“Spring cleaning” has taken on a whole new meaning this year, thanks to coronavirus. Now more than ever, it feels as though we’re cleaning and disinfecting every surface in our homes ALL… THE… TIME… and for good reason!

However, it’s equally important that we’re careful about which household chemicals we use and how we use them.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. poison centers received significantly more phone calls during the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same period in both 2018 and 2019. While there’s no direct evidence that coronavirus-related cleaning and disinfection is to blame, the timing does suggest a link — even if it’s just more households tackling their spring cleaning to-do list while stuck at home anyway.

Vinegar + Bleach = A Big No-No!

In one of the cases highlighted in the report, a woman soaked her produce in a mixture of bleach, vinegar, and hot water. Shortly after, she experienced difficulty breathing and was transported to the ER, where she was put on oxygen and bronchodilators. Fortunately, she was discharged after a few hours, but this startling example shows what can happen when household chemicals are improperly mixed.

Diluted regular strength chlorine bleach is an effective, inexpensive surface disinfectant when handled and used properly. If bleach mixes with other chemicals — like vinegar (an acid) or ammonia (a weak base) — it can set off a dangerous chemical reaction. That’s why it’s so important that you always follow manufacturers’ directions and never mix bleach with anything but water

Side note: If you want to clean fresh produce after grocery shopping, simply wash it under cold running water when you get home — no soap needed. Never use disinfectant directly on produce.

Safely Cleaning and Disinfecting During Coronavirus

While you may not be able to find all of the essential household products that were once so readily available in stores pre-coronavirus, now is NOT the time to “experiment” with what you do have on-hand.

Instead, the CDC offers the following commonsense tips to safely clean and disinfect your home in the age of coronavirus … and beyond:

  • Always read and follow the product manufacturers’ label directions. 
  • Use only room temperature water to dilute products (unless label directions indicate otherwise).
  • Do not mix chemical products.
  • Wear eye and skin protection when handling any chemical product.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation when using chemical products.
  • Always store chemicals out of the reach of children.

As our families continue to adjust to this “new normal,” it’s important to properly handle household chemicals so we can all stay healthy and safe.