Tips for storing and handling dangerous chemicals

July 27, 2015

Hazardous household products may be commonplace, but they must be treated with care. Use the following precautions and habits to help keep your family safe.

Tips for storing and handling dangerous chemicals

Learn the four kinds of dangerous subtances

Act cautiously around potentially dangerous products, which fall under the following categories:

  • Flammable/combustible: Can easily be set on fire. Examples include paint thinner, oil-based paints, some insect repellents, kerosene, hair sprays.
  • Explosive/reactive: Can detonate or explode through exposure to heat, sudden shock, pressure or incompatible substances. Examples include many aerosol spray cans, batteries, ammonia.
  • Corrosive: The chemical action in these products can burn and destroy living tissues. Examples include heavy-duty cleaners, paint strippers, drain cleaners, muriatic acid, oven cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner.
  • Toxic: Capable of causing injury, medical conditions or death through ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption. Examples include flea sprays, certain medicines, weed killers.
  • Warning: Labels may tell you that there is a danger, but not what the exact danger is. Check labels for warnings.

Buy responsibly

  • If you need to buy a hazardous substance, purchase only what you can use soon.
  • If you have leftovers, see if a friend nearby could use it promptly.
  • Choose the safest product available, or use a nonhazardous alternative.
  • Make sure the products you buy have child-resistant containers and lids. This helps keep children and pets safe from dangerous substances.
  • Avoid aerosol containers if at all possible. Sprayed chemicals can be inhaled and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, aerosols ignite and explode easily.

Store safely

  • Keep hazardous substances in their original containers and place in a locked cupboard.
  • Never decant hazardous substances into food or beverage containers, where they might be mistaken for edible substances.
  • Store flammable liquids, including gasoline, in a well-ventilated garage or detached shed.
  • Keep all flammables away from any source of heat, sparks or flame — including a furnace, fireplace, oven, space heater, electric switch or motor.

Use wisely

  • Wear protective gloves, goggles and clothing.
  • Read and follow label instructions.
  • If labels aren't readable, or you're unsure about using a product, don't experiment.
  • Never leave opened products unattended. If you need to leave a work site while using a hazardous substance, close the container and take it with you.
  • Always let gasoline-powered equipment — lawn mowers, weed trimmers, garden tractors or chain saws — cool off before refilling their tanks.
  • Gasoline is the main cause of serious fires involving flammable liquids.

Dispose responsibly

  • Most communities have depots where materials can be taken for proper handling and disposal.
  • Don't pour leftover hazardous products on the ground, down drains or in the toilet. You may end up dumping harmful chemicals into your community's land and water supply.
  • The illegal disposal of hazardous chemicals is almost certainly against local safety codes and punishable by fines and other sanctions.
  • Don't burn hazardous products because it will create dangerous fumes.

Thousands of products containing hazardous chemicals are routinely used and stored in households. Most accidents with these involve flammable and combustible materials, or accidental ingestion by children. Stay safe, informed and always keep an eye on any hazardous materials you may have in your home.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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