Keep the house spiffy without jeopardizing your safety.

It sounds like a 1970’s refrigerator magnet: “Housekeeping is dangerous to your health.” Yet it’s true: Cleaning house really can be dangerous. Having an orderly, less germy home is worth the effort, of course, but toxic chemicals, slippery surfaces, and wobbly step stools are just a few examples of how cleaning can go wrong and lead to an accident. Here’s how to clean your home without risking life or limb.

Slipping on Wet Floors

Soapy water, liquid cleaners, and wet surfaces can all contribute to a floor that’s slicker than a used car salesman on ice skates. In fact, falls are a leading cause of hospital emergency room visits, according to the CDC. About to swab the deck? Here’s how to clean a floor more safely:

Pro safety tip: Make decluttering the floor in high-traffic areas part of your cleaning routine. Loose shoes, backpacks, shopping bag handles—even your mopping bucket—are easy to trip over.

Breathing in Harmful Chemicals

Lurking inside canisters of ordinary cleaning products—rug cleaners, floor polish, oven cleaners—are some serious chemicals, such as formaldehyde, ammonia, and acetate. According to the American Lung Association, volatile organic compounds and other chemicals are released into the air when people use cleaning supplies, and may trigger chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, or headaches. Here’s how to steer clear of chemical catastrophe:

If you remember just one tip, let it be this one: Never mix bleach and ammonia. About 2,000 people per year die from the chloramine gas released in that little chemistry experiment. If you accidentally mix the two, don’t even try to clean it up. Leave the area and call 911.

Falling off a Ladder

Your windows are probably dirtier than you think. On the outside of the window, airborne pollutants such as soot, pollen, and mold spores build up, while rain can mix with dust and dirt for a streaky mess. The Insides of windows accumulate particulates from cooking smoke, while pets and kids add fingerprints and nose smudges. Some of that dirt will require a ladder to reach, so keep these tips in mind when you do windows:

Ergonomic Disasters

Because cleaning involves exertion, repetitive motions, and awkward postures, you need to be alert to the risk of musculoskeletal woes, such as tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, muscle strains, and lower back pain. To avoid making friends with your local chiropractor, try the following:

Beware the Dust

It’s important to dust and vacuum frequently, even in those out-of-sight, hard-to-reach places. If you’re feeling unmotivated, just consider at what’s contained in typical household dust: dead skin cells, pet dander, bits of insects, pollen, and bacteria. Breathing dust can trigger asthma, allergies, and other respiratory issues, so it’s smart to reduce the quantity that’s laying around your house—but dusting can also increase your exposure. Protect yourself from this microscopic menace by following these tips:

Oh, and when you’re dusting that high bookshelf or bureau, watch for falling objects you didn’t know were up there—like Uncle Jeff’s championship bowling ball. This is a common cause of head injuries when cleaning. Especially for relatives of Uncle Jeff.

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