How to Use Cleaning Chemicals


There is a lot more involved to using cleaning chemicals than just spraying and wiping. Besides the fact that using the wrong chemical for a particular cleaning situation may not work, it could be harmful to the material being cleaned and hazardous to the health of individuals who may be exposed to the chemical. In addition to concerns for property and individuals, today everyone needs to consider the impact cleaning chemicals might have on the environment.

  • Pay attention to the label. The label will not only give you directions on how to use the product, it will also spell out any warnings. If the label does not give adequate information, obtain a Material Safety Data Sheet from the manufacturer. Industrial and commercial facilities are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to keep a book of MSD sheets available in the workplace for employees to refer to. Check the Reference below for where to find an MSDS online.

  • Avoid mixing cleaning chemicals. Just because you may have two products that work well separately does not mean that they will do a good job if mixed together. In fact, mixing chemicals can be a dangerous practice. Mixing a product containing chlorine bleach with ammonia will release chlorine gas that is highly toxic. Other combinations could cause reactions that may explode or cause a fire.

  • Follow the label directions for diluting a chemical. A chemical that may dilute 1 oz. to a gallon will not necessarily work any better, and may work less effectively, if too much chemical is used. Add the chemical to water when diluting. If you add water to the chemical, you will generate foam and not be able to get an exact dilution ratio.

  • Test a product on the material that is to be cleaned in an out-of-sight place to make sure that its use will not harm the surface. Spray aerosol products or products dispensed through trigger sprayers onto a clean cloth rather than onto the item being cleaned as this will avoid overuse and also contain the spray so it does not get onto something that it was not intended to be used on.

  • Wear appropriate clothing when using a cleaning product. Protective clothing is essential when using some chemicals. Latex or vinyl gloves should be standard for any cleaning job, but some products could even involve a breathing apparatus. Avoid breathing the fumes from chemicals, and keep all cleaning solutions away from food, potable water and medications.

Tips & Warnings

  • For industrial and commercial facilities where cleaning is a major part of the operation, check into automatic dispensing systems that measure and dispense products to exact manufacturer standards. See the Resources below for chemical dispensing systems.
  • Store cleaning chemicals out of reach of children and never leave a chemical in an unmarked container. Always have the number for your local poison control office handy. Always clean a chemical spill immediately with clean cloth rags.

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  • MSDS online
  • Book: "Industrial Cleaning Technology," B.J. Harrington, 2001
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