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!

 

 

Posted by

 

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-Bloggged 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
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Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Location:
Michigan Oakland County Troy
Groups:
Active Rain Newbies
Localism Beta
Michigan Real Estate
Tags:
troy michigan home inspections
indoor environment
indoor air quality
safety
household chemicals
bleach
acid

Comments 29 New Comment

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Rainmaker
141,979
Linda Hinson
S & L Properties

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.

October 02, 2010 08:54 PM
Rainmaker
287,287
Graziella Bruner
Broker/Owner
BRUNER REALTY LLC

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.

 

October 02, 2010 11:10 PM
Rainer
275,138
Nancy Timberlake
REALTOR - Southern Maine
RE/MAX By The Bay

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

October 03, 2010 03:46 PM
Rainmaker
537,977
Eric Michael
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI

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.

October 03, 2010 07:40 PM
Rainer
130,383
Jason Channell
The House Sleuth
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

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.

October 03, 2010 10:11 PM
Anonymous
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Rainer
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Jason Channell

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