Cleaning supplies can be dangerous if they are not stored and handled safely and properly. Flammability is an issue that many people do not always consider when they are handling and storing their cleaning supplies.
With such a plethora of cleaning supplies to choose from, how can you avoid a chemical catastrophe in your home or workplace? How should you respond if there is one?
To avoid a catastrophe such as fire or combustion of common cleaning supplies, it is important to properly use, handle, and store chemicals according to the manufacturer’s label recommendations. Having a safety plan will increase your response time in the event of a chemical fire or combustion.
Keeping your home or workplace clean and safe is a never-ending battle. Therefore, knowing how to handle and store your cleaning supplies safely is essential.
Nobody wants their home or workplace to be filled with toxic gasses or burst into flames, especially if it could have been easily prevented by adhering to proper handling and storage guidelines. Follow this guide, and you will be one step closer to a safer environment.
Types of the Most Commonly Used Cleaning Supplies
With thousands of cleaning products on the market today, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the growing mountain of choices.
Cleaning supply companies boast that their products are the best, safest, greenest, or least toxic. It is difficult to know which is truly the safest.cleanhomeblog.com
The following list is composed of the most commonly used cleaners and the ingredients that make them flammable. By always checking the labels on these cleaning products for flammable chemicals, you can make much safer purchasing decisions for your home or place of work:
Flammable ingredients commonly used: 2-Butoxyethanol, ammonia, chlorine, phthalates, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s)
- Chlorox Bathroom Cleaner™
- Chlorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner™
- Kaboom Foam-tastic Cleaner™
- Lysol Bathroom Cleaner™
- Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner™
- Soft Scrub™
- Zep – Shower, Tub, and Tile Cleaner™
Flammable ingredients commonly used: Phthalates, Triclosan, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s)
Flammable ingredients commonly used: 2-Butoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide
- Green Gobbler™
- Liquid Plumber™
- Roebic Main Line Cleaner™
- Scotch Slow Drain™
Flammable ingredients commonly used: 2- Butoxyethanol, Phthalates
- Homebright Furniture polish™
- Murphy’s Oil Soap™
- Old English™
- Scotts Liquid Gold™
Laundry Detergents and Pods
Flammable ingredients commonly used: Chlorine, Perchloroethylene, Phthalates, Triclosan Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s),
- Arm and Hammer™
- Percil ProClean™
Flammable ingredients commonly used: 2- Butoxyethanol, ammonia, chlorine, Phthalates, Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s)
- 409 Multi-Surface™
- Chlorox Multi-Surface™
- Mr. Clean™
- Rubbing Alcohol™
Oven Cleaners and Degreasers
Flammable ingredients commonly used: 2- Butoxyehtanol, Chlorine, Sodium Hydroxide
- Easy-Off Oven Cleaner™
- EZ Duzzit Oven and Grill Cleaner™
- Goo Gone™
- Greased Lightning™
- Mean Green™
- Mr. Muscle™
- Power House HD Oven Cleaner™
- Purple Power™
- Zep Heavy-Duty Oven Cleaner™
Flammable ingredients commonly used: Chlorine, Perchloroethylene,
- Resolve™ Spray and Wash
- Tide Stain Remover™
Flammable Chemicals Used in Cleaning Supplies
One of the things that most of these cleaners have in common is the following toxic chemicals:
- 2-Butoxyethanol – Most commonly used in window/glass cleaners, kitchen cleaners, and most popular multi-purpose cleaners.
- Ammonia – Since around the 1850s, ammonia has been commonly used for polishing, cleaning stainless steel, jewelry, and glass.
- Chlorine – Mostly used in scrubbing powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mold, mildew, and laundry whiteners
- Perchloroethylene – Primarily used in most common stain removers, dry cleaning solutions, carpet and upholstery cleaners
- Phthalates – Because there is a severe lack of legislation on this issue, Phthalates are usually listed as “Fragrance” on a manufacture’s label. Current laws do not require cleaning supply companies to list which chemicals are being used to create their scents. For more information on federal labeling safety laws, please keep reading.
- Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC’s) – These are primarily used in fabric softeners and anti-bacterial cleaners.
- Sodium Hydroxide – Most often used in oven cleaners and drain cleaners
- Triclosan – Commonly used in liquid dish detergents and anti-bacterial detergents, and hand soaps
Other Deep Cleaning Chemicals that are Flammable
If your goal to increase safety and reduce the risk of fire and combustion in your home or workplace, the following chemicals are extremely flammable and should be avoided. These chemicals are commonly found in professional strength cleaners and degreasers.
