Household Safety Tips: Chemicals That Should Never Be Mixed

Certain poisonous chemicals in household cleaning products can be dangerous and even deadly when mixed with other chemicals. Here is a summary of some combinations that aren't safe.

There are literally dozens of chemicals at work in our everyday lives, whether it's the air freshener plugged into the outlet in your living room or the chemicals in your breakfast meat. Our lives would be much tougher if we didn't rely on these chemicals but some of them, when mixed, can cause serious health hazards, like damage to the eyes, nose, throat or lungs, and even death. Everyday household cleaners, such as toilet bowl cleaner, bleach or ammonia, pose a health risk simply by the user breathing in the fumes. Sodium hypochlorite, the chemical reaction that is produced by using bleach, can cause skin or eye burning and irritation but can also cause more serious problems like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and pulmonary edema, which is fluid in the lungs.

In an attempt to clean stubborn stains, some people have resorted to mixing chemicals, thinking the combination would clean even better, but instead, releasing toxic gasses into the air which can kill. Mixing bleach with toilet bowl cleaner is one example, which produces a deadly chlorine gas. Mixing bleach with ammonia products can release both monochloramine and dichloramine, or deadly chloramine gas. These gasses are invisible and most aren't noticed by smell, since the products they are combining already have a strong odor. Because of their chemical reactions, never mix bleach with ammonia, metal tarnish cleaners with bleach or ammonia, bleach with fabric or carpet spot removers, ammonia or bleach with jewelry cleaners, ammonia with dishwasher detergents or ammonia with other swimming pool products.

Other chemicals which don't mix include mixing acids with cyanide salts or cyanide solution, which generates hydrogen cyanide gas, combining acids with sulfide salts or sulfide solutions, which causes hydrogen sulfide gas, mixing acids with bleach which generates chlorine gas, combining oxidizing acids like nitric acid or perchloric acid with combustible materials like paper, alcohols or solvents, phosphides with water, and silver salts with ammonia. Although some of these substances are more likely found in a chemist set, it's a good idea to learn the basics of what chemicals won't mix, for your own safety.

Other combined chemicals, which are not cleaners, can cause serious health risks, like certain medications with other medications, medications with antacids, medications with yogurt and prescription medications with non-prescription medicines. Be sure and check with your doctor before starting any new medication treatments.

When doing ordinary household chores, using strong chemicals, or mixing any chemicals together, make sure there is plenty of ventilation, even if it means brining a fan to the room while you clean. Above all, read every product label, particularly any warning announcements printed on the label. During cleaning, if you suddenly feel dizzy, sick on your stomach, or develop a headache, step away from the chemicals and get fresh air. If you've been exposed to a deadly gas, get fresh air as soon as possible and call the Poison Hotline in your area to find out what to do next.

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