A clean house is awesome. Accidental poisoning is not.

By Michell Mouton, Hazardous Waste Management Program, Environmental Health

Let’s take a deep breath, slow down and have a talk about cleaning, disinfecting and staying safe.

With more people using cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been an increase in accidental poisonings in Washington State. The Washington Poison Center reported a 23% increase in calls about accidental poisonings from cleaners compared to this time period last year.

There has also been some misinformation circulating, so we want to make it clear: When using a cleaner or disinfectant, always follow the product’s directions and never apply these products to yourself or others.

Here are some other safety tips:

Don’t ingest cleaners or disinfectant products.

  • This includes putting it on your food. Many cleaning and disinfectant products contain chemicals that irritate the eyes or throat, cause headaches and other health problems.

Never mix products.

  • Some cleaners, especially ammonia and bleach, form a toxic gas when mixed.

Clean before you disinfect.

  • Wash surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting. Cleaning removes germs. Disinfecting kills germs. You can’t disinfect a dirty surface. So you need to do both.

Use an EPA registered disinfectant.

  • Check the label to see if the product has an EPA registration. Follow the “6 Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use.”

Clean it twice.

  • After leaving the disinfectant on for the time recommended wipe down surfaces again with soap and water to clean it.

Use gloves when cleaning and disinfecting to protect your skin.

  • If you do or don’t still wash your hands after using a disinfectant. This will minimize your exposure to the chemicals in them and the germs you are trying to kill.

Hazardous Waste Management provides additional information on cleaning and disinfecting safely on its Facebook feed, @KingCountyHazWaste. For more information on how to fight the virus, check out Public Health’s frequently updated COVID-19 webpage.