Best Practices for Storing Cleaning Chemicals Safely
Why Proper Storage Matters
Storing cleaning chemicals correctly is not merely a best practice—it is a vital part of your responsibility as a manager of a housekeeping team. There are three critical areas affected by this: safety, chemical effectiveness, and product lifespan.
Firstly, safety is a paramount concern. Mishandling cleaning chemicals can lead to accidental spills or dangerous reactions between incompatible substances.
Secondly, cleaning chemicals’ effectiveness can degrade if not stored appropriately. Some chemicals may lose their cleaning potency if exposed to extreme temperatures or sunlight. Anything that decreases a product’s efficacy will decrease its lifespan and mean higher costs for your team.
Finally, incorrect storage practices can also lead to potential legal consequences. Your responsibilities in this regard will depend on where your company operates. Each country has its own environmental health laws, so be sure to research yours.
Understanding Labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
Chemical labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are your first line of information when dealing with cleaning chemicals. They provide crucial data that guide safe and effective handling, storage, and disposal of these substances.
A chemical label contains a wealth of information. Firstly, it has the product identifier, usually the chemical's name or code. Then, it provides the supplier's details and the hazard pictograms – universally recognised symbols that denote the type of hazard the chemical presents. Other essential elements include signal words ('Warning' or 'Danger'), hazard statements, precautionary statements, and supplemental information. For instance, a bleach container's label might bear the 'Corrosive' pictogram, the signal word 'Danger', and precautionary statements like 'wear protective gloves' and 'store locked up'.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS), on the other hand, provide more detailed safety information about the chemical product. They are typically available on the manufacturer's website and included in the product packaging. An SDS contains 16 sections covering different aspects of the chemical, from its properties and first-aid measures to handling and storage advice and even environmental information.
The information chemical labels and SDSs provide is not just legally required—it's a lifeline for those handling potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals. Investing the time to read and understand this information can protect your team, ensure efficient use of your chemicals, and keep your operations on the right side of the law.
Unilever Professional SDS database
Every Unilever Professional product has an SDS in a database on our website. Visit the database for more information about specific products.
General Rules for Storing Cleaning Chemicals
Correct storage of cleaning chemicals is fundamental to maintaining a safe and efficient working environment. As mentioned, your first source of information should always be the Chemical Label and SDS, but here are the general rules every housekeeping team should follow:
Keep chemicals in original containers
Cleaning chemicals should always be stored in their original containers. The original containers are designed to safely hold the chemical and carry important information on their labels. Replacing or transferring these substances to unofficial containers can lead to confusion, misuse, or harmful reactions.
Ensure containers are sealed properly
Containers of cleaning chemicals should be sealed tightly when not in use. This helps to prevent leaks, reduce the chance of the chemicals degrading through exposure to air, and minimise the risk of accidental ingestion or skin contact.
Children and pet safety measures
Cleaning chemicals should always be stored out of the reach of children and pets. Ideally, they should be kept in a locked cupboard or high shelf. It's important to remember that even products with child-resistant packaging shouldn’t be considered child-safe, and it's our responsibility to ensure these products are inaccessible to children and pets.
Handling leaks or spills
Despite our best efforts, leaks or spills can happen. Should this occur, it's essential to act quickly. Wear protective gear (rubber gloves, eye protection), contain the spill if possible, and clean it up following the guidelines in the product's SDS. After cleanup, ensure the area is well-ventilated to disperse any lingering fumes.
Disposal of used products
Used cleaning materials should be disposed of safely, according to local regulations.
These are general guidelines, and it's essential to remember that individual chemicals may have specific storage requirements detailed on their labels or SDS. Implementing these measures can protect your team, extend the life of your products, and contribute to a safer, more efficient working environment.
Different locations have different requirements when it comes to storing cleaning chemicals. Whether you're managing a housekeeping team in a domestic setting, in an office, or in an industrial environment, there are special considerations you need to bear in mind.
Home / Domestic Storage
In a domestic setting, safety is paramount, particularly if there are children or pets present.
Appropriate Storage Areas
Cleaning chemicals should be stored in a dedicated, locked cupboard, high enough to be out of the reach of children. If that's not possible, child-proof locks should be used.
For added safety, store highly corrosive or toxic chemicals in a separate, well-ventilated area, away from food and drink. Never store cleaning chemicals near heating elements as many can become hazardous when heated.
