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Mixing household cleaners to combat coronavirus dangerous

Bleach should only be mixed with water, experts warn

SAN ANTONIO – The nasty, new coronavirus has us reaching for all kinds of sprays, wipes and bottles of household products to clean and disinfect. But be careful what you use in combination because the results may be toxic.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website has a long list of cleaning products deemed effective against the spreading virus. And shoppers have been depleting stores of common household cleaners.

When the shelves go empty, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can make your own effective bleach disinfectant by mixing one quart of water to four teaspoons of bleach. Be careful to use gloves and protective eyewear.

And also, be careful trying to be a kitchen chemist.

“It’s the Wild West when you mix different things based on a recipe you read somewhere else,” said Brian Sansoni, with the American Cleaning Institute.

He said bleach is a great cleaner and disinfectant when it’s used according to label directions and mixed only with water. Using incompatible household cleaners can be hazardous.

“With bleach and ammonia, that’s when you can get toxic fumes that are dangerous,” Sansoni said.

Using a bleach product and an ammonia product can produce chloramine. Combining bleach with rubbing alcohol can yield chloraform, which is highly toxic.

Even mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, which is frequently found in window cleaners, can produce a high corrosive acid.

Consumers may not even realize what active ingredients are in the household cleaners, so Sansoni says is important to follow the directions on the label. That includes leaving the product on the surface long enough to effectively destroy the virus. That can range from 30 seconds to several minutes.

“Typically, what a consumer can remember is to let that surface air dry,” Sansoni said.

With household cleaning ramped up during the pandemic, people may be inclined to leave products out on countertops. But, as always, it’s important to keep any household cleaner out the reach of children.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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