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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Cleaning Chemicals And Safety

Cleaning chemicals can be as dangerous as other workplace chemicals. Be aware of potential health hazards, even with “green” products with less odor.

In this podcast, we talk about less toxic fumes of green chemicals used for cleaning, and their harsh predecessors. Also, we discuss how both categories can still be dangerous to the skin.

There are three types: cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants. Each is stronger than the previous. Avoid strong ones for good industrial hygiene. The least potent is best for the job.


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Cleaning_Chemicals_And_Safety-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x250Dan Clark: Cleaning chemicals don’t have to smell quite so bad. As OSHA puts it, “Clean does not have an odor.”

Hi there, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

The modern, green cleaning chemicals are out there. And, for the most part, they do just as well as their forefathers, but without many of the nose burning harsh fragrances.

For years, manufacturers have added these so-called fragrances to cleaning chemicals. Green cleaners have began to reduce that odor. But get proof. Look at and compare the Safety Data Sheets for old and new cleaning chemicals. You should see a big difference in the potential health risks.

Many workers, especially janitorial staffs, are exposed to cleaning chemicals daily. These chemicals can also bother other people working in the area. About 6% of janitors are injured every year by exposure to cleaning chemicals.

Green or old-school, cleaning chemicals can be health hazards. There are three main types of cleaning chemicals. Here they are, from least to most potent.

1. CLEANERS. The least potent. They remove dirt through wiping, scrubbing and mopping.

2. SANITIZERS. They tackle and reduce viruses, bacteria and mold. You’ll see these required for food service and public health industries.

3. DISINFECTANTS. These kill all microorganisms, and are required in many medical environments.

Workers should use the LEAST potent chemical needed for the job. I’ll say it again. Least potent. There is no need to expose workers to harsher chemicals than needed.

Workers handling cleaning chemicals should follow this general advice:


  • Don’t wash hands or skin with cleaning chemicals. They can cause skin irritation or burns.
  • Dilute chemicals when necessary. Check the label to see if the chemicals are concentrated.
  • Don’t mix cleaning chemicals unless you’re explicitly told to do so. Some chemicals, when combined, can be very dangerous—such as ammonia and bleach, which combined, are deadly.
  • Wear the PPE your employer requires. This could include gloves, eye protection and respirators.
  • Try to improve ventilation in the room you’re cleaning. If possible, use fans and open the windows.

That’s it for this episode on Cleaning Chemicals And Safety. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at


OSHA / NIOSH info sheet here.

Chemicals/broom image © ℗ 2003 / David Mark

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