Safety and first aid

Using household chemicals safely

A person spraying insecticide on a rose bush

What are household chemicals?

Household chemicals are found in products that we use in and around the home and garden. They include medicines for both animals and people.

Where are chemicals commonly found at home?

Bathroom and toilet

These can include:

  • medicines
  • disinfectants and surface cleaners
  • deodorant blocks and sprays
  • bleach
  • drain cleaners
  • sewer-pipe root control
  • perfumes
  • nail polish and nail polish remover
  • hair dyeing and hair styling products
  • hair removers.

Kitchen

These may include:

  • dishwashing detergents and powders
  • surface cleaners, sprays and degreasers
  • insect sprays and baits
  • drain cleaners
  • lamp oils
  • medicines (for yourself or your pets)
  • cigarette butts.

Laundry

These may include:

  • clothes washing detergents and fabric softeners
  • bleach
  • solvents
  • drain cleaners
  • pet flea powder and shampoo
  • metal and wood polish
  • washing soda and borax
  • eucalyptus oil and antiseptics.

Garage, storage shed and pool areas

These may include:

  • petrol
  • methylated spirits, turpentine and white spirits
  • kerosene and lamp oils
  • paint and paint strippers
  • degreasers
  • rust removers
  • acids
  • lubricating oils
  • radiator additives and brake fluids
  • pool chemicals
  • pesticides
  • lime
  • fertilisers
  • lead sinkers.

Bedroom

  • medicines, such as sleeping tablets, painkillers and cough and cold medicines
  • cosmetics and perfumes
  • camphor, naphthalene, wardrobe blocks and insect repellents
  • button batteries
  • vaporiser fluids
  • liniments.

Keeping children safe around chemicals

Some household chemicals, for example oven and drain cleaner, are dangerous and can potentially be poisonous if swallowed.

Children, particularly pre-schoolers, have the highest incidence of accidental poisonings involving medications and household chemicals.

Young children are much more likely to swallow chemicals, even those with a very unpleasant taste such as mineral turpentine or caustic soda.

By following a few simple precautions when buying, using, storing and disposing of chemicals, the risk of someone being poisoned in your home can be minimised.

Checklist for using chemicals safely

Follow these guidelines to make sure that you are using chemical safely:

  • Buy the right chemical for the job.
  • Only buy the amount you need to do the job.
  • Read the label carefully and follow instructions closely.
  • Be aware of the first aid advice.
  • Use only as directed.
  • Handle carefully.
  • Keep away from children.
  • Store in the original container and in a secure place.
  • Dispose of unwanted chemicals properly.
  • Educate children on how to handle chemicals safely.
  • Ask for help if you don’t understand the label or have trouble opening or handling the product.

Where to get help

  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) if you suspect poisoning. If the victim has collapsed dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance.
  • Contact your local government (external site) environmental health officer for information about disposing of unwanted chemicals.
  • Phone the Waste Authority (external site) on 6467 5325.

Remember

  • Be mindful – keep household chemicals in a secure environment and restrict access by children.
  • Always keep your chemicals clearly labelled and in the original packaging.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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