Bob Vila Radio: Bleach + Vinegar = Toxic

Power tools can be dangerous, but so too are combinations between common household chemicals. Do you know which substances not to mix?

By Bob Vila | Updated Sep 16, 2020 7:18 PM

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When I talk to homeowners about safety, the discussion often centers around using tools and ladders and so forth. But there are a lot of other ways you may be injured in your home, and one of them is by mixing the wrong chemicals.

Bleach and Vinegar


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Listen to BOB VILA ON HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS or read the text below:

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t mix bleach with ammonia. That’s true. It produces vapors that can damage your lungs and possibly even kill you, especially if you’re in a confined space.

Add this combination to the “don’t mix” list: bleach and vinegar. When combined, they give off a chlorine vapor similar to the poison gas used against Allied troops in World War I. Bleach shouldn’t be combined with toilet bowl cleaners, either; that combination can also produce toxic fumes.

Finally, steer away from combining highly acidic products with products that are highly alkaline. Mixtures of the two can cause serious chemical burns if they come into contact with your skin.

Before using any household product, it’s best to check the label. Potentially harmful interactions are often listed there.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.