A Guide to Keep You Safe Around Household Chemicals
Chemicals in Your Home (printable brochure)
What is a home chemical emergency?
An emergency caused by the improper use of household chemicals.
About warning labels
Labels may contain key words to let you know the severity of the product's hazard, such as...
- Danger: Harmful or fatal if swallowed or used improperly. A teaspoon is fatal to an adult.
- Warning: If swallowed, a teaspoon to an ounce is lethal to an adult.
- Caution: If swallowed, an ounce to more than a pint is terminal to an adult.
- Poison: Harmful or fatal if absorbed through the skin, ingested or inhaled.
- Toxic: Harmful or fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
- Irritant: Causes soreness or swelling of skin, eyes, mucous membranes or respiratory system.
- Flammable: Easily catches fire and tends to burn rapidly.
- Corrosive: A chemical or its vapors that can cause a material or living tissue to be destroyed.
Preventing household chemical emergencies
- Follow instructions on product's label for proper usage and storage.
- Store all products in their original container with a legible label.
- Buy only what you need.
- Never store chemicals near food.
- Keep chemicals out of the reach of children.
- Store volatile materials away from the house.
- Never mix household chemicals.
- Keep an A-B-C rated fire extinguisher readily available.
- Use safer alternative products.
- Use baking soda to clean bathtubs, sinks and toilets.
- Apply lemon juice mixed with vegetable oil to clean wood.
- Combine vinegar and water to make a non-toxic window cleaner.
- Use isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant.
If a household chemical....
- Gets in your eyes: Rinse your eyes with water for 15-20 minutes.
- Gets on your skin: Remove wet clothing and rinse skin for 15-20 minutes.
- Is swallowed: Call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 or 9-1-1.
- Is inhaled (e.g. poisonous gas): Quickly get to fresh air and call Poison Control or 9-1-1.
If you have a household chemical spill...
- Carefully clean up the spill using a towel. Make sure you wear rubber gloves for extra protection.
- If you have a mercury spill in your home, ventilate the area and keep children and pets away. Do not vacuum the spill. For more information call Oakland County Environmental Health at 248 424-7190 or look up their mercury web page at
Disposing of unused household chemicals
NEVER MIX bleach and ammonia, this mixture forms deadly fumes.
Examples of hazardous household chemicals
- Automotive fluids: oil, antifreeze, fuel, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, waxes and gasoline.
- Barbecue products: propane, charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid.
- Bathroom products: air freshener, toilet bowl cleaners and aerosols.
- Heath and beauty products: hairspray, hair remover, fingernail polish, fingernail polish remover, hair coloring products and some medications.
- Home maintenance: paint, varnish, stains, oils, mouse/rat poison, rust remover, turpentine, roofing tar, swimming pool chemicals, furniture strippers and driveway sealer.
- Household cleaners: bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, carpet freshener, air freshener, window cleaner, furniture polish, mold and mildew cleaner.
- Kitchen products: dishwasher detergent, drain cleaner and oven cleaner.
- Laundry products: laundry detergent, fabric softener and degreasers.
- Lawn and garden products: fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.
- Miscellaneous: photo developing chemicals, mercury thermostats/thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs.
- Pet products: flea collar and powders.
Important phone numbers:
Poison Control 800-222-1222
Remember, many communities sponsor hazardous waste collection programs, which are a great way to dispose of unwanted chemicals. To find out when a collection program will be near you, contact your local community.