How do I know if my household cleansers are safe?

Toxic Household Cleaners

Many household cleansers have the potential to make your family sick or worse. Drain cleaner, oven cleaner, soap, bleach and other cleaning products can be toxic if not handled properly.

Even when they're handled in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, some cleansers are inherently safer than others.

To determine the risks to your family, read labels carefully. If you still have questions, check the manufacturer's Web site for more information, or look for a listing about the product at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Household Products Database Web site for more information [source: HHS].

When you're performing cleaning tasks, make cleanser safety a top priority by employing these household cleanser safe practices:

  • Read the directions on the label carefully and follow all instructions.
  • Never repurpose cleaning solvent containers for other uses in the home.
  • Don't use cleansers in areas where food is being prepared.
  • Dispose of solvents and packaging responsibly.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation in areas where you use household cleansers. Employ a portable fan to circulate the air if there's no window in a room where you'll be cleaning. This is particularly important in small rooms, like bathrooms.
  • Use cleaning products in the recommended concentrations only.
  • Minimize exposure to solvents by using rubber gloves and goggles where indicated.
  • Never mix different cleaning products together unless directed to do so.
  • Use caution when trying out new cleaning products. Some preparations can cause reactions in sensitive individuals, so always do a test first.
  • Be careful when cleaning the areas your pets frequent. Whenever possible, opt for cleaning products that state they're pet-friendly.
  • If children live in or frequent your home, store all cleansers in a safe and secure area.
  • Perform adequate cleanup after using cleansers. This includes rinsing surfaces to remove solvent residue and washing or disposing of towels, sponges, mops and other equipment or supplies.

You probably clean your home regularly using specific products and practices. Making household cleanser safety a priority by developing a strategy that you use every time you clean is one of the best ways to ensure that you're protecting your family and yourself.