If You Plan to Spring Clean, Keep Our Precautions In Mind


For many, spring cleaning is a time to open the windows and do a little scrubbing and organizing. For others it’s time to get the yard in shape in the hopes of spending more time outside in the warmer weather. Hint, hint, Mother Nature?

Whether you’re tackling the outside or inside of your home this spring, the first official day of spring is arriving this Thursday, March 20. Coincidentally, this is also Poison Prevention Week (March 16-22, 2014), so I thought this would be the perfect time to share some spring cleaning precautions as you’re making preparations to get your house and yard in order.

Poisonings are now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so it’s important to keep safety a priority for you and your family as you’re making these improvements inside and out.

So as you’re sprucing up your home and yard, here are a few precautions to keep in mind:

Labels, labels, labels. Be sure to read all labels before you get started. Labels typically tell you the ingredients, directions of proper use, and what the dangers are. Some products may require a mask, gloves, safety glasses or proper ventilation during its use. It’s a good idea to keep all products in the original container so you have this important safety information readily available.

Never mix chemicals or cleaners. Chemicals have their own set of properties and aren’t meant to be mixed. Doing so could potentially create a poisonous gas that could be harmful to the body. A good example of this is when bleach and toilet bowl cleaners containing acids are mixed- they make a harmful gas called chlorine gas.

Air it out. It’s incredibly important when you’re working in an enclosed space with strong chemicals and cleaners to encourage ventilation by opening the windows and turning a fan on. It’s also imperative to read the warning labels on the package before starting. Some labels recommend wearing a mask or respirator.

Protect your skin and eyes. Some chemicals and cleaners like drain openers, toilet cleaners, rust removers and oven cleaners can burn the skin, so be sure to wear proper gloves. If you’re using a spray bottle, you should wear a long sleeve shirt, pants, socks, shoes, safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself from a stray stream, and be sure to direct the nozzle away from yourself and other people. If you are accidentally exposed immediately begin flushing with lukewarm water, and call your Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222.

Lock it up. Many household cleaners and chemicals can be poisonous when swallowed. Be sure to lock them up out of the reach and sight of children, preferably in a high cabinet. Liquids made from petroleum such as gasoline, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, paint thinner, lamp oil (citronella lamp oils can look and taste like lemonade), and furniture polish are particularly dangerous.

Safely clear cabinets. If you’re aiming to clear out your medicine cabinet, be sure to keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of your children while you’re working. There are programs that will dispose of your medications for you. Check out rxdrugdropbox.com for the nearest drug disposal location by entering your zip code.

Pesticide safety. Some pesticides can be extremely poisonous. Before use make sure to read the label and wear protective clothing, gloves, safety glasses and masks. Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin or by inhalation, so it’s a good idea to steer clear of the area for at least an hour after you’ve sprayed the pesticide. If a pesticide accidentally gets on your skin, immediately rinse the affected area with running water for 15-20 minutes, and call your Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center at 800- 222-1222. If the pesticide comes in contact with your clothing, take off the clothing before rinsing your skin. Thoroughly wash the soiled clothes through a couple of wash cycles to remove any residue.

I find involving my children in spring cleaning is a great way to teach responsibility, but it’s also an opportune time to talk about safety. If your children are like mine they loathe cleaning. Supervising my children and getting them to read product labels and using cleaning products safely is important to me. Consider which activities your children can help you with, and teach them which activities are too hazardous for them to participate in. Most importantly, be a good role model by always reading product labels and following important safety information.

As always, if you have a question about a chemical or substance don’t hesitate to call the medical professionals at your your Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

About the Author: Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, CSPI, ICPS Certified, is a pharmacist with over 18 years of experience on the Drug and Poison Information Center Hotline at Cincinnati Children's, and is an Internationally Certified (Drug Abuse) Prevention Specialist by examination (Ohio Chemical Dependency Board). In addition, she is a research study coordinator and authors the DPICtions quarterly newsletter.

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