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Household Irritants: Skin-Friendly Cleaning Tips for Your Family

Scrubbing toilets and doing laundry aren't most people's idea of a good time, but for some of us, cleaning house is irritating. Literally.

Many of the products that keep our homes clean and germ-free can be rough on skin -- and not just the super-powerful cleaners. Even a gentle cleaner can dry out and irritate your skin if you're sensitive to it or if you use it often enough.

Sensitive skin that's been exposed to cleaning products can develop a red, swollen, itchy rash that dermatologists call contact dermatitis.

There's no cure for housework, but identifying and avoiding the cleaning chemicals that inflame your skin can at least reduce your irritation when you have to do it.

Protect Your Skin From These Irritants

The most notorious chemical irritants are usually easy to spot. The government requires the makers of toxic cleaning materials to label their products with words like, "DANGER," "POISON," or "USE IN A WELL-VENTILATED AREA." These warnings should clue you in that the product contains chemicals that can be harsh to the skin.

Protect your skin from contact with these irritants, especially if you have sensitive skin:

Ingredient Found InAmmoniaDisinfectants, floor cleaners, window and glass cleaners, all-purpose cleaners

Chloride and alkyl ammonium chloride

Mold and mildew removersAmmonium hydroxide

Spot removersHydrochloric acid

Drain cleanersHypochloric acid

Toilet bowl cleanersLye

Oven cleaners, drain cleanersPetroleum distillates

Furniture waxes and polishesPetroleum solvents

Floor cleaners/waxesPhenolAntibacterial cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, furniture polishes

Sodium bisulfate

Toilet bowl cleanersSodium hypochloriteDisinfectants, spot removers, all-purpose cleaners

Sodium or potassium hydroxideDrain cleaners, oven cleaners

Cleaning Tips: Preventing Irritation

You can come up with a whole list of reasons to avoid cleaning your house, but sensitive skin shouldn't be on it. You just need to use a little bit of caution when you clean.

Here are a few tips for avoiding skin irritation:

1. Read labels. Know exactly which chemicals are in the product you're using. Try to avoid products that contain ingredients you've had a reaction to in the past. Follow directions on the label so you know you're using the cleaning product safely.