Everyone uses cleaning or janitorial supplies, but not everyone uses them safely. While intended to clear dirtied areas, they can cause more trouble than good if used in the wrong way. The safe use of cleaning supplies prevents unnecessary harm for everyone and everything involved-the user, the targeted area and the environment.
Since toxic levels of chemicals can cause extensive damage, prolonged exposure should be avoided as much as possible. For example, Drano, a common clog remover, contains sodium hydroxide, a known carcinogen linked to emphysema. This product can also cause severe burns, respiratory irritation and blindness.
Users must also keep in mind a product’s long-term impact on the environment as it can inadvertently harm them as a result. For example, the fumes from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), commonly found in cleaning products, worsen air quality indoors and out, possibly leading to asthma, inflammation or heart disease. Not to worry-these adverse effects can easily be avoided.
What can consumers do to safely use janitorial supplies? Purchase the right product. Most retailers and Internet sites stock eco-friendly “green” products with decreased or removed known carcinogens and hazardous materials. Even without these chemicals, the products are just as effective. Look for products with low VOC levels or natural ingredients like citrus, pine oils or vinegar.
Remember to follow these precautions:
o Always read the product’s label before use and take note of the company’s phone number. Everything you need to know can be found on the label. If for some reason your questions are still left unanswered, speak with a company representative or try visiting their website.
o Never mix cleaning products or add water (unless instructed to). It may seem logical to use multiple products to tackle a specific problem, but you never know what chemical reactions can occur. Adding water may also seem like a rational way to dilute a solution or make a paste, but water, when mixed with certain chemicals, may cause a bubbling or a surge of heat, both of which could cause serious harm.
o Keep products away from children and pets who are unaware of the potential danger.
o Do not use past the expiration date: Even if you’ve only used the product once, if it’s past the expiration date, toss it. Some chemicals may no longer be effective or may have grown more toxic.
o Work in a well-ventilated area. Enclosed spaces concentrate a chemical’s fumes increasing its toxicity inadvertently.
o Dispose of products carefully. By dumping liquid cleaning products down the drain, you can contaminate the local water supply or even corrode your pipes. Keep in mind some chemicals need to be specially disposed, so know which ones do.
Share safe use advice with others. Others may be unaware of the necessity of using green products and safety precautions with cleaning supplies. Do what you can to prevent this from happening.
By following these steps, you can protect not only yourself and others, but also the environment all while tidying up.