The Poison Control Center

Household Cleaners

Mixing products: Stirring up trouble

A common house-cleaning mistake is combining ammonia with bleach. This combination results in an irritating fume called chloramine gas.

Exposure to chloramine causes irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and airway. Symptoms include teary eyes, runny nose, sore throat, coughing and chest congestion.

These symptoms may develop after only a few whiffs of chloramine and may last up to 24 hours. Some ammonia-containing products include floor, glass and jewelry cleaners.

Another toxic fume can develop when bleach is added to a product containing acid. This combination produces chlorine gas which, like chloramine gas, causes irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

Chlorine gas, however, causes more severe and long-lasting effects than chloramine. Some exposures to chlorine gas may require medical treatment.

Common products containing acids include:

If your child has swallowed something that you suspect might be poisonous, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Dangerous fumes

Some products do not have to be mixed with other chemicals to cause irritating effects.

Strong alkalis or acids such as drain openers, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and mildew stain removers are strong enough on their own. Inhalation of these substances may produce symptoms similar to those caused by chloramine and chlorine gases.

Make sure to open the windows while cleaning and take a break immediately after feeling uncomfortable. Potentially serious exposures usually occur when strong alkalis or acids are used in an enclosed, poorly ventilated area for a prolonged period of time.

 

Reviewed by: The Poison Control Center
Date: October 2013

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