Everyday Safety: A Guide to Chemical Management in the Home
Studies suggest that air pollution from household products can be deadly. These household chemicals may seem safe, but even “safe” chemicals in the home can pose risks. Are you using proper household chemical management practices?
Many people never think about chemical management in the home. After all, if everyone uses the same chemicals, how can they be so dangerous?
We’re here to talk about some of the most common household chemicals, how they can be dangerous, and how you can manage them in safe ways. Read on to learn more.
Importance of Chemical Management In the Home
First, you might be wondering why proper chemical management in the home is even important. Why does it matter how well you can manage your household chemicals if they’re so commonplace?
Many people get careless when it comes to the chemicals they use every day. They forget that even though something is available at the local grocery store for an affordable price, that doesn’t mean that it’s completely safe. Home chemicals are as safe as they can be, and they’re safe with proper use and management, but they can also be dangerous.
This is even more true when there are children or pets in the house. Adults have the capacity to understand why you should or shouldn’t touch certain chemicals. Children and animals don’t have that concept.
Proper chemical management in the home will ensure your safety and make your life easier. You’ll stay more organized, you’ll have an easier time when it’s time to use those chemicals, and you’ll be able to relax knowing that your home is more secure.
Understanding Chemicals in the Home
So what types of chemicals are in your home anyway?
In reality, everything is made of chemicals. In this article, we’re referring to chemicals that have the capacity to be dangerous. Often, these are household cleaners as well as things like gasoline and battery acid.
Every time you buy a new cleaning product you’re bringing chemicals into your home. That isn’t a bad thing, but it means that you need to be wary. Your bottle of toilet bowl cleaner could be dangerous if used incorrectly!
Types of Chemicals Commonly Found in The Home
There are a variety of chemicals commonly found in the average home, including those used for cleaning, personal care, and pest control. You could go check the labels of some of your favorite household products and find the names of many mysterious chemicals.
Sodium hypochlorite is one common one. It’s a chemical found in bleach, and it’s used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and clothing.
Ammonia is another common chemical found in glass and bathroom cleaners. It’s used for cleaning glass and mirrors (among other things). It has a distinctive smell.
Formaldehyde is a chemical you can find in furniture and building materials. It’s used in the manufacturing process and as a preservative.
Phthalates are chemicals in personal care products. Companies use them to make fragrances last longer so everything seems “fresh.” Many people are moving away from them now, but they’re still common.
Permethrin is a chemical in insecticides that you would use for pest control. If you’ve ever had a pest problem, you may have them in your home.
Triclosan is a chemical in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. It kills bacteria, but it can still be dangerous even though you’re using it to keep your household healthy and safe.
This is only a small number of common chemicals you can find in your home.
While these chemicals may be useful in their respective applications, they can also pose health and environmental risks if you don’t use or dispose of them properly. It’s important to read labels, follow instructions, and store and dispose of chemicals safely to minimize potential harm.
Potential Dangers Associated With Household Chemicals
Household chemicals can pose significant dangers if not handled and used properly. There are a few common dangers that can come from the misuse of the “safe” chemicals you use every day.
The first is poisoning. Many household chemicals, such as cleaning agents and pesticides, can be toxic if ingested or inhaled. Even a small amount can be dangerous. Make sure you know the poison control hotline.
Burns and skin irritation are also common. Certain chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia, can cause severe skin irritation and even chemical burns if they come into contact with unprotected skin.
Some household chemicals, such as oil-based paints and solvents, can be highly flammable and pose a fire hazard if not stored and used the right way.
Household chemicals can cause environmental damage. Improper disposal of household chemicals can lead to contamination of waterways and soil, which can harm wildlife and impact human health. While this may not impact you right away, it causes long-term harm.
Allergic reactions are also common. Some people may be allergic to certain chemicals found in household products, such as fragrances or preservatives, which can lead to allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe.
Household chemicals may seem safe, but they still pose risks. If you’re going to use them, make sure you know the basics of chemical management in the home.
Household Chemical Management Practices: Dos
Alright, so now that we understand the dangers of various household chemicals, how are you supposed to manage them? We’ve broken this list down into things that you should do and things that you shouldn’t do when it comes to household chemical management.
We’re starting with what you should do. This is a list of some of the most important things to remember when you’re managing your household chemicals.
Know What Your Chemicals Are
This may seem silly, but it’s important. You should have at least a vague understanding of the chemicals that you use in your home all the time. You don’t have to be a chemist and you don’t have to understand the fine details of each chemical, but you should have a general idea of which things in your home are dangerous.
