassador
824,719
Fred Griffin
Frederick Griffin, Licensed Real Estate Broker - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Real Estate Broker

Bob Haywood post #4 mentioned CLR. 

Ditto for Mr. Clean, Formula 409, Lime Away, and other Brand Name cleaning products that don't prominently display the chemical ingredients, which may be ammonia, muriatic acid, chemical salts, sodium hypochlorite, or other toxic compounds..  

Don't mix two of anything together unless you are a chemist.

 

Oct 02, 2010 07:52 PM #25
Rainmaker
143,434
Linda Hinson
S & L Properties - Calabash, NC

My first apartment had little tiny white tiled floors in the bathroom but they had yellowed and grout was dirty.  I sprinkled cleanser and scrubbed and scrubbed but just couldn't get it clean so I poured clorox and started scrubbing...it turned perfect white and then I started to struggle for breath.  My new husband came in and started ranting...I ended up in the hospital.  It took 3 months before I recovered...very stupid 22 year old.

Oct 02, 2010 08:54 PM #26
Rainmaker
308,279
Graziella Bruner
BRUNER REALTY LLC - Wayne, MI
Broker/Owner - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

Great Blog - this is worth reblogging - I know a lot of young people who just mix a variety of chemicals to clean their homes without even thinking about it.  This could be something to add in my package to new homeowners, that's the first thing they want to crab is bleach and whatever else is around to clean their home.

 

Oct 02, 2010 11:10 PM #27
Rainer
289,363
Nancy Timberlake
RE/MAX By The Bay - Portland, ME
REALTOR - Southern Maine

Thanks for the reminder.  We expose ourselves to enough chemicals as it is!

Oct 03, 2010 03:46 PM #28
Rainmaker
541,032
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Jason, when I was 9 or 10, a buddy of mine went into our garage and mixed up a bunch of fertilizers and pool chemicals. I came out of my house, went into the garage and somehow took a breath of this concoction. My breathing stopped immediately, my mom drove me to the hospital (with my head out the window to force some air into my mouth), and I spent about a week in there. I don't remember much about the visit except I had to stay enclosed in an air tent thing. Not quite like Travolta in Bubble Boy, but just in bed at the hospital. I ended up not having any kind of permanent damage, but it sure scared the hell out of us all. And my friend Danny wasn't allowed over anymore.

Oct 03, 2010 07:40 PM #29
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

Thanks to everyone for your great comments, well wishes and fascinating stories of chemical-mixing mishaps. It has been interesting and educational, and I greatly appreciate everyone taking the time to comment.

Oct 03, 2010 10:11 PM #30
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