If you’re looking at a tough cleaning job, it’s tempting to think about combining various cleaning products under the assumption that if each works to clean, both together will clean twice as well. Unfortunately that isn’t necessarily the case, and mixing certain household cleaning products could result in some unintended – and often hazardous – consequences. Learn the facts and clean with caution!
Bleach + Ammonia
Of all the various household cleaning ingredients that shouldn’t be mixed, these two will result in about the worst combination imaginable. Combining bleach and ammonia will cause the bleach to decompose and form hydrochloric acid, which reacts to the ammonia to create toxic chloramine fumes released as a vapour. If you or someone else winds up inhaling these fumes, call 911 ASAP.
Antibacterials/Disinfectants + Detergent
If you mix a disinfectant that uses an ingredient called quaternary ammonia with a detergent of foaming cleanser, instead of creating a more powerful cleaning solution the result will actually be the opposite, causing the affect of the disinfectant to be neutralized.
Baking Soda + Vinegar
If you recall that papier mache volcano you built in grade school for the science fair, combining vinegar and baking soda creates a big foamy mess. So while both products are excellent environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, combining the two is a bad idea – especially since, if stored in a sealed container, the mixture is prone to explode. Plus, when all the foaming has died down, what you’re left with is essentially a salt water solution that isn’t particularly effective for cleaning.
Castile Soap + Vinegar
Vinegar and castile soap are both fantastic eco-friendly cleaning products. However, while vinegar is acid based, castile soap is a base; when combined, a chemical reaction is created that results in “a mixture that looks a lot like a curdled white gunk.”
One Brand of Cleaning Product + A Different Brand
Mixing one brand of cleaning product with another brand is also a big no-no, since different brands can have different formulations and different chemicals, and you could inadvertently cause an unexpected chemical reaction that, depending on the chemicals involved, could range from harmful gas vapours to an explosion. A good rule of thumb is: when in doubt, don’t combine different brands of cleaners to remove the guesswork and keep safety first.
Drain Cleaner + Different Drain Cleaner
If trying to clear a clogged drain and pouring the contents of a bottle of drain cleaner hasn’t done the trick, the last thing you should do is add a DIFFERENT brand of drain cleaner into the mix in hopes it will push through the clog. Since some drain cleaners (i.e. sodium hydroxide), some are bleach (say, sodium hypochlorite), and others are acids (sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid), combining these together could create a chemical reaction that could cause such end results as heating up the trapped water and sending this scalding water shooting up in the air, or even creating deadly chlorine gas.
Hydrogen Peroxide + Vinegar
Some people recommend cleaning countertops with alternating spritzes of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, with the surface wiped down in between each spray. This is fine; what isn’t is mixing the two ingredients in a container, which will create peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
Bleach + Rubbing Alcohol
Another potentially deadly combination is created by mixing bleach with isopropyl alcohol – both excellent cleaners on their own, but when combined create chloroform, that stuff in the movies that bad guys used to pour on rags, hold over a victim’s mouth and cause unconsciousness. Although the concentration may not be enough to actually make you pass out, this toxic chemical is still powerful enough to cause some bodily harm, such as damaging the nervous system, lungs, kidneys, liver, eyes and skin.
Bleach + Toilet Bowl Cleaner
A toilet bowl cleaner that has an acidic formula, when combined with bleach, could cause the mixture to release toxic fumes that could irritate eyes and even cause respiratory problems.
Bleach + Vinegar
Vinegar is a very effective cleaning agent, and so is bleach. Combining vinegar and bleach, however, will create chlorine gas, which will attack your eyes, throat and lungs and, in a high enough concentration can actually kill you. So just don’t do it.
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