Hazardous Household Chemicals

Before a Household Chemical Emergency

Guidelines for buying and storing hazardous household chemicals safely:

  • Buy only as much of a chemical as you think you will use. Leftover material can be shared with neighbors or donated to a business, charity, or government agency. For example, excess pesticide could be offered to a greenhouse or garden center, and theater groups often need surplus paint. Some communities have organized waste exchanges where household hazardous chemicals and waste can be swapped or given away.
  • Keep products containing hazardous materials in their original containers and never remove the labels unless the container is corroding. Corroding containers should be repackaged and clearly labeled.
  • Never store hazardous products in food containers.
  • Never mix household hazardous chemicals or waste with other products. Incompatibles, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia, may react, ignite, or explode.

Take precautions to prevent and respond to accidents:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper use of the household chemical.
  • Never smoke while using household chemicals.
  • Never use hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near an open flame (e.g., pilot light, lighted candle, fireplace, wood burning stove, etc.) Although you may not be able to see or smell them, vapor particles in the air could catch fire or explode.
  • Clean up any chemical spill immediately. Use rags to clean up the spill. Wear gloves and eye protection. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors, then dispose of the rags by wrapping them in a newspaper and placing them in a sealed plastic bag in your trash can.
  • Dispose of hazardous materials correctly. Take household hazardous waste to a local collection program, such as the Solid Waste Department.
  • Post the number of the emergency medical services and the poison control center by all telephones. In an emergency situation, you may not have time to look up critical phone numbers. The national poison control number is (800) 222-1222.

During a Household Chemical Emergency

If there is a danger of fire or explosion:

  • Get out of the residence immediately. Do not waste time collecting items or calling the fire department when you are in danger. Call the fire department from outside (a cellular phone or a neighbor’s phone) once you are safely away from danger.
  • Stay upwind and away from the residence to avoid breathing toxic fumes.

Recognize and respond to symptoms of toxic poisoning:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Irritation of the eyes, skin, throat, or respiratory tract.
  • Changes in skin color.
  • Headache or blurred vision.
  • Dizziness.
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination.
  • Cramps or diarrhea.

If someone is experiencing toxic poisoning symptoms or has been exposed to a household chemical:

  • Find any containers of the substance that are readily available in order to provide requested information. Call the national poison control center at 1 (800) 222-1222.
  • Follow the emergency operator or dispatcher’s first aid instructions carefully. The first aid advice found on containers may be out of date or inappropriate. Do not give anything by mouth unless advised to do so by a medical professional.

Cleaning up spills and safety gear if you have a hazardous waste spill in your community:

  • Remove children and pets from the area where the spill occurred.
  • Mark off the area so people don’t come into contact with the spill.
  • Discard clothing that may have been contaminated. Some chemicals may not wash out completely.
  • Ventilate the area if the spill happened inside. Only enter the area without a mask if you know for certain what you are dealing with. Larger spills of some chemicals must only be handled by trained personnel. Some chemical fumes are deadly.


Cleaning Products

  • Oven cleaners
  • Drain cleaners
  • Wood and metal cleaners and polishes
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Tub, tile, shower cleaners
  • Bleach (laundry)
  • Pool chemicals

Indoor Pesticides

  • Ant sprays and baits
  • Cockroach sprays and baits
  • Flea repellents and shampoo
  • Bug sprays
  • Houseplant insecticides
  • Moth repellents
  • Mouse and rat poisons and baits

Automotive Products

  • Motor oil
  • Fuel additives
  • Carburetor and fuel injection cleaners
  • Air conditioning refrigerants
  • Starter fluids
  • Automotive batteries
  • Transmission and brake fluid
  • Antifreeze

Workshop/Painting Supplies

  • Adhesives and glues
  • Furniture strippers
  • Oil- or enamel-based paint
  • Stains and finishes
  • Paint thinners and turpentine
  • Paint strippers and removers
  • Photographic chemicals
  • Fixatives and other solvents

Lawn and Garden Products

  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Fungicides/wood preservatives


  • Batteries
  • Mercury thermostats or thermometers
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Driveway sealer

Other Flammable Products

  • Propane tanks and other compressed gas cylinders
  • Kerosene
  • Home heating oil
  • Diesel fuel
  • Gas/oil mix
  • Lighter fluid

Guide for Handling Household Chemicals

Each year new environmental regulations are created around the world that affects the way industry creates the goods we consume. We expect industry to properly handle their hazardous materials and waste, yet have you ever stopped to think about how you use and dispose of hazardous materials around the home?

