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.
- Bleach and ammonia
- Bleach and acids
- 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:
- shortness of breath
- chest pains
- watery eyes
- 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!