How to Use and Store Household Chemicals Safely

Cleaning Supplies
In your home, you have chemicals for all sorts of things: Bleach for your laundry, dishwashing detergent, window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, nail polish remover, and insect spray are just a few of the chemicals found in the average home. Some chemicals, such as shampoo and conditioner, we use daily without giving them much thought at all, while others, like propane for the grill, we are always careful with. Obviously, some cleansers and chemicals are safer than others, but particularly if you have small children in the house, you need to be careful with all of them. Here are some tips on using and storing household chemicals safely:

Buy the safest chemical that you can that will get the job done

As the saying goes, you don’t need to use a cannon to kill a mosquito. If you can use a non-toxic alternative to a chemical cleanser, then go ahead and do so. For example, instead of scrubbing your toilet with bleach powder, try using baking soda instead; the scrubbing action and texture is what removes stains. You might be able to use vinegar to mop your floors if they’re not dirty, instead of one of the cleansers sold specifically for cleaning tile or linoleum. Often, a squirt of dishwashing liquid (the kind you use for handwashing dishes) in a sinkful of water is just as effective for cleaning counters and other surfaces as more toxic sprays and kitchen cleaners. This strategy will not only keep you safer, but will save you money as well!

Store chemicals up high and locked up

Many people keep their cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. While this might be okay if you have an adults-only household and never have nieces, nephews, neighbors and grandchildren over, it’s not a safe practice when you have little ones, either your own or someone else’s. Instead, find a location that is too high for young children to reach, and, ideally, behind a locking door. Install a bolt or a hook-and-eye latch on a high cabinet or on the utility closet to create a safe space for your cleaners. Don’t use the kitchen pantry, though; chemicals should never be stored where food is kept, because a spill could contaminate the food.

Keep original labels on everything

There should never be any question about what is in a particular bottle or package. Even more importantly, the label on a chemical gives important information about what to do in case of an accidental ingestion or if it gets in your eye. If a poisoning were to occur, you should call Poison Control and have the label handy so that you can give it to the medical professional who you speak to.

Dispose of your chemicals correctly

Many chemicals should not be emptied down the drain or dumped outside. Call your local department of hazardous materials or the sanitation department to find out what to do with various chemicals that you won’t be using. If they are fairly new and have been stored properly in their original containers, you could try donating them to a business or non-profit organization who could use them. Otherwise, you’ll need to find out how to dispose of them properly.

Household chemicals are a fact of life, and they make cleaning and maintaining our homes much easier. They can also be dangerous, and care must be taken to keep them out of the reach of children (and pets), and to store them properly.