Learn about what the labels on common household chemicals mean. Gain a basic understanding of what chemicals you shouldn’t ever mix.
You don’t have to be an expert. You’re trying to educate yourself enough to keep your household safe. When in doubt, you can always ask a professional or learn more online.
This is even true for common chemicals. Do you know what’s in your all-purpose cleaning solution? Do you understand what’s in the nail polish remover you use every week?
If you don’t know something, look it up rather than just assuming it’s safe. On top of that, always read the labels.
Keep Chemicals In a Secure Place
Keeping household chemicals in a secure place is crucial to ensure the safety of everyone in the household, especially children and pets (but everyone is at risk). Cleaning agents, pesticides, and even medications can be harmful if you don’t store them the right way.
Store them in a secure cabinet or cupboard that is out of reach of children and pets. If it’s within reach of children, it should be locked (or you should at least have a child lock on the doors). It is also important to keep chemicals in their original containers with their labels intact so you can identify what’s inside.
It’s also good to keep household chemicals in a cool, dry place that’s away from direct sunlight. Excess exposure to heat and light can affect their potency and stability.
Educate Children About Chemical Safety
If there are small children in your household, you’re responsible for making sure they’re safe around chemicals.
To educate children about household chemical safety, it is important to start by explaining what chemicals are and why they can be dangerous. Keep your explanations simple but be clear about the dangers.
You don’t want to scare children, but you need them to know that this is a serious matter.
It is also essential to teach children about the different types of chemicals and their uses, as well as the potential hazards associated with each type of chemical. You don’t need to go too in-depth but give a general overview.
You should also teach kids about the proper handling and storage of household chemicals. For example, you should tell them never to touch or taste chemicals. Little ones often put their hands in their mouths, so this may not be obvious to them.
Finally, it is important to teach children what to do in case of accidental exposure to household chemicals, such as seeking immediate medical attention and notifying an adult.
Wear Protective Gear When Necessary
Many household chemicals don’t require any type of special gear or equipment, but this isn’t true of all of them. If you have sensitive skin or a vulnerable respiratory system, you may need to take even more precautions.
Read the labels to see if the manufacturer has any recommendations about safety gear. Some cleaning product labels will recommend that you wear gloves, for example.
If you’re sensitive, consider wearing a mask when you use any chemical that you can smell. Having a smell doesn’t mean that the chemical is dangerous, but it may still bother you.
Avoid having chemicals touch your hands too much unless they’re in products that are made for your skin. If you’re using cleaning products, use sponges and clothes. Don’t dip your hands into the products.
Store Flammable Chemicals Outdoors If Possible
If you have flammable chemicals, you don’t want to store them inside your home (especially around other chemicals that could react with them). While it’s unlikely that an unexpected reaction would happen, you can’t be too careful.
If you have an outdoor or detached space for these chemicals that’s still safe and cool, that’s ideal. Sheds (that don’t get too warm) or ADUs can be good places for this.
If not, store them away from other chemicals in a fire-resistant container that’s away from flammable objects or furniture. Cool and dark basements (as long as they’re dry and clean) are good places for these chemicals.
Open Windows While Using Chemicals
When you’re cleaning, painting, or otherwise using chemicals, do you ever notice that the room starts to smell nauseating? As we mentioned before, the presence of a smell doesn’t necessarily indicate that something is dangerous, but it’s a good idea to open the windows and air out the room anyway.
Chemical smells can indicate danger. They can also make you lightheaded, give you headaches, and trigger allergic reactions. As long as the weather is good enough, opening the windows is a great way to let some fresh air in and keep your space safer.
If that’s not an option due to poor weather conditions or allergens outside, we recommend using fans or air filters to keep your home safer (and smelling better).
Consider a Label System or “Cheat Sheet”
Do you find yourself getting confused when you’re trying to remember what different chemicals you have in your home (and how to handle them)? If so, create a cheat sheet for yourself and consider adding extra labels to all of your products (without removing the initial labels).
You could add larger and more obvious labels about dangers associated with each product. While they’re already labeled, the danger labels can be small and hard to read at a glance. Larger labels may make things easier for you and your household.
You can also organize your chemicals in labeled boxes. This way, everyone knows what each one is for and there will be a lower chance of misuse.
It may also be helpful to have cheat sheets where you store your chemicals. You can break down the risks of each one in simple terms and what you should and shouldn’t mix with them.
