When you think of CO, you probably think of its role as a danger in homes that have carbon monoxide furnaces or clogged chimneys. But what if your home has no gas-based heating system and no fireplaces? What if it only uses environmentally friendly cleaning products? In that case, how do you get CO exposure from using those cleaners? Cleaning products that use hydrocarbon solvents are the culprit here.
The way these chemicals are used in these cleaners results in them also containing carbon monoxide as a byproduct. When used indoors without proper ventilation, this can result in CO exposure above OSHA thresholds.
If you’re interested in green cleaning — which is becoming more mainstream every day — there are ways to approach this while keeping your home safe from CO exposure. Here are some helpful tips on how to clean your home safely and organically:
Can Cleaning Products Set off a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors are very sensitive. They can be triggered by many different things, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the combustion of items like paper and dust. Carbon monoxide is so common that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has specific standards for CO exposure in indoor work environments. In general, an indoor concentration of CO above about 1000 parts per million (ppm) should be treated as a hazard.
Change your home’s ventilation
If you’re going to be using any cleaning product that uses hydrocarbon solvents, you need to change your home’s ventilation. This means switching from recirculating air to bringing fresh air in from the outside for about an hour after the cleaning is done. This will dilute the concentration of contaminants and keep them below the CO safety threshold. You can do this in two ways: – Use exhaust fans: Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans are designed to bring outside air into your home. You can use them to also suck air out of other rooms as well. Make sure you leave them on long enough to bring down the CO levels below OSHA’s threshold of 1000 ppm. – Open windows: This will take a bit longer, but you won’t have to mess with the equipment. Just make sure that you’re not opening windows in rooms with ongoing CO sources (like a fireplace), or in rooms with people with CO sensitivity like babies.
Don’t use all of your home’s available air at once
When you’re cleaning, try to be mindful of how much air you’re using at once. It’s tempting to open windows wide and blast the fan on high, but this can actually make things worse. Instead, try to use targeted ventilation. Use fans to move air around the room you’re cleaning, then close the windows and turn off the fans when you’re done. This will let CO out without letting it in.
Ventilate the room you’re cleaning for at least 15 minutes after use
After you’ve finished cleaning, make sure to let the room you were in for at least 15 minutes. This will help make sure the CO is out. If you’re cleaning multiple rooms, make sure you let each one of them sit for at least 15 minutes before moving on to the next one. This will help ensure you don’t have CO build up in other places.
Use CO monitors to make sure you’re safe
If you’re worried about CO exposure from cleaning products, you can invest in CO monitors. These can be handheld units or plug-in sensors that you leave in rooms while you’re cleaning. Depending on the type of monitor, they’ll let you know when CO reaches a dangerous level. This way, you can avoid CO exposure without having to rely on ventilation.
Cleaning your home without chemicals is easier than ever thanks to increased availability of eco-friendly cleaning products. When using these products, be sure to avoid triggering your CO alarm. To do this, avoid using all of your home’s air at once, keep the windows closed while cleaning, and let the room you’re in sit for at least 15 minutes after use. Beyond this, be mindful of what you’re cleaning with and how you’re cleaning it. Using too much product at once or cleaning with too much force can cause you to use more chemicals than you need to and thus increase your exposure to them. Keep your home clean, but keep it safe too!