It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think about tackling a tough cleaning job in your commercial office space. It can be difficult to know which cleaner and disinfectant to use when and where.
However, understanding the types of cleaners and disinfectants that are used and in what way is a safety issue.
When products are combined, they will go through various chemical reactions, which can turn your everyday cleaners into harmful and even toxic gases.
“People often think that if one product works, mixing it with another one will make it even better,” says Carolyn Forte, Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab.(1)
But here’s the scary truth: “Certain products, which are safe when used alone, can sometimes cause unsafe fumes or other chemical reactions when mixed with other products,” says Nancy Bock, Senior VP of Education at the American Cleaning Institute. And even if your ad-hoc cleaner combo isn’t dangerous or toxic, you can never be sure what effect two products can have on a surface or fabric when combined. (1)
Before you reach into your janitor’s closet of cleaning supplies and start mixing, you should always read warning labels and check ingredient labels on cleaning products.
Here are some combinations of products that should never be mixed:
Bleach and Vinegar
Combining these two powerful disinfectants produces chlorine gas. Breathing in this gas generates acid in the lungs. Chlorine gas, even at low levels, can cause breathing problems, coughing, and eye irritation.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Type All Natural or Green Cleaners into a search engine and you will see this combination suggested all over the internet. We all love a pantry staple that doubles as a natural cleaner, and on their own they can be put to use for all manners of cleaning from commercial kitchens to deodorizing your office carpets. On their own, these products work just fine.
Baking soda is basic, and vinegar is acidic. When you put them together you get mostly water and sodium acetate. But really, it’s just mostly water. If stored in a closed container, the mixture can explode. (1)
Bleach and Ammonia
Together these to make chloramine. Chloramine is a toxic gas that in addition to causing coughing, breathing problems, and burning, watery eyes, can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
Remember to read product labels as glass and window cleaners contain ammonia and should never be mixed with bleach.
Combining Different Drain Cleaner Brands Together
All brands of drain cleaner should not be treated equally. Each brand uses a different mixture of individual cleaning components.
All drain cleaners have some pretty toxic ingredients. Mixing two different brands together can produce poisonous fumes and even cause an explosion.
Here are a few common ingredients found in most drain cleaners:
• Sodium hydroxide
• Sulfuric acid
• Hydrochloric acid
The danger lies in mixing too much of one or more of these chemicals together, which can cause dangerous reactions.
When using a drain cleaner, apply only one cleaning product according to the directions on the label, and never use one product after using another if the drain is not clearing.
If you continue to have problems after using the first product, it is best to contact a plumber.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar
Never mix these two products in the same container. The combination of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar creates peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic and can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
Bleach and Rubbing Alcohol
Chloroform is a harmful byproduct of mixing bleach and rubbing alcohol together.
While it might not actually cause you to pass out, this chemical combination will irritate any part of the body that it comes in contact with and can wreak havoc on the nervous system.
Another scientific fact: bleach and rubbing alcohol produce hydrochloric acid when they are mixed together.
Take Precautions When Using Cleaning Products
Precautions should always be taken to protect the health of everyone in your facility while cleaning your office.
Be sure to ventilate meeting rooms and break rooms by opening the windows or running ceiling fans and be sure to run exhaust fans in office bathrooms and kitchens.
Protect your skin by wearing reusable latex or rubber gloves to prevent absorption through your skin when cleaning.
Always read and follow instructions on cleaning product labels.
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1. Cleaning Products You Should Never Mix (goodhousekeeping.com)