Safety Tips to Avoid a Disinfectant Disaster During COVID-19 and Beyond

At a time when there is so much uncertainty and we’re all embracing change to keep our families healthy, it’s now more important than ever to make our homes feel like a place of safety and comfort. While most of us are continuing to practice social distancing, it’s also important to remain vigilant and engage in safe practices at home. This includes cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched items and surfaces on a daily basis, as well as taking extra steps when bringing grocery items, packages, and anything else into our homes. While we’re doing all this extra cleaning, there may be instances when common household chemicals accidentally get mixed, or you may even be tempted to mix cleaning products to make a “more powerful” product. However, cleaning products are the absolute worst choice for playing home chemist. Whether it’s on purpose or by accident, mixing common household chemicals can lead to dangerous consequences. They may react and create toxic, potentially deadly fumes, or even explode. It's one thing to say, "do not mix bleach with ammonia," but it's not always easy to know which products contain these two chemicals. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poison control centers have seen a 20% increase in daily calls for cleaner and disinfectant accidents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • It’s important to note that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting:Cleaning involves removing dirt, grime, and germs from objects and surfaces and leaves things looking shiny and clean. Soap and water might be used in this process. However, general cleaners–such as soap and water, all-purpose cleaners, or essential oils–are not designed to eliminate pathogens that can cause an illness. A surface must be cleaned before it’s disinfected.
  • Disinfecting involves completely eliminating pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms. A disinfectant kills nearly 100% of bacteria, viruses, and fungi on a surface.

Here’s what you need to know about common products you may have around the home that should never be combined.

1. Bleach + Vinegar = Chlorine Gas

Mixing bleach and vinegar results in toxic chlorine gas, which irritates the eyes, skin, mucous membranes, and respiratory system, and may cause chemical burns, permanent lung damage, or even death. Chlorine gas has also been used in chemical warfare, so it’s certainly not something you want to be creating and inhaling inside your home. So why do people continue to mix these cleaning agents? There are two reasons. The first is that vinegar lowers the pH of bleach, making it a better disinfectant. The second is that people don’t realize how quickly the reaction happens, or how dangerous it actually is. When people hear that mixing common household chemicals makes them more effective disinfectants, they don’t always realize that the germ-busting boost isn’t going to make enough of a difference to justify the danger. It’s fine to use bleach and vinegar separately, as long as the surface is sufficiently rinsed between applications.

2. Bleach + Isopropyl Alcohol = Chloroform

Regular household bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, which reacts with ethanol or isopropyl alcohol to produce chloroform, and other nasty compounds, such as hydrochloric acid, chloroacetone, or dichloroacetone. According to the EPA, extremely high levels of chloroform exposure may result in death, while lower levels could result in dizziness and nausea. Chloroform can also cause permanent damage to your nervous system, kidneys, liver, eyes, and respiratory system.

3. Bleach + Ammonia = Chloramine Gas

This is an extremely common and dangerous mixture that can be avoided by checking the ingredients list of your cleaning products before use to ensure that you’re not unknowingly using these products together. For example, most common glass and window cleaners contain ammonia, so never mix those with bleach. Why? When bleach and ammonia are mixed, they react together to form toxic chloramine gas. Chloramine will burn your eyes, throat, and respiratory system, and can lead to internal organ damage. Worse, if there is enough ammonia in the mixture, toxic and potentially explosive liquid hydrazine may be produced.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide + Vinegar = Peracetic Acid

While these two common household products are often touted as natural cleaning agents, combining the two together in the same container could result in peracetic acid. While peracetic acid has disinfectant properties, it’s also corrosive and can give you a severe chemical burn.

5. Drain Cleaner + Drain Cleaner = Toxic Gas

Never mix two different drain cleaning products. Instead, stick to using one product according to package directions. If it doesn’t work, do not try a different product right after the other. Instead, it’s best to call a plumber. Why? Different drain cleaning products contain different chemicals, which may result in the release of chlorine gas or even lead to an explosion.

Other Ways to Avoid a Potential Disinfectant Disaster

In addition to avoid mixing household chemicals, make sure to open a window or two to ventilate if you’re disinfecting with bleach (to avoid inhaling the fumes), avoid products that contain unidentified “fragrance” or choose fragrance-free (synthetic fragrances can trigger asthma and may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals), use as few products as possible in your home, and finally, never, ever ingest or inject cleaning or disinfectant products–no matter who suggests it’s a good idea.

In case of a cleaner or disinfectant accident, contact Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

Vital Oxide: The Only Product You’ll Ever Need

So many households these days use multiple types of cleaning products and disinfectants. It’s easy to see why: Visit any local big-box store and you’ll find that the aisles are packed with an endless selection of special household cleaners and disinfectants, floral scented aerosol sprays, and fancy “green” products with attractive packaging that all promise to make your chores a little less tedious. But like so many other things that you don't need to buy, many cleaning products simply don't work well–or do more harm than good.

Take for instance, regular household bleach. As you’ve read above, bleach can be extremely dangerous if mixed with other chemicals. And if you’ve ever used it to clean, you know that the fumes from bleach are incredibly strong. When the fumes are inhaled, bleach may cause a variety of health problems. According to the EPA, chlorine bleach is a potent irritant to the eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and lungs. On top of this, it may cause chemical burns, migraines, muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, esophageal perforation, nausea, and vomiting. When used in poorly-ventilated homes, indoor air becomes polluted with toxic fumes, endangering the health of all those who breathe it in. People who suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies should avoid the use of bleach completely because it can aggravate symptoms.

We all want to do what’s best to keep our families safe and healthy. Instead of using a variety of potentially dangerous household cleaning products and harsh disinfectants, choose one product that’s better for your home and family. Vital Oxide is a powerhouse cleaner, disinfectant, and more. It’s more than twice as powerful as bleach and other conventional disinfecting products, but is gentle enough to use around children, pets, and those with respiratory issues. Rather than using toxic chemicals, Vital Oxide harnesses the power of oxygen to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, banish odors, destroy allergens, and eliminate mold and mildew, all while being fragrance-free. In fact, Vital Oxide is so gentle, that you can spray it on food prep surfaces without having to rinse it off. It’s perfect for use on hard or soft surfaces. You can also spray it on fabric, carpet, rugs, mattresses, furniture, pet beds, and children’s plush toys without worrying about harmful residue or causing any damage. Simply spray and walk away–and Vital Oxide will go to work selectively eliminating health threats without damaging the environment or your home. It’s all you’ll ever need to keep your home clean and safe.

Final Thoughts

Vital Oxide and our parent company, Ecology Works, are taking steps every day to respond to the pandemic as a part of our commitment to the well-being of people and the planet. We recommend reading the CDC’s helpful guide on cleaning and disinfecting your home, as well as the EPA’s full list of registered disinfectants that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. Vital Oxide is included on this list and meets the EPA’s emerging pathogen requirements for viruses showing efficacy against envelope and nonenveloped viruses, both large and small.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us at any time. We’re here to help.

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