Remember how I said in the introduction I basically have been cleaning my whole life? Ok maybe a slight exaggeration, although I’m confident I was helping with cleaning as soon as my Mom felt I was capable. And I am learning that can happen early because my Son, Corbin, who is 20 months old, loves to help me clean. He really enjoys spraying cleaner on the counter and wiping it up with a microfiber (yes we use natural products and this is only done when supervised). Watching him enjoy cleaning is probably one of my prouder moments of Motherhood to date. And don’t even get me started on how much he loves the vacuum! But I digress.
So back to the topic at hand…mixing cleaning products. Growing up, when I would clean for Family and Friends, I would use whatever products they wanted me to use. And if I couldn’t get the results I was hoping for, I would try another product. Let’s take a shower for example. I would spray one product, scrub the shower and if it didn’t remove everything, I’d spray it again with something else. Probably before rinsing the first product completely. I had no idea about not mixing products and safety measures to take. I had one goal-get the shower clean, free of soap scum and that’s it. But did you know how dangerous mixing cleaning products can be? I wasn’t made aware of this until my early 20’s.
I remember this instance so well. It was in the beginning years of our cleaning business (Caliber Cleaning, Inc.) and my Mom and I were in a home doing a move out cleaning. A move out cleaning is a cleaning that is completed once tenants move out and the home is getting prepared for new tenants to move in. I always cleaned the Bathrooms while my Mom did the Kitchen, then we’d meet up and finish the rest of the home together. I was cleaning the toilet; it was the last thing I had to clean in this bathroom. I had put the cleaner in the toilet bowl and had ran out of my all-purpose spray yet still needed to spray the exterior of the toilet to wipe it down. I decided to improvise and sprayed the toilet with Windex. I figured that would work just fine. After spraying the toilet suddenly there was a smoke coming off the surface. I thought Wow that’s interesting. I walked out to the Kitchen and said “Hey Mom, the craziest thing is happening, I added the cleaners to the toilet and it is smoking?!” The look of Motherly concern came over her face and she replied “Briana what did you put on the toilet?” I told her our normal toilet cleaner and explained how I needed to spray it down with Windex because I ran out of my all-purpose spray. Windex was the magic word, or not, her face fell and she said “Briana you cannot mix cleaning products! That is so dangerous. Turn on the fan and let the room air out for a bit.” Well color me surprised! What do you mean I can’t mix cleaning products? Why? They seemed benign enough, toilet cleaner and Windex. What could go wrong?
I now know why mixing products together is so dangerous and there are many combinations that are not safe. I am not able to remember what the active ingredient was in the toilet cleaner I was using that night many years ago. However that experience shaped the way I cleaned going forward and I became increasingly aware of what I was using to clean with. The rule of thumb I use now is to not mix anything. Natural products included. If I am cleaning in an area where I need more than one product I will use one at a time, clearing the air of the products overspray prior to introducing another product in the same area. This is especially important if you are in a small room or a room with poor ventilation.
It seems the two most popular cleaning products that are known to not mix are Windex and Bleach. The active ingredient in Windex is ammonia and it is a good idea, if you use Windex, to not mix it with anything. Spray the surface you are wanting to clean and then clean it off thoroughly before using any other products in the same area to be safe. Bleach is another popular household product and the active ingredient in Bleach is chlorine. This is also a product I would suggest, if you use it, to use it by itself and fully rinse and dry the surface you are using it on prior to using anything else in the same area. Mixing Windex (Ammonia) and Bleach (Chlorine) results in Chloramine gas. Another combination, perhaps less suspecting, that will result in Chloramine gas is white vinegar mixed with Bleach.
In order to maximize your time while cleaning, and avoid a potential reaction, I recommend purchasing an all-purpose cleaner that you can use on most surfaces you are wanting to clean. This way you don’t have to worry about mixing products. There are some wonderful all-purpose sprays on the market now, both all natural and not all natural, for whichever you prefer. For example, if you are cleaning a Bathroom, you should be able to find a spray that you can use on the countertop/sink/toilet and shower. You can even use all purpose spray to clean your floor. A good all-purpose spray really lives up to it’s name “All Purpose.”
I hope this has shed some light on safety while cleaning, and when in doubt, don’t mix products! Mixing of cleaning products like the ones above can cause serious harm from chemical burns on your skin to respiratory problems so stick to one cleaner at a time if you need more than one. And always read the labels of the products you are using. The fine print that usually is skipped over contains valuable information relating to safety. It’s worth checking it out prior to use 😊
Cheers to a clean home!