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Beware of accidental poisoning from cleaning supplies

Bucket of a variety of cleaning supplies.

Cleaning to protect loved ones from COVID-19 can have unintended consequences: Calls about accidental poisoning increased 20 percent in the first three months of 2020, according to the CDC. 

University of Minnesota Extension educator Jolene Hendrix said simple preventative steps, starting with following label directions on cleaning supplies, can help keep households safe. Hendrix is a pesticide and environmental educator. Because anti-microbial cleaning products are considered pesticides, her work includes a focus on household cleaning materials.

Take steps to safeguard yourself and your family

"Following label instructions is the No. 1 rule when it comes to household cleaning products," Hendrix said. "This is a challenging time, but it's also a good time to incorporate the safest practices into our daily lives." 

Hendrix recommends: 

  • Disinfect household surfaces at night. Products like Lysol need time to dry in order to be effective. This also helps prevent overuse of disinfectants and reduces exposing skin to applications that are still wet. 
  • Treat products labeled "organic" and "natural" with the same caution other chemicals require for safe use. "A big misconception is that these products are safe under any condition. They are still chemicals and they still are harmful to your health when used incorrectly," Hendrix said. 
  • Don't combine cleaning products. Chemical reactions between different products raise the risk of skin and respiratory irritation. They also can make the products useless. 
  • Don't expose children to cleaning agents. Products are designed for adults to use but can be unsafe for children and their development. Give them other household chores to do that don't involve using cleaning products. 
  • Never use cleaning products to clean food, people or pets. Soap and hot water are best for humans. 

Learn more about household pesticides at the National Pesticide Information Center

Hendrix and her colleagues offer information on pesticide safety. In addition, Extension’s fruit and vegetable team have tips for produce growers




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