Little known fact: the kitchen and bathroom are dangerous, dangerous places. You could slip and fall, slice your finger with your brand new chef’s knife, fail to resist the cookies you baked on a whim, and there are so many common household cleaners and solvents that, if mixed, can cause illness, disfigurement, or even death. Here’re a few of the most prevalent combinations to avoid when cleaning your space:
Bleach and Vinegar, Acetic, Phosphoric, Nitric acids, or Ammonia – Absolutely never mix bleach together with these substances. The combination will create a green-yellow gas called Chlorine Gas which was used, among other events, in WW1 during trench warfare to disable and kill thousands of soldiers. Chlorine gas in low exposure doses will cause acid damage to any soft tissues it is exposed to such as your eyes, throat, lungs, mouth, and nose. At very low levels a healthy individual will experience watery eyes, coughing, running nose, and potentially shortness of breath. At slightly higher levels there will be prolonged and intensified symptoms, and the potential for further symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, conjunctivitis, chemical burns, and shortness of breath. At high doses a fatal edema can form and death can occur in as little as a few minutes to half an hour. Any pre-existing lung conditions or a history of smoking will increase your risk of permanent damage. It all adds up to a really bad day, so be sure to check the ingredients list on any cleaners or solvents you’re using, and never mix bleach with anything but water.
Drain Cleaner + Any Other Drain Cleaner: There are a lot of extremely strong, caustic chemicals in drain cleaner, and every brand has its own chemical combination. Mixing any two drain cleaners can cause toxic fumes, degradation of your drainage system, or even explosions. Nobody wants to spend their day dealing with an exploded bathtub, so if you’ve dumped a whole bottle of one drainer down your drain and it’s still not draining – don’t put another kind of drain cleaner in there. Call a plumber and let them deal with the eldritch horror that’s clogging your drain.
Rubbing Alcohol & Bleach: You’ve seen those movies where Nasty Bad Person sneaks up behind Unsuspecting Victim with a handkerchief, puts it over their nose and mouth, and they fall gracefully unconscious? Well, mix rubbing alcohol and bleach and you’ll end up with chloroform which is the chemical they’re poorly imitating on your TV screen. Real chloroform was used as anesthesia in ye olden days, though it actually takes much longer to kick in and you will not wake up looking Hollywood Glamorous. Exposure to chloroform can cause fatigue dizziness, nausea, and can cause you to pass out which can be dangerous if you are injured and alone. We stopped using chloroform for surgery due to its harmful effect on the kidneys and liver, and due to the fact that in higher concentrations it can cause sores when in contact with the skin.
Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide: Try not to mix these two chemicals together in the same container or you’ll end up with a bottle of Paracetic Acid which can be irritating to the eyes and throat, but doesn’t make a great cleaner.
Vinegar and Baking Soda: We did another article on sink cleaning where we told you you could gently scrub out your stainless steel sink with a baking soda paste and rinse it with vinegar, and you absolutely can; however, if you mix vinegar and baking soda directly all you’ll get is flashbacks to your middle school science fair, a lot of foam, and a regretfully useless solution for cleaning.
Strong Pesticides and Water: The next time you’re chasing a creepy crawly around your house with double barreled cans of pesticides a-blazing, remember to keep it away from water. Some pesticides will contain aluminum phosphides which, when mixed with water, will create phosphine gas. Phosphine gas inhibits our ability to produce proteins, and when inhaled can cause respiratory (breathing) distress, heart problems, nervous system damage, and gastroinestinal (stomach) pain. This is one of the more fatal accidents that can occur with household chemicals. Heart damage can be fatal within 12-24 hours, you can develop edema (fluid in the lungs that causes drowning), and after 24 hours you can develop kidney or liver failure. Anytime you reach for the bug spray, remember to read the ingredients list and keep it away from water, even washing away the spray.