Ten safety precautions for using chemical cleaners
AVTe believe that synthetic chemical-based household cleaners are sufficiently dangerous
W to preclude their use in the home. Given the many serious health and environmental hazards associated with the ingiedients they contain, we don’t recommend them in any way for any purpose. However, we also realize that many consumers may prefer them for certain tasks. For those who make the choice to continue to use toxic chemical cleaners, we’ve created this list of safety precautions. They can help lower your exposure risk to the hazardous ingredients found in many cleaners. Please keep in mind, however, that no amount of precautionary action can completely prevent the dangers related to the use of such products.
1. Protect your children. Do not use chemical cleaners when children are present. Even minute quantities can affect them. The organization Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility believes, for example, that there is absolutely no safe level of exposure for neurotoxins, chemicals that many cleaning products contain. If chemical cleaners must be used, apply them when children are at school or away from home. Do not under any circumstances ever use any chemical cleaner in a child’s bedroom. Either use natural cleaners, plain water, or don’t clean at all! Using chemical cleaning products in a child’s bedroom will expose them to far higher levels of toxins because of the disproportionate amount of time children spend in their rooms playing and sleeping.
2. Ventilate. Keep fresh air coming into your house while you use chemical cleaners. Open windows and doors (even in winter!), use fans, and run air conditioners. This air exchange will remove some of the pollutants to the outside and reduce the concentrations of any airborne contaminants that remain.
3. Wear protective clothing. This includes heavy-duty gloves, a breathing mask, long-sleeved clothing, full-length pants, and safety goggles. If you feel like you’re dressing up for hazardous waste duty, you’re right! As we’ve seen, the very products you’re using are considered just that when you place them in your trash can. Strong physical protection measures definitely apply. Cleaning product chemicals can enter the body via your skin, lungs, stomach, and mucous membranes, and in most cases users are unaware this entry is occurring. Protecting your bodily surfaces from exposure safeguards you to a limited extent.
4. Buy only small quantities of toxic cleaners. Purchasing only what you need will prevent the accumulation of old leftover products that must then be disposed of as hazardous waste or, worse, might simply remain in your home for years.
5. Don’t use hot water. Hot water allows the volatile chemicals found in many cleaners to evaporate more easily and enter the air in greater amounts. Using warm or cool water will help keep the chemicals you’re using more contained and keep the air you’re breathing healthier.
6. Never mix deaners. You may accidentally create substances more hazardous than any of the individual cleaners alone.
7. Rinse thoroughly. Rinsing cleaned surfaces thoroughly and repeatedly will remove as much cleaning product residue as possible. And the more you can remove, the healthier your home will be.
8. Avoid waxes and polishes. Products intended to make surfaces shiny are specifically designed to leave residues behind and usually contain dangerous solvents that help keep the active ingredients in suspension in the product and make it dry faster. Similarly, avoid toilet bowl and oven deaners. These products typically contain harsh acids or caustics, chlorinated chemicals and bleaches, and/or large amounts of solvents, which combine to give these categories of products what is generally the highest toxic load of any kind of leaner.
9. Don’t use spray deaners. Spray cleaners diffuse their chemicals directly into the air over a wide area and distribute these substances across distances that often exceed those areas being cleaned. Cleaners you mix in a bucket and/or apply directly by hand via a sponge or rag stay more self-contained and are easier to control.
10. Exercise extra caution in the kitchen. As is the case with children’s rooms, make an exception and keep synthetic cleaners away from eating, food prep, and cooking areas. If you’re hesitant to try natural cleaners, these areas are ideal places to experiment and see how easy such products can be to use.