Be careful with these common household cleaners.

By Corey Williams
Updated March 16, 2020
Advertisement

Spring cleaning may seem harmless enough, but mixing the wrong common household products could result in a potentially deadly science experiment.

If you’ve accidentally created a toxic gas, remove yourself from the area immediately and seek fresh air. Remove and dispose of your clothes, wash with soap and water, and seek medical attention ASAP. You can call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

1. Bleach + Vinegar

Credit: Clorox, Heinz

Clorox, Heinz

When mixed together, bleach and vinegar produce toxic chlorine gas. Chlorine gas itself is greenish-yellow but, when diluted in the air, it’s invisible. This means it’s only detectable by its strong scent and the side effects you experience.

So just how dangerous is chlorine gas? It was effectively used as a weapon during World War I.

Symptoms of exposure are:

  • Burning eyes, nose, and throat
  • Burning, reddening, and blistering of skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Potentially deadly pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in lungs)

2. Bleach + Anything With Ammonia

Credit: Clorox, Windex

Clorox, Windex

Ammonia, which is often found in glass and window cleaners, is dangerous when mixed with bleach.

The combo produces toxic gases called chloramines.

Symptoms of exposure are:

  • Burning eyes, nose, and throat
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Potentially deadly pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in lungs)

3. Bleach + Rubbing Alcohol

Credit: Clorox, Walmart

Clorox, Walmart

Rubbing alcohol contains ethanol, which, when mixed with sodium hypochlorite (bleach), creates chloroform. Chloroform, a colorless, sweet-smelling organic compound, can cause "sudden sniffer's death," a fatal cardiac arrhythmia some people experience when exposed.

Symptoms and side effects of exposure are:

  • Irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Damage to nervous system, eyes, lungs, skin, liver, and kidneys

4. Hydrogen Peroxide + Vinegar

Credit: Heinz

Heinz

These “natural” cleaning products are safe alone. When used together, though, they can create a corrosive chemical called peracetic acid.

Symptoms and side effects of exposure are:

  • Irritation of eyes, skin, and respiratory system
  • Scarring of the eyes, skin, and respiratory system

5. Vinegar + Baking Soda

Credit: Arm & Hammer, Heinz

Arm & Hammer, Heinz

OK, so mixing vinegar and baking soda isn’t dangerous—it’s just a big, fat waste of time and resources.

Here’s why: Baking soda is basic and vinegar is acidic. When you put them together, you get … water (plus some sodium acetate).