This is great for people who have children or who have household members who aren’t yet used to using chemical cleaning products on their own.
Consider “Chemical-Free” Alternatives
Chemicals are unavoidable, but consider swapping some of your dangerous chemicals out for safer alternatives. Again, everything contains chemicals, but some products claim to be non-toxic and safe. While you should still use caution while using them, they’re less risky.
Products labeled “natural” tend to be safer bets, but they can still contain allergens and they can still irritate sensitive skin. These products are good for people with children and pets
Household Chemical Management Practices: Don’ts
So now that you know what you should be doing when it comes to proper chemical management at home, what should you be avoiding? The “don’ts” are just as important as the “dos” when it comes to household chemical management.
Here are a few things that you should avoid when you’re trying to safely use and store chemicals at home.
Don’t Remove Chemicals From Their Containers
Unless you’re actively using a product it should be in its original container. The only exception to this is if the container has broken and you need the chemicals still. In this case, you should keep the label so you still have all of the information you need.
It’s popular online to see people making their cabinets look neater by putting their products in more aesthetically pleasing containers. While this may look nice and conserve space, it’s dangerous. You need to be able to see the labels so you know what type of chemical you’re working with.
Keeping your chemicals where they’re supposed to go isn’t as nice looking, but it will keep you safe. That’s more than worth it.
Don’t Mix Unfamiliar Chemicals
Mixing household chemicals is incredibly dangerous, and it can result in serious health hazards and even death in some cases. Household chemicals are designed to be used as standalone products and you don’t need to mix them together unless otherwise instructed by the label or a professional.
Mixing chemicals can cause chemical reactions that can release toxic gases, produce explosive substances, or create harmful vapors (among other things). Even chemicals that are safe on their own can cause serious problems when you mix them together.
One of the most common household chemical mixtures is bleach and ammonia. These chemicals can create a toxic gas that can cause respiratory problems and death in serious cases. Other dangerous mixtures include bleach and acids, which can release chlorine gas, and hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, which can create a corrosive acid.
To prevent any accidental mixing of household chemicals, make sure to read and follow the instructions on each product. Store each product in its original container with the label intact, to ensure that the contents are clearly identified. Store chemicals separately and in a secure place to prevent accidental mixing.
In case of accidental mixing, it is important to immediately move to a well-ventilated area. It is also important to avoid breathing the fumes.
Don’t Store Chemicals Near Food Products
Where do you store your chemicals? If you’re like many people, you have at least some of them in your kitchen cabinets. Depending on exactly where they are, this could pose a problem.
You never want to tore household chemicals close to your food, even if you think they’re not dangerous. Unless your cleaning products are also pantry items (like vinegar, for example), keep them away.
Avoid keeping chemicals in the same refrigerator you use for food. If you have skincare products or personal care products that require refrigeration, it’s generally better to have a separate fridge just in case.
Cleaning products can stay in cabinets, but make sure they’re not in the same cabinets as your food items. You don’t want them to contaminate your food.
Don’t Store Chemicals in Direct Sunlight
Storing household chemicals in direct sunlight is not a good idea. It can affect the potency and stability of the chemicals.
Exposure to sunlight can cause the chemicals to break down, lose their effectiveness, or even become hazardous. This is particularly true for chemicals that are sensitive to light, such as bleach and hydrogen peroxide. You don’t want these to break down.
To ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your household chemicals, you should try to store them in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. This can help to prevent any potential risks and ensure the safe use of these chemicals.
Don’t Leave Open Containers Unattended
When you’re using chemicals around the house, don’t leave open containers unattended. It’s best to close containers when you can.
Open containers pose several risks. First, people unfamiliar with the chemicals can come across the container and get curious. This is a larger problem for small children.
You don’t want people touching chemicals they’re unfamiliar with.
Children and pets may try drinking out of or playing with open containers which can put them at risk.
Open containers are also at a greater risk of spilling. You don’t want chemicals to interact with each other or spill onto the floor. Always keep track of your open containers.
Proper Household Chemical Management Is Crucial
Never underestimate the importance of proper chemical management at home. Household chemicals can be dangerous, and the last thing you want is for a serious accident to happen as the result of simple negligence.
With proper care and attention, you can stay safe even while using hazardous chemicals at home. These tips will set you on the right track.
At KHA, we help professionals maintain chemical safety standards at home and on the job. Learn more about our safety solutions and reach out for a demo today.