Never Use These Cleaning Products Together

Photo by Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

Is the warming weather triggering your spring cleaning impulses? Or maybe sheltering in place from COVID-19 has got you scrubbing. Cleaning feels like a healthy impulse, but take care you don’t get hurt.

That’s easier than you’d imagine, as cleaning products often contain chemicals — including bleach, ammonia, acids and hydrogen peroxide — that should never be used together.

Below, we’ve outlined some dangerous combinations of common household chemicals.

A word of caution

Before using any cleaning products, always read their labels. The Missouri Poison Center also advises leaving each product in its own container to help avoid mistakes and confusion.

In case you have a chemical accident, act quickly: Call the American Association of Poison Control Centers hotline at 800-222-1222 to reach your local poison control center. Then, look for a toll-free telephone help number on a product’s label and check a product’s website for information.

Never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia

You probably have a gallon jug of chlorine bleach in your laundry area. It makes laundry whiter — and can be used to sanitize a home against the spread of the coronavirus, as we detail in “5 Household Cleaners That Can Kill the Coronavirus.”

Ammonia is another familiar household cleaner. You may have it on hand for cleaning windows, for instance.

But don’t combine bleach and ammonia — or cleaning products that contain bleach and ammonia. That combination creates dangerous chloramine gas.

Exposure to this gas can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and irritation to your eyes, nose or throat. It can even cause pneumonia and fluid in the lungs.

The active ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite, which is found in many disinfectants as well as household bleach, according to the Washington State Department of Health. So, if a cleaning product says “sodium hypochlorite” or “bleach” on its label, do not mix it with ammonia.

Ammonia may be found in glass and window cleaners as well as paint (both interior and exterior). If you are uncertain whether such a product contains ammonia, be safe and don’t use it with bleach.

Never mix chlorine bleach and acids

When chlorine bleach combines with an acid, it can create another dangerous substance, chlorine gas. The Washington State Department of Health warns:

“Chlorine gas exposure, even at low levels, almost always irritates the mucous membranes (eyes, throat and nose), and causes coughing and breathing problems, burning and watery eyes, and a runny nose. Higher levels of exposure can cause chest pain, more severe breathing difficulties, vomiting, pneumonia, and fluid in the lungs. Very high levels can cause death.”

In late 2019, a restaurant manager in Burlington, Massachusetts, died after a cleaning product containing high-strength sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in bleach) was used on a floor where a cleaning product containing phosphoric acid and nitric acid had been spilled.

The Utah Department of Health says acids may be present in:

  • Vinegar
  • Drain cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Window and glass cleaners
  • Automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses
  • Products for removing lime, calcium and rust
  • Concrete and brick cleaning products

If you’re unsure whether a product contains an acid, don’t use it with bleach or with products that list bleach or sodium hypochlorite on the label.

Never mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide

Vinegar is acidic — its key ingredient is acetic acid. Vinegar is also an amazingly versatile and environmentally friendly product. You can use it in your home to replace expensive chemical cleaners and pesticides like those we identify in “27 Money-Saving Ways to Use Vinegar in Every Room of Your Home.”

Hydrogen peroxide, also an acid, is used as a disinfectant and antiseptic as well as a bleaching agent.

It’s not safe to combine vinegar or products containing vinegar with hydrogen peroxide or products that contain hydrogen peroxide.

The Missouri Poison Center warns:

“When vinegar of any kind is mixed in the same container with hydrogen peroxide, periacetic acid is formed. Periacetic acid is used as a sanitizer, but in high concentrations it is corrosive and can cause irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory system.”

Never mix vinegar and Castile soap

Castile soap, available in liquid or bar form, is named after olive oil-based soaps originating in Castile, Spain. Other soaps may use animal fat, but Castile soap contains only vegetable oils.

Castile soap is used as a household cleaning agent for its simple ingredients. It is particularly good at cutting through grease.

Vinegar, too, is often preferred by households looking for simple, healthy cleaners.

But don’t use them together, cautions Lisa Bronner, whose family members run Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. She is a granddaughter of the company founder, Dr. Emanuel Bronner.

It’s not dangerous to combine acidic (lower-pH) cleaning agents like vinegar or lemon juice with a base or alkaline (higher-pH) cleaner like Castile soap. But the acid and base, when combined, react to neutralize each other’s useful properties. Bronner explains:

“The vinegar ‘unsaponifies’ the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess.”

It’s safe and preferable, Bronner says, to use Castile soap and vinegar in sequence: Clean with Castile soap and follow that with a vinegar rinse to remove any soap film.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Places Where Social Security Offers the Best Standard of Living
10 Places Where Social Security Offers the Best Standard of Living

These U.S. counties offer retirees a chance to stretch their benefit checks while enjoying their golden years.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them
9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies — and How to Resurrect Them

These time-tested methods can help us live smarter today.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs
7 Ways Anyone Can Cut Their Health Care Costs

Here’s how to lower your medical expenses without skimping on care.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.