Many common household cleaning products depend on hazardous toxins to get the job done. Strong chemicals like ammonia and chlorine bleach are often found in bathroom cleaners, window sprays, floor care products, laundry detergents, oven cleaners, furniture polishes and drain clog removers. While manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients on cleaning product labels, they sometimes provide information that is otherwise helpful. For instance, products that are labeled "danger" or "poison" are usually the most dangerous, and the words "warning" and “caution" are often used to describe mild to moderate hazards, such as vapors and flammability.
Of course, when used as directed, most household cleaning products are reasonably safe. The level of toxicity of a product depends on the amount used and the length of exposure. To keep yourself out of harm’s way, whenever you use cleaning products, you should:
- Thoroughly read the label and carefully follow all instructions.
- Wear long, protective gloves to keep harmful chemicals from burning and drying out the skin on your hands and arms.
- Ensure that there is good air circulation in the room you are working in by opening one or more windows or keeping a fan running.
- Never mix different types of cleaning products, such as those that contain ammonia with those that contain chlorine bleach. This mixture can produce chloramine gas, which can cause serious breathing problems and is potentially fatal if inhaled in large qualities.
Simple and effective cleaners can be created relatively inexpensively with items that you might even already have around the house, such as white vinegar and baking soda, or that are available at a local store, such as borax (also known as sodium borate, a naturally occurring substance produced by the evaporation of lakes). Many "recipes" for green cleaners are available online.
If you have questions about cleaning products that are potentially hazardous or cancer-causing, you can speak with an expert at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.