In recent weeks, the nation has been gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a significant focus on cleanliness, having the correct hygiene and cleaning controls in place has never been so important.
While it is understandable that it will be far from our minds, it is key that we remember to protect ourselves against the very substances we use to clean. Most cleaners, both professional and domestic have significant health hazards associated with them. While these chemicals should be used to help remove or lower any chance of contamination, make sure that they are used in the correct amounts and with suitable controls.
Hard surface cleaners are a perfect example of this, designed specifically to rid surfaces of not only dirt and grime, but also any pathogens that may be present. They are extremely effective at the job they were designed for, however, a large number of them, especially those including bleach, are corrosive liquids. Make sure you consult the bottle of your chosen cleaner before use, it will most probably display something similar to this:
This hazard statement says it all, these chemicals can cause significant damage should they make contact with your skin and eyes, which should be avoided. When using these types of products, you should always ensure you have the correct protective equipment in place. In a professional capacity, you should follow all of the instructions on your corresponding COSHH assessment.
However, as many of us are home based and in isolation, it is prudent to use the same or similar controls for your domestic use. This includes covering any exposed skin when using the cleaners; hands and forearms tend to be the most vulnerable during these tasks, however legs and feet should also be protected. This is especially important when at home, as we all tend to have a more relaxed dress code. Make sure you wear protective gloves when cleaning, I would recommend nitrile or polythene, if you can get them. Safety glasses should also be used to protect your eyes, not just from splash but from accidental hand or eye contact.
It is worth noting that there are hard surface cleaners available that do not have these hazards associated within them, with some being made from natural products. If these are fit for purpose, it is always preferable to use the safer alternative. However, with supplies more difficult to source recently, it may be a case of using what you have safely.
Mixing acids and alkali
Another key piece of information to be aware of in your home is the potential reaction from mixing of acidic and alkali cleaners. Always take care not to mix acidic cleaners (such as descaler) with alkaline cleaners (such bleach), they can react violently and release toxic chlorine gas.
This information can normally be found on the products labels, displaying whether it is acidic or alkali and instructing not to mix with the other. When in doubt, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Also, try not to store them in the same location if possible, a spillage or leak could lead to them unexpectedly mixing in the cupboard under your sink. Of course they should also be kept out of the reach of children or any vulnerable person.
Cleaning your hands should be something that you’re very familiar with at this point, using soap and hot water to keep Coronavirus at bay. This is also a good course of action if you get any of these chemicals on your skin, wash them off as soon as possible. Drenching them with water will help dilute their effect and limit any damage. This also goes for your eyes.
It is vital that we all stay safe and at this point, that means staying clean and adhering to social distancing. However, make sure you don’t put your self at risk in the pursuit of staying clean.