Household chemicals which don’t go together

chemicals that dont mix
David Carroll via flickr. CC BY 2.0 license.

The home is a family’s symbolic shelter that keeps every member safe from elements and intruders. Yet, it may also house innocent-looking household chemicals that may not be so safe, after all.

These things don’t mix

1. Different brands

As a general rule, don’t mix different brands of the same type of products. Not because they are competing products, but because you don’t exactly know their chemical composition or how they will react with each other. A toilet cleaner, for instance, is manufactured from strong chemicals. Mixing it with another chemically-potent cleaner will most likely produce toxic fumes, dangerous chemical reaction, or an ineffective product.

2. Bleach and other products

Bleach is generally a chlorine compound. Chlorine bleach, for example, may have a chemical name of sodium hypochlorite. If mixed with toilet cleaning agents, ammonia, vinegar or other acidic products, hazardous vapors (such as chloramine) are released. Rubbing alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) plus bleach equals chloroform, chloroacetone and hydrochloric acid.

3. Acidic and alkaline products

The reaction between acidic (such as hydrochloric acid and oxalic acid) and alkaline products (such as sodium hydroxide for drain cleaning) can be quite violent and may cause burns or blisters.

4. Disinfectants and detergents

Detergents contain quaternary ammonium compounds which may reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants.

5. Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar

Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that has many uses (it often acts as hair bleach and teeth whitener). When mixed with vinegar, though, it produces parecetic acid which is a corrosive and irritating acid. In high concentrations, it may even cause permanent scars to the skin and damage the eyes.

These things are mild poisons

If you have curious tykes around the house, you can’t have too many poisons (mild or otherwise) lying around. Run the list below to see if you have these items at home.

1. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

It tastes sweet and is common in households – bad combination. That it’s a mild poison isn’t reassuring at all. It usually comes labelled with a warning, but kids and pets are not known for reading labels before they nibble at anything that fancies them.

2. Rat poisons (containing strychnine)

Water sometimes gets contaminated with this toxic chemical. Aside from that, strychnine may also be contained in commercial rat poisoning products and other pesticides. It results to convulsions and death by asphyxia. Those exposed to the poison have a chance of surviving, if that’s any consolation.

3. Nicotine patches and vaporizer (Nicotine)

They say that smoking is a slow and enjoyable form of suicide. That’s because nicotine kills, albeit slowly. Quitting smoking via alternatives like nicotine patches or nicotine vaporizers are common solutions. If you’re not careful, however, death may come quicker. A dose of 50mg could be quite lethal for a 65-kg adult, and the chemical is accessible in many households either as nicotine patches or nicotine liquid (used for vaporizing).

4. Formaldehyde in your nail polish, car exhaust and paint

It could even be on your carpet. Formaldehyde can cause allergies, headaches, and even cancer. It’s toxic to animals, too.

5. Fluorine

Fluorine is toxic to humans. It has damaging effects to the brain and the nervous system. What’s worse – it’s everywhere and in almost everything. Fluorine is in your toothpaste, water, reconstituted fruit juices, canned food, non-stick pans, and drugs.

If you’re getting paranoid, then it’s not baseless. At any rate, get hold of yourself. It might be impossible to totally avoid these things. The thing is, you know what you feed yourself and your family.
Read labels, listen to issues, and learn the chemistry of ordinary things.

Chemistry is not restricted in school; it’s everyday life. Knowing the chemical breakdown of things will help you make decisions on what items to remove from your home, and what things simply don’t mix.

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