Risky cleaning practices can cause serious health effects. Here's what you need to know to clean and disinfect your home safely.

By Better Homes & Gardens
June 10, 2020
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Regular household cleaning is one strategy to guard against the spread of COVID-19, but many Americans don't know how to do it safely, according to a new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over one-third of 502 U.S. respondents admitted to trying potentially dangerous cleaning practices while attempting to keep their homes virus-free.

Those unsafe behaviors included washing food items with bleach, applying household cleaners to skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaning products such as soapy water. And while most said they were cleaning more frequently because of coronavirus concerns, only about half of the respondents were confident they knew how to do so safely.

Especially when used beyond their intended function, disinfectants and other cleaners can be hazardous to your health. Unsafe cleaning practices can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, and irritation of the nose, skin, or eyes. Survey respondents who had tried one of the risky, non-recommended behaviors were more likely to report experiencing a negative health effect related to using cleaners, compared to those who practiced safe cleaning.

These survey results might help explain the increase in calls to poison control since the pandemic began. Between January and March 2020, calls to poison control centers related to cleaners or disinfectants increased by more than 20% compared to the same time period last year, according to the CDC.

Tips for Safely Disinfecting Your Home

Following the proper guidelines for household cleaning can help prevent accidents and keep you and your family healthy. Keep these practices in mind for safe, effective cleaning.

Use Cleaning Products Correctly

Always read the manufacturer instructions on the label before cleaning, and only use products for their intended use. Be sure to prepare and apply the cleaner properly, and dilute the product if directed. Unless otherwise stated on the label, use room-temperature water when diluting cleaners such as bleach. Never mix bleach with other chemicals like ammonia or vinegar, which can create toxic fumes that are harmful to inhale.

Wear Protective Gear

When cleaning with harsh chemicals, always wear rubber gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin. Consider wearing safety glasses if using liquids that might splash and get into your eyes. Make sure you have adequate ventilation by opening a window and running a fan if possible.

Properly Store Cleaning Products

Keep household cleaning supplies in a cool, dry place such as a closet or under-sink cabinet. Accidental exposure or ingestion can cause serious health issues, so you should store cleaning and disinfecting products, including hand sanitizer, out of reach of small children or pets. Additionally, make sure to keep kids and pets away while cleaning to prevent accidents.

Household cleaners are intended to keep your home safe and healthy. Just make sure you're using them correctly to avoid unnecessary risk.

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