you're faced with a tough cleaning job, it's easy to get frustrated —
and tempting to get creative with how you combat it. But before you
reach for every cleaning product under your sink and start playing
chemist, please just don't.
often think that if one product works, mixing it with another one will
make it even better," says Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab
at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
here's the scary truth: "Certain products, which are safe when used
alone, can sometimes cause unsafe fumes or other chemical reactions when
mixed with other products," says Nancy Bock, Senior VP of Education at
the American Cleaning Institute.
even if your ad-hoc cleaner combo isn't dangerous or toxic, you can
never be sure what effect two products can have on a surface or fabric
when combined. Always read the warning and ingredient labels on cleaning
products — and never mix these:
1. Drain cleaner + drain cleaner
"I would never
recommend mixing two different drain cleaners or even using one right
after the other," says Forte. "These are powerful formulas, and could
even explode if combined."
one product according to package directions (typically, only half a
bottle is needed per treatment). If it doesn't work, don't try another
product. Instead, call a plumber, Forte says.
2. Baking soda + vinegar
We're calling you out, Pinterest: Although these pantry staples are handy on their own (both baking soda and vinegar can help clean all over the house), skip any DIY cleaner recipe that involves this not-so-dynamic duo.
soda is basic and vinegar is acidic," says Bock, "When you put them
together you get mostly water and sodium acetate. But really, just
mostly water." Plus, vinegar causes baking soda to foam up; if stored in
a closed container, the mixture can explode.
3. Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar
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may have heard that you should spray fruits or countertops with
alternating mists of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, wiping down the
surface between sprays. Experts say this method is safe — but don't mix
the two products in the same container. Combining them creates peracetic
acid, which is potentially toxic and can irritate the skin, eyes, and
4. Bleach + vinegar
combination sounds like it'd be a powerful disinfectant, but the two
should never be mixed. "Together, they produce chlorine gas, which even
at low levels, can cause coughing, breathing problems, and burning,
watery eyes," says Forte.
5. Bleach + ammonia
and ammonia produces a toxic gas called chloramine. "It causes the same
symptoms as bleach and vinegar — along with shortness of breath and
chest pain." says Forte. Many glass and window cleaners contain ammonia,
so never mix those with bleach.
6. Bleach + rubbing alcohol
you've heard of chloroform? You know, the stuff kidnappers in the
movies put on rags to knock out their victims? Although it might not
actually make you pass out, this combination can be irritating and
Make it a rule to never
mix bleach with anything but plain water. "Even other products like
window and toilet bowl cleaners can have ingredients, like acids or
ammonia, that shouldn't be mixed with bleach," says Forte.
Images by: Katja Cho