In an office environment, cleaning chemicals are necessary for regular maintenance and sanitation.
Appropriate Storage Areas
Designate a specific area, such as a cleaning cupboard or utility room, for storing these chemicals. This area should be cool, dry, well-ventilated, and away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
In the office, it's crucial to have a procedure in place for handling, storing, and disposing of cleaning chemicals, and ensure all staff are trained and aware of these procedures. Regular checks should be performed to ensure chemicals are correctly stored and that their containers are in good condition.
Industrial environments often require a larger range of cleaning chemicals and in larger quantities, which presents its own challenges.
Appropriate Storage Areas
Cleaning chemicals should be stored in designated areas, ideally in a separate storage room or cabinet. It should be secure and well ventilated. Larger quantities might require specific storage units or shelving systems designed for heavy or hazardous materials.
In an industrial setting, it's vital to segregate incompatible chemicals to prevent dangerous reactions. Regular audits of chemical inventory should be conducted, and any unused or expired chemicals should be disposed of safely. Additionally, ensure proper protective equipment is available and used when handling chemicals.
Remember, safety and efficiency go hand in hand in managing cleaning chemicals.
Temperature control is a significant factor in the safe and effective storage of cleaning chemicals. It can greatly impact the stability of the chemicals and, in turn, their efficacy and lifespan.
Cleaning chemicals, much like any other substances, are subject to changes in their physical properties with fluctuations in temperature. These changes can lead to a loss of efficacy, making them less effective at cleaning, or they could lead to more severe outcomes, such as container rupture due to the build-up of pressure.
One must always be mindful of potential hazards brought about by temperature fluctuations. Significant changes can lead to chemical reactions, cause containers to leak or even explode, and render the cleaning chemicals ineffective.
Ensuring a consistent, appropriate temperature for the storage of your cleaning chemicals helps maintain their cleaning power, prolongs their shelf life, and most importantly, contributes to the overall safety of your housekeeping operations.
Segregation of Chemicals
A fundamental aspect of safely storing cleaning chemicals is understanding that some chemicals, when stored together, can pose serious safety hazards. Certain chemicals can react with each other, leading to dangerous consequences like toxic fumes, fires, or explosions.
Refer to product labelling for specific safety requirements for each product.
Remember, safety in the storage of cleaning chemicals doesn't only lie in handling individual chemicals safely, but also in ensuring that they are stored with respect to their compatibility with each other. Doing so will significantly minimise the risk of accidents due to chemical reactions
Proper Disposal of Cleaning Chemicals
The lifecycle of cleaning chemicals doesn't end with their usage; proper disposal is an integral part of chemical management. Disposing of these substances correctly is vital for both safety and environmental reasons. Improper disposal can harm sanitation workers, contaminate water sources, and potentially lead to fines or legal action.
Here are some guidelines on how to safely dispose of expired or unnecessary cleaning chemicals:
Check the Label
Start by checking the product label or SDS for specific disposal instructions. Some products can safely go down the drain with running water, while others require special disposal methods.
Use It Up
If the product is still effective and has not exceeded the manufacturer’s expiration date, consider using it completely rather than disposing of it.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facilities
For expired or unwanted chemicals that can't be disposed of safely at home, take them to a local HHW facility. These facilities are equipped to handle various hazardous materials, including cleaning chemicals.
Professional Disposal Services
For businesses with large quantities of chemicals to dispose of, it might be more efficient to hire a professional disposal service. These services can safely handle and dispose of cleaning chemicals according to local regulations.
Remember, disposing of cleaning chemicals properly isn't just about clearing out space or getting rid of waste. It's a matter of safety, environmental responsibility, and legal obligation.
Effective storage of cleaning chemicals is not merely an administrative or operational detail, but a significant factor that contributes to the safety, efficacy, and legality of housekeeping operations. By paying careful attention to details such as understanding labels, ensuring temperature control, segregating chemicals, and proper disposal methods, we pave the way for an environment that is safer and healthier for everyone involved.
If in doubt check the manufacturer’s product label and Safety Data Sheet. You can find information specific to your area on safely disposing of cleaning chemicals from your local government environmental and safety body.
This process demands a continuous commitment to learning and adherence to best practices. It's not just about following rules but understanding the rationale behind them. It is our responsibility to uphold the highest standards of care for our teams, our clients, and our environment, fostering a culture of responsibility that extends far beyond the store room.