All of us have many products in our homes and garages that may be hazardous if used, stored or disposed of improperly. They may pose serious fire, health or environmental hazards. If they are used, stored and disposed of properly, however, they can be relatively safe.

Things to make your home safer

Inventory all products in your home

Familiarize yourself with each product, its location and purpose. More products are hazardous than you may think. Here are a few of the common ones:

  • Automotive fluids (oil, anti-freeze, fuel, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid etc.)
  • Household cleaners (bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, carpet freshener, air freshener, window cleaner, furniture polish, etc).
  • Laundry products (laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc)
  • Health and beauty products (hairspray, hair remover, fingernail polish, fingernail polish remover, hair coloring products, medications, etc.).
  • Lawn and garden products (fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, gasoline, oil, etc.)
  • Barbecue products (propane, charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, etc.)
  • Home maintenance (paint, varnish, stains, oils, mouse/rat poison, etc.)

Some of these products we wouldn't think of as hazardous because we use them on our bodies, however, if misused they can be dangerous. For instance most hairsprays and aerosols are highly flammable.

Read the product labels

Hazardous products must be handled with respect! Read labels and follow directions carefully. Words to look for:




  • Poison: can injure or kill if absorbed through the skin, ingested or inhaled.
  • Toxic: can cause injury or death 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.
  • Flammable Liquid: has a flash point below 140°F (100°F for US DOT purposes).
  • Combustible Liquid: has a flash point from 140°F (100°F for US DOT purposes) to 200°F
  • Corrosive: a chemical or its vapors that can cause a material or living tissue to be destroyed.

Buy only what you need

Do not purchase more than is needed for the job, you'll only have to contend with left over material. If you have an unneeded product that was recently purchased, well-stored, and well labeled, give it to a friend neighbor or community group that could use it.

Keep out of reach of children

Cleaners and other household chemicals can be very deadly and should be stored in cabinets that are out of reach of children. Lock the cabinets if necessary. Teach children about the dangers of chemicals. In addition keep emergency phone numbers right next to the phone or attached to the phone. These numbers should include Ambulance, Fire, Police, Poison Control and your personal doctor.

Don't store chemicals with food

Household chemicals should not be stored with food products as they could spill contaminating your food.

Don't store flammable liquids or gasses in the home.

Propane cylinders, gas cans, charcoal lighter and automotive fluids should not be stored in the house. Compressed gasses like propane should be stored outside or in sheds that are extremely well ventilated. Never store flammable liquids or gasses near sources of heat or ignition, and only store them in their original containers or containers approved for the flammable liquid or gas.

Keep chemicals in original containers

Household chemicals should not be transferred to different containers unless the container is properly labeled and compatible with the chemical. In addition chemicals should never be transferred to containers that originally contained food (such as soda bottles or milk jugs).


Many products are recyclable. Contact your local Solid Waste Department to find out what is being recycled in your community.

Use alternative products

Less hazardous products can be used for common household chores. For instance occasionally pouring baking soda and vinegar down your drains will keep them from clogging up.

Dispose of properly

Products should NEVER be discarded on the ground or poured into storm drains. Many products shouldn't even be disposed of in the trash or down the toilet.

Post emergency contact telephone numbers

Post the emergency contact telephone numbers by your telephone and on your refrigerator. These numbers should include: your fire department, police, ambulance your personal doctor and the Poison Control Center. The Poison Control Center now has one central toll free number that can be used anywhere in the United States, it is: 1-800-222-1222.