The bottom line: Think twice before mixing once.

Cleaning is one chore many of us loathe. And when it comes to stubborn messes and tough stains, you may feel the urge to start mixing ingredients together in an effort to make the ultimate cleaning product. But before you turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab, beware of the dangers to your health and your home that can potentially arise when mixing cleaning products together.

“Don’t take chances when it comes to the safe use of cleaning products,” says Brian Sansoni from the American Cleaning Institute. “Mixing cleaning products can lead to irritated airways, respiratory problems, or burns to your skin, eyes, throat, nose, and lungs.”

While vinegar is a common pantry staple that many people clean their homes with, you should think twice before you mix the acidic solution with the three things below. 

Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar

You may assume that combining these two ingredients in the same bottle will boost their cleaning power, but it’s more likely to increase your risk of going to the emergency room. In fact, together they’re quite potent. “Combining these two cleaning solutions creates peracetic acid,” says Sansoni. “It’s corrosive and an irritant that can harm your skin, eyes, nose, and throat in high concentrations.” 

Bleach + vinegar

Bleach smells quite pungent by itself. But the smell grows even more acrid once you add vinegar because the combination releases chlorine and chloramine vapors, which can cause a chemical burn. “Many cleaning products use either bleach or ammonia, and mixing them [with vinegar] can cause this reaction, which is why you should never mix any kind of cleaning product,” says Sansoni.

Baking soda + vinegar

Each of these products can easily clean a mess on its own, but together, they lose their ability to effectively clean your home. If you mix acidic vinegar with basic baking soda and stow them away in a closed container, the mixture can be quite explosive—literally. That’s because vinegar causes baking soda to foam up and explode. But, despite the explosive nature of the two ingredients, you’re essentially left with nothing more than water and a bit of sodium acetate—virtually useless at cleaning surfaces. 

If you decide to make a cleaning product from scratch, Sansoni recommends you double check the safety of the combinations, list all the ingredients on the container, and keep the bottle out of reach of children and pets. And always test the homemade product before using it. His lesson here is that “you save a lot of time and trouble by using formulated cleaning products that come with details on safe and proper use and storage.”

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