It happens often enough even without a pandemic. Last November a worker in a fast food restaurant in Massachusetts spilled a cleaner containing phosphoric acid and nitric acid in preparation to clean the floor.
Later, another employee assigned the same job began using a cleaner containing sodium hypochlorite in a solution stronger than household bleach. When it combined with the cleaner already on the floor, the mixture turned green and started bubbling.
“The bubbling puddle emitted fumes, driving employees and customers to evacuate the restaurant,” an article in Chemical & Engineering News reports. Unfortunately, the restaurant manager who tried to clean up the mess was shortly overcome by those fumes and died.
Now, with an even stronger incentive than usual to keep workplace surfaces clean, hazardous material response teams across the country are using social media to warn about dangerous combinations of cleaning chemicals. Take note of the following:
- Bleach plus vinegar makes chlorine gas.
- Bleach plus ammonia makes chloramine which can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Bleach plus rubbing alcohol makes chloroform, which can also be toxic.
- Hydrogen peroxide plus vinegar makes peracetic/peroxyacetic acid, which is highly corrosive.
Remember, most chemicals should not be mixed with anything other than plain water to help dilute the solution.