A Housekeeper's Guide to Safer Cleaning
The dangers of bleach
I am a seasoned hospitality professional with two decades in the cleaning industry. I have been a hotel room cleaner, a laundry attendant, a room inspector & trainer. I also have managed Housekeeping and laundry in a 200 room capacity hotel. I am here today to talk about cleaning, products and the dangers we are imposing on both ourselves and our environment. Although commercial cleaning is not the same as residential, the risk factor is still involved with the usage of chemicals.
The chemical that causes me the most concern is bleach. In my earlier housekeeping days I was a self-proclaimed “bleach queen”. I insisted on its usage in every hotel room that I cleaned. I felt that due to the high rate of overturning rooms to accommodate new guests, that it was the best method of disinfecting. Over the years I began to modify the usage, however, after doing research on products as I moved up the career ranks into management. In addition to trial and error and some near disaster experiences, I found that my previous notion of bleach as a must have on my housekeeping cart, as well as my caddy at home, was a bad idea.
I urge everyone at home to take a good look at your collection of cleaning products. It is a fact that over 50% of the products on the market contain harmful chemicals. This means that if you rummage under your kitchen sink, you will likely find something you should essentially toss in the trash. Bleach and products containing bleach are a household hazard, especially in those homes occupied by children and animals. Bleach is corrosive to skin and lungs and even after applied to surfaces it emits harmful fumes into the air. This can potentially cause respiratory issues including asthma and allergies. In addition bleach can cause skin rash, migraines, muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting. Having small animals puts them at risk as well. They walk on floors and lick their paws posing risks to their well-being too!
Another danger with bleach is that it does not mix well with other products. Chlorine gas is formed when combined with ammonia and acid based products like vinegar. I cannot tell you how many spray bottles I have confiscated off housekeeping carts over the years. I have had instances where members of my staff became ill after using too much bleach or self-made combinations of bleach and other products. Products like window cleaners, dish detergents & drain cleaners etc. simply do not mix with bleach. The chlorine gas that is given off causes cellular damage in lungs and nasal passageways and yes, can result in death.
Another fact is that bleach is dangerous to our environment. Waste containing bleach that gets into waterways reacts with other chemicals creating a host of toxins that can take many years to completely dissolve. This is affecting our wildlife population especially that of fish and birds. Bleach lingers in the air and is a contributing factor to air pollution. Airborne bleach byproducts eventually do reach the Earth’s ozone layer resulting in ozone depletion. In terms of global warming, bleach has far reaching environmental effects.
I strongly urge everyone to consider what the continued usage of bleach will mean for our planet. There are safer alternatives that work just as well. Rubbing alcohol can be used to wipe down plastic surfaces and electronics. Hydrogen peroxide is nontoxic and can be used around food areas. Good old baking soda and vinegar can be used in paste form to make a very effective cleaner, especially for fighting grease. Replace that glass cleaner with vinegar and water. Even soap and warm water works just as well as all of those horrible chemically loaded products, but without the harmful exposure. A good rule of thumb to remember is that less is more and more is not better!