Checking the manufacturer’s labels for these flammable solvents is another way for you or your co-workers to reduce the risk of fire or combustion:
- Acetone – Used in nail polish removers and other adhesive removal products
- Benzene – Used in making detergents
- Toluene – Used in nail polish removers and other adhesive removal products
- Xylene – Cleaning agent used in detergents, nail polish removers, and other adhesive removal products
Brands that are Known for Being Less Flammable
Having a safer alternative to traditional cleaning supplies helps you avoid the harsh chemical reactions and risks of fire or combustion.
The following products are considered organic and non-flammable. They are safer alternatives to some of the more dangerous chemicals:
- Greenerways Organic All-Purpose Cleaner – Cleans a multitude of surfaces, leaves a streak-free shine, great for cars, gym equipment, baby supplies, etc.
- Household Traditions All Purpose Cleaner – Non-toxic, safe for all household and commercial environments, an enzymatic solution that cuts through the toughest grease.
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Cleaner – Safe and effective for use on any non-porous surface, leaves a fresh, natural scent.
- Simple Green – Multi-Surface cleaner that is useable on porous and non-porous surfaces. Environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
Green Does Not Always Mean Safer or Non-Toxic
When a company claims that its product is green, you want to trust that they are telling you the truth. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. However, “green” does not always mean that a product is safer or less-toxic than the others.
Lack of Legislation Causes Shady Business Tactics
Due to federal laws, or the lack of them, companies are not closely regulated on what information they have to include on a product label. Companies use misleading language and enticing phrases to grab your attention and draw you in by utilizing creative marketing techniques.
They make you think that their product is green, safe, or non-toxic; however, this is not always true. When a company is not completely honest about what they are using in their products, it is called greenwashing.
Proper Use and Storage of Common Cleaning Supplies
When using any type of chemicals for cleaning your home or workplace, it is important to keep the following things in mind in order to maintain a safer environment.
Use Caution When Using Aerosol Containers
Any cleaning supply that is packaged in an aerosol container should be used very carefully and stored with extra caution. Most aerosol containers are highly pressurized with a hydrocarbon propellant, which makes them very flammable and easily combustible:
- Always be sure that aerosol containers are stored in a cool, properly ventilated space. Storing an aerosol container in a space that is too hot or not properly ventilated can cause combustion.
- Do not smoke cigarettes while using an aerosol container.
- Never spray an aerosol container directly into an open flame or at any source of ignition, such as a pilot light.
Mixing Clashing Chemicals is a Recipe for Disaster
There are other factors that consumers need to consider in addition to flammability when using any cleaner. The harmful gasses that are caused by mixing the wrong chemicals together are at the top of the list.
Mixing bleach with other cleaners is a definite way to create a negative chemical reaction.
Exposure is Still Harmful Even in Small Doses
Many of the products listed in this article should never be mixed together because they can put off harmful toxic gasses and cause combustion.
Even when you’re exposed to small amounts of these dangerous toxins created by mixing the wrong chemicals together, the gasses produced can irritate your:
Always use chemicals in a properly ventilated area away from any source of heat or open flames.
Practice Proper Cleaning Procedures
Mixing different cleaning supplies together can result in some very bad chemical reactions, leading to serious illness, injury, or death.
Combinations to Avoid if Mixing Cleaning Products
Mixing bleach with any other cleaner is never a good idea. Harmful fumes are produced, which turn into extremely harmful toxic gasses when bleach is mixed with:
- Toilet cleaners
To avoid these harmful chemical reactions, you must first clean the surface with warm soapy water before using additional products.
- As an example, if you sprayed Lysol Multi-Surface Cleaner on the kitchen counter and then decide that you want to use another cleaner, such as bleach, it is imperative that you wipe the surface with warm soapy water first in order to avoid a chemical reaction between the two different products.
Open Flames and Poorly Ventilated Spaces
It is essential to keep your chemicals away from open flames, such as:
- Lit cigarettes
- Stove burners
- Hot water heaters
It only takes one spark for a bad situation to ignite.
Follow the Label for a Safer Environment
To avoid the combustion of common cleaning supplies, it is extremely important to read the manufacturer’s label on the back of each cleaning product that you are using.
In addition to safe usage, ensure that you have your chemicals safely stored in a cool, well-ventilated space away from anything that generates heat or open flames.
