Chemicals are Unstable
Chemicals are hazardous things; they have their own specific qualities, each with their own differing sensitivities and reactions ranging from physical contact, contact with other chemicals, and storage. This is why there are such strict regulations when it comes to storing and transporting such goods- as it takes highly-skilled and knowledgeable professionals to safely handle them. Yet there are many deadly chemicals and potential reactions that can occur in your very own home from readily available household cleaning products.
As a precaution, the Ontario government and other figures have established WHMIS training as an inherent worker’s right for jobs dealing with dangerous substances. This system features the familiar pictogram symbols detailing hazards for a particular product, and an ‘SDS’ (safety data sheet’ which delves in-depth on the proper handling, and cleanup of chemicals.
SDS (Safety Data Sheet)
The SDS sheet is the in-depth literature that entails everything about a chemical product. The main purpose of an SDS is to provide information regarding supplier information,product information, Hazards (all kinds), prevention, and response. There are actually 16 segments of a SDS sheet, however these four condense the basic information it outlines. These 16 segments include:
3. Ingredients/ information on composition
6. Spill precautions
7. Handling and storage
8. Exposure precautions, personal handling
9. Physical and chemical properties
10. Stability and reactivity
11. Toxic effects
12. ecological impact
13. Disposal Instructions
14. Transport guidelines
15. Regulatory information
16. other information about the product.
Workplace Label/ Supplier Label
A supplier label is the standard ‘in a nutshell’ information about a chemical that is meant to be read at a glance. This label contains the following information: A hazard pictogram (the shape around it details the severity of the hazard), reference to the sds/ msds, hazard words (dangerous if inhaled), handling options, and storage options contained in a segmented box.
Workplace labels are the same, however, they are used only if the supplier label is worn-out or missing for some reason. Workplace labels only require three types of information, being: The product name, short precautionary statement, and a reference to the msds sheet.
4 Categories of Cleaning Agents and their Appropriate Uses
WHMIS applied to cleaning products can help you understand the dangers of mishandling or mixing certain cleaning products. In the following examples of what not to mix, you will notice that most disasters come from mixing any chemical with bleach.
For a quick overview, here are different categories of common household cleaners and their dangers/ applications.
They May Be Colourful, But Household Chemicals Are More Dangerous Than They Look
Made of petroleum and other synthetic materials to break down soil, detergents are often corrosive, toxic, and irritating chemicals used for laundry purposes.
Denatured solvents are used to remove grease, stains, scuff marks, paint, ink and many other marks from surfaces. These substances are made of alcohol (yes, the drinkable ethanol kind), however, to avoid abuse of this product, it is tainted with toxic chemicals to make the solution taste bitter/ harm individuals. These substances are highly flammable, and very toxic/ irritating if consumed.
These cleaning materials vary in their effects, though their main characteristic is their use of friction to create a reaction. Like the degreasers, Abrasive cleaning agents are used to foam up and remove stains, dirt, and oils from surfaces. Some are extremely corrosive (oven cleaner), while others contain additives to remain somewhat safer, but still dangerous if used improperly.
Acidic cleaners are the most powerful chemicals out there, and are mainly used to erode scaling and other tough mineral deposits. Substances such as hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid can be found in some drain cleaners, which serve the sole purpose of destroying protein, carbohydrates and greasy matter. This destructive power is evident, and it goes without saying that they are extremely dangerous to human skin.
Chemicals you Should Never Mix-
With the basics of WHMIS and the four common cleaning materials out of the way, here is the list of common household cleaning chemicals you should never mix. As a common rule of thumb, it is wise to never mix anything with bleach, as bleach is a very strong and reactive substance.
Chlorine Gas can be Produced with Household Chemicals
Bleach and Ammonia-
Ammonia is a chemical found in many multi-surface cleaners, toilet cleaners, as well as human urine. By itself it is an excellent cleaning material capable of cleansing surfaces. When it is mixed with bleach, a chemical reaction occurs where chloramine gas is produced. Chloramine gas is also known as mustard gas (yes, the same form WWI) and can cause severe chest pain, damage airways, pneumonia, nausea, and death if exposed for long enough.
Bleach and Vinegar-
Vinegar might seem like a rather harmless substance found in kitchens, however it can produce a noxious chlorine gas when mixed with bleach. Similar to bleach and ammonia, Chlorine gas will produce an acid on the surface of skin when it comes into contact with the gas. This results in burning, blurring vision, nausea, coughing, lung damage, and also death.
Two Different Drain Cleaners-
Drain cleaners are very powerful, highly acidic chemicals that have the potential to violently react if exposed to one another. Mixing two different cleaners together, or even using a different brand soon after a treatment with another can cause an explosion. This is because some drain cleaners are either extremely acidic, or extremely basic in composition. Acids and bases mixed together tend to have extreme reactions. The resulting explosion can result in scalding water mixed with either strong acid or bleach, which is un-ideal.
Bleach- Rubbing alcohol-
This dangerous combination will produce the well-known anesthetic called chloroform. Exposure to chloroform will cause damage to internal organs and nausea for temporary exposure, or death in higher concentrations.
Vinegar is a common household good used for cleaning and cooking, while hydrogen peroxide (acetone) can be found in nail polish remover. The innocuous combination of both can be an easy mistake, as spraying counters with alternating bouts of both substances is a common practice. However, when combined they will produce the toxic chemical known as peracetic acid. It can be highly corrosive, irritating, and cause toxicity if ingested.
Chemicals are dangerous only to the uninformed, so always remember these basic rules when cleaning for yourself or others.