How to Safely Secure Household Chemicals

Have you checked where the pesticides, herbicides and plumbing chemicals are stored in your house? What about those cleaners, polishes, scents and sanitizers you keep around in cabinets and under sinks? The everyday chemicals people use contain dangerous toxins, but too many Americans shrug off the warning labels and stow their poison within easy reach of kids or pets, never thinking they will cause problems. To protect your children and your dogs (or those of a friend or neighbor), pay attention to the chemicals you use around the house and where you store them.


Take Precautions with Major Dangers

If you were to line up every chemical in your house, you would find that a number of them feature a clearly visible “Warning” or “Danger” label. But just because a substance is unmarked does not mean it is hazard free. When working with chemicals, it is always smart to understand all potential danger and to then take the necessary precautions. Be on the lookout for these common toxins:

Plumbing and Pool Chemicals: These substances contain strong acids and compounds like chlorine that can kill very easily.

Pesticides: With too many dangerous chemicals to mention, pesticides are an always present concern, causing everything from vomiting and nervous system damage to permanent organ damage. Pesticides should be kept out of reach, preferably a garage or shed, but they can still pose dangers, especially after they are used.

Bleach: Fewer cleaners use bleach these days as manufacturers are finally getting the message, but it is still one of the most dangerous compounds you have in your house. Mix it with ammonia and it becomes a deadly gas.

Other Cleaners: Solvents, acids, and disinfectants are designed to eat away and kill biological matter. Few are safe. Some, like the lye used in oven cleaner, are incredibly dangerous.

Antifreeze: While usually consigned to the garage, antifreeze gets a special mention because of its traditional bright color, sweet taste, and deadly compounds, the worst trifecta of all household toxins.

Lighter fluids: Any petroleum-based product is bad news, but lighter fluid is often the most accessible. Sealers and varnishes fall into the same category.

Cosmetics: Synthetic ingredients in nail polish, remover, hair dye, perfume, and makeup can act as poisons.

Paint: With the days of lead paint long gone, paints have become increasingly safer to use. However, they still pose a danger, especially artistic paints, which are more accessible. They have bright colors, but contain oils, acids, and pigments that can make kids very sick. Peeling paint and not-yet-dry paint may also be problems.

Soap: Soap is an unexpected member of the list, but kids and pets often find scented soaps irresistible, and eating them can be painful or dangerous to the digestive system.


Advice for Kids

Most of this advice works for pets, too, so consider these tips an excellent starting point for any household chemical clean-up.

1. Lock It Up: Avoid keeping chemicals under the sink. Use a high cabinet with a door you can secure with a childproof lock, such as cabinets over the washer or sink.

2. Keep It Simple: Teach your toddlers about poisons and their dangers as soon as you can. Avoid confusion by never putting pesticides and cleaners into different bottles that could be mistaken for food and drink.

3. Watch, Watch, Watch: All children go through stages of exploration, frequently with their mouths. Always keep an eye on your child, especially in the kitchen, bathroom, or garage. Even innocuous objects like thermometers can be sources of deadly mercury. Open bottles on shelves or coffee tables can be even more dangerous. Remember, it only takes a moment.

4. Read Labels on Everything: Labels will tell you what is toxic, how to avoid problems, and how long ingredients remain active. They often include tips on storage as well as emergency procedures in case of ingestion. Don’t throw away packaging without looking for such information.


Advice for Pets

When pets ingest poison, it is frequently poison already laid out for other purposes (like killing rats). Dogs are typically the only pet that will root around in cupboards and explore chemicals, although pet birds are very sensitive and may also poison themselves on household products. The more outgoing the pet, the more likely they will try eating a toxic substance.

1. Keep Countertops Clean: Anything larger than a small dog can jump or use a stool and investigate cough drops, scent liquids, and other things that will make them sick. Cats can fall prey to this, too.

2. The Trash is Not Safe: Larger dogs can easily knock over trash bins or tear open bags. Secure trash by keeping behind doors or locked in place.

3. Keep an Eye on Plants and Purses: Two poison dangers that rarely ring a bell are plants and purses. Pets or kids may root around in a purse and find pharmaceuticals, sugar packets, and other tasty tidbits they should never be allowed to eat. Likewise, any plant you bring in the house should be researched for toxic qualities.

4. Locked is Not Always Safe: Clever dogs, cats, and birds can often learn to open locks on cabinets, even childproof locks. Keep an eye on your pet’s learning curve and take additional steps if necessary.


Additional Sources of Advice:

While securing your household chemicals may feel like one more chore, something to overlook, the safety of kids and beloved pets should be paramount. Take a day out of the weekend, enlist help, and protect your house as soon as possible. If you want more information on understanding dangerous household chemicals and safer alternatives, take a look at these links.

Earth Easy: 8 Common Household Chemicals Harming Your Pets & Their Nontoxic Alternatives

CDC: Tips to Prevent Poisonings