Mix Drain Cleaners for an Explosive Result
When using drain cleaners, be sure to stick to the same brand that you are currently using. Mixing different brands of drain cleaners can result in an explosion in your pipes.
How to Respond During a Fire or Chemical Reaction
The following paragraphs highlight ways to prevent and respond to a chemical fire or reaction.
The Best Plan is Prevention
Prevention is the best policy. It is important to have a plan in place before an incident occurs:
- Be sure that your family or co-workers all know the plan and their role during an emergency.
- Have a meeting place where everyone knows to meet so you can keep track of them.
- Know how to evacuate the area.
- Know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them properly.
- Know who you need to call for help.
Don’t Hesitate to Call for Help
When there is an incident, the first thing you should do is call 911 immediately. The faster you call for assistance, the faster they can respond and get help on the way. The fire department’s average response time to arrive on the scene is 15-20 minutes, depending on where you are located. That is a long time when there is a fire ablaze, so act as quickly as possible to get help.
Evacuate the Area as Quickly as Possible
Stay as calm as you possibly can. Get everyone out of the area. If you are in a building that has elevators, do not use them. You will be putting yourself and others at risk of becoming trapped. Use the stairs or a fire escape if that option is available to you.
Remember Your ABCs
If it is safe to do so, use a fire extinguisher labeled for chemical fires when attempting to put out the flames and reduce further damage. It is recommended that all homes have at least one ABC fire extinguisher on each level. An ABC fire extinguisher has the ability to work on multiple types of fires.
Each letter represents a different type of fire that the extinguisher will put out:
- Combustible materials such as firewood, plastic, cloth, and paper
- When a fire’s source is a combustible gas or liquid such as gasoline, ethanol, and propane
- Electrical fires
Hold Your Breath
Avoid inhaling dangerous toxic fumes by covering your face to protect yourself against any harmful gasses that may be emitting from the fire or reaction. Breathing in these harmful gasses can cause serious issues, some of which are irreversible, for your:
Always use caution and proper safety materials when being exposed to potentially toxic gasses.
Some More Options for Safe Cleaners
There are many cleaning supply companies and products that claim to be safe, green, and non-toxic.
Still, it is ultimately up to you, the consumer, to research each product and the ingredients they are using to know if you are cleaning with the safest product for your environment.
The following list is a few of the most popular and safe alternatives that are not known for greenwashing:
- Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner
- Bon-Ami Cleaning Powder
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap
- Dr. Meyer’s Clean Day
- Krud Kutter
- Meliora Cleaning Products
Use MSDS to Stay Safe When Handling Chemicals
Another way that you can educate yourself on which chemicals are in the common cleaning supplies in your home is to visit the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) website.
On this website, you will find any chemical, drug, or product that is on the market and anything that you need to know about those items. Data includes things such as:
- Chemical composition
- Proper handling warnings, etc
Keep Away From Children
Safety is always your first priority, especially when children are involved. Chemicals must be stored properly and away from curious little hands.
This guide has discussed the danger of flammability with commonly used cleaners, but as mentioned before, flammability is not the only concern to have when handling and storing cleaning chemicals.
The danger of ingestion and poisoning are also serious issues to take into consideration. Always remember to store your chemicals in a safe space away from a child’s reach.
General Review of this Guide
Below is a general review to remind you of what has been discussed in this helpful guide on the flammability of common cleaning supplies:
- Always read the manufacturer’s label for proper handling and storage of cleaning products.
- Always use proper safety equipment when handling chemicals, such as gloves, skin, and eye protection.
- Beware of companies that greenwash. Transparent labeling is not enforced. Do your own research on products.
- Have a safety plan, and be sure that everyone knows it. Be prepared for the worst.
- Have the proper fire extinguisher for your situation.
- Keep MSDS on hand to educate others on how to handle and store cleaning products properly.
- Store chemicals in a cool, properly ventilated space. Keep products away from heat sources and open flames.
- Try using some of the alternative products listed above that are less flammable for a safer environment.
Knowledge is the Key to a Safer Environment
At the end of the day, it is up to you to be aware of what chemicals you are using and to maintain a safe environment.
With the knowledge you have gained from this helpful guide on common cleaning supplies’ flammability, your family and co-workers will benefit from a safer environment that everyone can enjoy. For further information on proper chemical handling and storage safety, please contact your local fire department or visit the following website.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC (1, 2)
- Emergency Preparedness and Response, CDC
- Washington State Department of Health