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Housecleaning: Be Thorough but Be Careful

March 06, 2000

Here are tips when using household cleaners:

When Buying

* Read labels. Make sure the product will do what you want and you will feel safe using it. If ingredients aren't listed, choose another brand.

* Select the least hazardous product. Let the words "poison," "danger," "warning" and "caution" be your guide.

* Buy only as much as you need and use it up quickly.

* Avoid aerosol products. They have toxic propellants that can explode, and their fine mists are more easily inhaled. Choose the pump spray or other alternative.

* Choose water-based rather than solvent-based products.

When Using

* Read the directions and follow them. Using more of a product doesn't mean you'll get better results.

* Wear protective equipment such as rubber gloves when recommended by the manufacturer.

* Handle products carefully to avoid spills. Keep the container closed tightly to avoid fumes and spills.

* Use products in well-ventilated areas. When working indoors, open windows and use a fan to circulate the air toward the outside. Take plenty of fresh-air breaks.

* Do not eat, drink or smoke while using hazardous products. Traces of chemicals can be carried from hand to mouth.

* Do not mix products unless directions say that you may do so safely. Even different brands of the same product may contain incompatible ingredients.

* If you're pregnant, avoid exposure to toxic chemicals. Many toxic products have not been tested for their effect on the unborn.

* Don't wear soft contact lenses when working with solvents and pesticides. They can absorb and hold the chemicals next to your eyes.

When Storing

* Follow label directions.

* Leave the product in its original container with the original label attached. Never store hazardous products in food or beverage containers.

* Make sure lids and caps are tightly sealed.

* Store hazardous products on high shelves or in locked cabinets out of the reach of children and pets.

* Store incompatible products separately. Keep flammable products away from corrosive products.

* Keep containers dry to prevent rusting.

* Store rags used with flammable products, such as furniture stripper and paint remover, in a sealed, marked container.

* Keep flammable products away from heat, sparks or other sources of ignition.

* Know where flammable materials are located in your home, and know how to extinguish them. Keep a fire extinguisher or materials to control fires where you can get to them.

* Never store hazardous products in the same area as food.

Source: Consumer Products Safety Commission

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