When you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, throw open the windows and clean your home for spring, it’s easy to become so focused on getting the job done that you skimp on safety measures. However, heavy-duty spring cleaning is physical work fraught with potential health and safety hazards.
That’s why it pays to take time to help ensure that you can spend spring playing in the park and walking among budding trees instead of propping yourself on the couch with your leg in a cast, a broken arm, or a foggy brain from mixing dangerous cleaning solutions.
Before you start checking off your spring-cleaning to-do list, sweep through these top spring cleaning hazards and how to keep yourself safe for summer fun.
1. Ladder Work
Any time you throw a ladder into the mix, there is heightened safety risk, says Melanie Musson, a writer for US Insurance Agents. Always make sure both ladder legs are planted solidly on the ground or use a folding ladder that has four feet. Avoid leaning to reach.
“Leaning way to the side means you have to move the ladder fewer times to accomplish your task, but it’s not worth falling off the ladder or having the ladder tip,” says Musson.
2. Cleaning Gutters
When cleaning gutters, make sure you have a sturdy, stable ladder and wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and safety glasses to prevent debris from getting in your eyes. Be on the lookout for insect hazards, too, warns Gutter Cleaning Houston:
“Possibilities of running into wasps are high, so use an insect spray to keep you away from insect attacks.”
3. Climbing to Wash Windows
After staring at smudges on windows all winter, you may be eager to get those windows sparkling. But cleaning out-of-reach windows can be dangerous, since people use ladders, especially to reach high exterior windows, says Mihaela Davidova, a cleaning expert with Fantastic Services. Hanging out of windows from inside to clean outside is especially dangerous.
“Fitting the ladder with anti-slip ladder pads will improve safety and prevent any surface damage,” says Davidova, who also recommends using a telescopic window kit to wash high windows.
4. Scrubbing the Floor
Crawling around on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor is hard on your body. Your knees will be “screaming for relief” after a while, says Musson, so use a foam gardening pad for the job.
“Kneeling on a foam cushion is much more joint-friendly than kneeling on a hardwood floor,” she says.
5. Combining Bleach and Ammonia
You may want to use the harshest chemicals out there to cut through grease and grime and disinfect but make sure you never combine bleach and ammonia.
“Bleach and ammonia when combined generate chloramine vapor, which is a serious health hazard,” says Nikola Djordjevic M.D., a medical advisor at HealthCareers.
6. Cleaning Rodent Waste
When you clean and organize your garage, you may find evidence of mice or other rodents. Don’t just grab a broom and sweep, since cleaning rodent waste without proper protection can make you ill, says Maryellen Nugent Lee, senior applicator with A-ECO Clean Environment.
Nugent Lee recommends wearing a HEPA mask, which you can pick up at most hardware stores, while you clean. Wear latex or other protective gloves to protect skin.
7. Mopping Floors
Avoid walking across wet floors, which are a slip-and-fall hazard. Clean another room while you let floors dry and turn on a fan to speed the drying process. Be careful where you place mops and buckets, too, so you don’t trip or fall backwards over an obstacle.
When you’re in the zone of donating whatever doesn’t spark joy, it’s easy to forget a box blocking a doorway or bags full of clothes around the corner. Keep donations piles in one area of the room so you don’t trip over an unseen hazard.
If you find yourself moving boxes of extra stuff or furniture into a self-storage unit, garage, or basement, be sure to master the correct lifting technique or you could really hurt your back. Also, be wary of stacking boxes too high as they could fall over and hurt you.
9. Bathroom Cleaning Overhaul
When it’s time to get down and dirty in the bathroom, open a window and/or turn on a fan to ventilate so you’re not overcome with toxic fumes from cleaning solutions. Wear latex, rubber or nitrile gloves to protect skin from chemical irritation.
10. Home Renovation Projects
Many older homes harbor asbestos-containing materials, says Colin Ruggiero, a health writer for Mesothelioma.com. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, could be lurking in ceiling tiles or popcorn ceilings, vinyl flooring tiles, paint, sheet rock or insulation.
“Renovating certain areas of your home can unknowingly expose you and your family to asbestos,” says Ruggiero. “It’s crucial to have any suspected materials tested for this carcinogen prior to renovating.”
11. Dusting and Sweeping
You can stir up plenty of dust sweeping, dusting or cleaning and organizing closets, the basement, garage or attic. Not only is dust bad for your respiratory system, if you’re prone to dust and pollen allergies, you may spend hours sneezing later. Wear a face mask to protect your lungs from dust and dust mite particles.