AF&RS warns of the dangers of mixing cleaning chemicals

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is warning of the dangers of mixing cleaning products after several recent incidents saw firefighters called to residential properties.

Crews from across the Service have been called to four incidents in the last year alone through people mixing household cleaning products, two of which came over the winter period.

In the most recent incident, on 24th January, a woman was conveyed to hospital after mixing white wine vinegar and bleach while attempting to clean a shower. 

Crews from Temple, Patchway and Avonmouth fire station were all called to the incident after the mixture released a harmful gas. 

Two firefighters in breathing apparatus entered the property, checked the products were not still mixing and washed any remaining mixture away. 

They also used a positive pressure ventilation fan to clear any remaining gas from the property.

Similarly, on the 27th December, crews from Nailsea, Avonmouth and Patchway fire stations were called to a private house after two litres of drain cleaner and three litres of bleach had been used to clean the toilet, causing a gas to be given off. 

After liaising with a hazardous materials officer, two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus naturally ventilated the property, extensively diluted the chemicals, retrieved the containers and completed testing to ensure the property was safe.

Even if not intentionally mixed, cleaning products and chemicals can mix unintentionally if any residual product is left.

AF&RS is now urging people to avoid mixing cleaning products directly or indirectly.

Darren Kingston, Station Manager and Hazmat lead for AF&RS, said: "People often think that if one product works, mixing it with another one will make it even better, but this is not the case.

"Certain products, which are safe when used alone, can sometimes cause harmful fumes or other chemical reactions when mixed with other products.

 “Not only is this a drain on our resources, but people are unnecessarily putting themselves at risk of serious harm.

“We are urging people to always read and follow the instructions and never mix cleaning products.”

Helpful tips:

  • Get to know the ingredients in your off-the-shelf products so you can avoid creating toxic fumes from the intentional or unintentional mixing
  • Keep chemicals in their original containers with their warning labels
  • Always dispose of chemicals in accordance with the instructions on the container
  • Do not pour chemicals into the same container or use one cleaner right after another, as it may create harmful gases or additional chemicals that have been linked to various health conditions
  • Be sure to wash off one cleaner before using another so that there is no mixing of chemicals
  • Always open windows where possible to allow for natural ventilation
  • Always store harmful chemicals away and out of reach of children
  • If you have chemicals and are unsure of how to dispose of them please contact your local council, who should be able to offer advice - please do not pour them down the drain unless they are designed to be disposed of in that way