5 Dangerous Ways We Misuse Cleaners to Kill the Coronavirus

Woman cleaning
Photo by Tinatin / Shutterstock.com

Have you gone into a cleaning frenzy, hoping to kill the coronavirus in your home? If so, take note: Many people are misusing disinfectants and cleaners.

A solid minority of Americans — 39% — use bleach and other disinfectants in a manner that can harm or even kill them, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results of the online survey of around 500 participants are a reminder that certain cleaning practices should be avoided.

According to the CDC, survey respondents admitted to doing the following in hopes of preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19:

  • Using bleach on food items like fruits and vegetables (19%)
  • Using household cleaning and disinfectant products on the skin (18%)
  • Misting the body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray (10%)
  • Inhaling vapors of household cleaners or disinfectants (6%)
  • Drinking or gargling diluted bleach solution, soapy water and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions (4% each)

As you might expect, these actions are not without consequences, with 25% of respondents reporting at least one recent health issue that they believe is tied to their misuse of cleaners or disinfectants.

Reported health consequences included:

  • Nose or sinus irritation (11%)
  • Skin irritation (8%)
  • Eye irritation (8%)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or headache (8%)
  • Upset stomach or nausea (6%)
  • Breathing problems (6%)

How to stay safe when cleaning

In addition to the mistaken methods the CDC cites, we’ll toss in one more: improper mixing of chemicals.

As we have noted, simply mixing chemicals that do not belong together — including bleach, ammonia, acids and hydrogen peroxide — can harm your health.

For more on what to avoid, check out “Never Mix These 4 Combinations of Cleaners.”

Overall, calls to poison control centers have been on the rise this year. As we reported in April:

“Calls to poison centers about exposure to chemicals used as disinfectants and cleaners grew 20% in January through March compared with the same period last year, says a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.”

Officials cannot say conclusively that this increase is due to cleaning efforts intended to fend off the coronavirus. But whatever the reason, all those emergency calls should prompt you to stay safe while protecting yourself from COVID-19.

For more tips on keeping the coronavirus on the run, check out:

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

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