Many common cleaning products are helpful to have around your home or office. But mixing some of these products can cause toxic fumes, irritating acids, and gases that may be very harmful to your health.
At times, many of us face tough cleaning projects at home or at work. And sometimes a cleaning product frustrates us because it isn’t working according to our plan. Faced with our frustration, we might become motivated to be creative by grabbing other cleaning products, and combine them to try to get the job done.
Experts offer us a warning that combining certain common cleaning products is not a good idea.
Combining Cleaning Products
Before you consider mixing one cleaning product with another, consider what Nancy Bock, Senior VP of Education at the American Cleaning Institute, has to say concerning the scary truth about combining cleaning products.
“Certain products, which are safe when used alone, can sometimes cause unsafe fumes or other chemical reactions when mixed with other products.”
Additionally, Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, has this to say about mixing cleaning products.
“People often think that if one product works, mixing it with another one will make it even better.”
Even if you combine cleaning products that aren’t necessarily dangerous, in most cases it’s hard to know what effect the two products will have on a fabric or surface.
Health and Safety Recommendations
For your health and safety, never mix the following cleaning products:
- Vinegar + Baking Soda: Individually, vinegar and baking soda help clean all over the home or office. However, these handy cleaning products should not be combined. Nancy Bock says, “Baking soda is basic and vinegar is acidic. When you put them together you get mostly water and sodium acetate. But really, just mostly water. Plus, vinegar causes baking soda to foam up — if stored in a closed container, the mixture can explode.”
- Rubbing alcohol + Bleach: Although this combination might not make you pass out, this mixture can be irritating and toxic. Always keep in mind — never mix bleach with anything but plain water. Carolyn Forte adds, “Even other products like window and toilet bowl cleaners can have ingredients, like acids or ammonia, that shouldn’t be mixed with bleach.”
- Vinegar + Hydrogen peroxide: Some say you should spray counter tops and fruit with alternating mists of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide — then wipe down the surface between sprays. Experts say this method is quite safe. But don’t mix the two products in the same container. Combining these two cleaning products creates peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic. Peracetic acid can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
- Vinegar + Bleach: The combination of these two cleaning products may sound like it would be a powerful disinfectant. But these two ingredients should never be mixed. Forte warns, “Together, they produce chlorine gas, which even at low levels can cause coughing, breathing problems, and burning, watery eyes.”
- Drain cleaner + Drain cleaner: Use only one product according to package directions. Treatment usually requires only half a bottle. Forte says, “I would never recommend mixing two different drain cleaners or even using one right after the other. These are powerful formulas, and could even explode if combined.” And if your chosen drain cleaner doesn’t work, Forte recommends that you don’t try another product. Instead, you should probably call a plumber.
- Ammonia + Bleach: Ammonia and bleach produces a toxic gas called chloramine. According to Forte, “It causes the same symptoms as bleach and vinegar — along with shortness of breath and chest pain.” Many window and glass cleaners contain ammonia — so never mix those with bleach.
Solutions — What to Look For
A few safe, simple ingredients like water, soap, vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and borax can help take care of most of your cleaning needs. You might have to use a coarse scrubbing sponge and a little elbow grease. But in the end, using these safe and inexpensive cleaning products will be gentler on your health — as well as the environment.