Household Cleaning Products

Every year thousands of infants and young children need medical care for poisoning from products commonly found in and around the home. Whilst long term injury is rare, the anxiety and distress caused to both child and parents could be avoided by increased awareness.

  • Most accidental poisoning happens to children younger than five years old, with children aged one to three years being most at risk
  • On average 15 under fives are admitted to hospital each day due to suspected poisoning
  • Children from the poorest families are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital due to an accident, including accidental poisoning.

Why Young Children are more likely to be Poisoned

Exploring is part of growing up but young children have little concept of potential dangers

  • They are inquisitive and will often put things in their mouth to further explore their texture and taste
  • Part of growing up is to watch and copy what other do, unfortunately this includes copying using potentially dangerous things like household products and medication
  • Small children may mistake liquid capsule style dishwasher and washing machine detergents for toys or sweets. These are not only a danger in relation to ingestion but can also cause serious irritation to the eyes which can result in long term damage.


How can Accidents with Household Cleaning Products be Prevented?

  • Closely supervise children in and around the home
  • Keep household chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard. Remember this also applies to the garage and shed
  • Always store household cleaning chemicals in their original containers
  • Replace lids and put all products away immediately after use
  • Dispose of unwanted household cleaning products safely
  • Store household cleaning products in a different place from food and medicine


The Current Position in the North West

A breakdown of the data below highlights the areas where admissions for accidental poisonings are high within the North West region.

Admissions for accidental poisoning children under five years old 2014-15 – 16-17


Other Poisoning Risks

  • Ensure that gas appliances and heaters are checked and serviced regularly
  • Always keep electronic cigarettes out of the reach of children as the vapour contains nicotine, which if swallowed, can be fatal. Liquid refills are also extremely toxic
  • Button batteries can be found in toys, remote controls and small electronic devices but if
  • swallowed, they can leak acid into the body with fatal results. Dispose of button batteries safely and keep them out of the reach of children
  • Avoid buying plants with poisonous leaves or berries or those that can irritate the skin
  • Keep garden and decorating chemicals out of the reach of children
  • Never decant chemicals into other containers, particularly drinks bottles
  • Have chimneys and flues checked regularly to make sure they are not blocked


Safety Checklist for Parents and Carers

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have developed a safety checklist which parents and carers can use to help ensure household cleaning products in their home are kept as safely as possible. The checklist can be downloaded here:


Take Action Today, Put Them Away –

programme to promote awareness and prevent accidents with household cleaning products

The Take Action Today North West Programme will be launched in January 2019 and will roll out over the North West during the year.

The aim of the campaign is to reach as many families with under-fives as possible with a magnetic pad that they can place on their fridge with the key messages of how to prevent accidental poisoning among their children.

It serves as a great reminder on a day-to-day basis but also provides a handy way of engaging families in conversation about preventing household poisoning.

Each participating area receives a supply of the magnetic pads based on the number of families with under-fives in the area and undertakes to distribute these over the next few months. The impact of the programme is measured through a mix of feedback from families on how the programme has increased their awareness and changed how they store household products, along with data on hospital admissions and (where available) attendances.

Other tools include briefing packs for those who work with families, factsheets and checklists. You can find out more about the programme on our website at

The programme usually begins with a media launch at a venue that is accessible to families and those who will be involved in delivering the campaign. Children’s hospitals, children’s centres and libraries are examples of previous venues.

RoSPA would therefore like to invite you to join us in partnership to deliver the Take Action Today programme across the North West over the next few months.

We hope that you and your organisation will be interested in participating and helping to make sure that children across the North West are kept safe from accidental poisoning. For further information please contact:

Jim Oram (Tech IOSH)

Public Health Project Officer

T: +44 (0) 7790776657

E: [email protected]

A Take Action factsheet produced by RoSPA is available below:



Further information:

A video and information is on the Keep Caps From Kids website, set up by the detergent industry to promote the safe use of liquid laundry detergent capsules in Europe at

The RoSPA website has advice on poisoning risks to children in the home at

The NHS has advice at

A cartoon video on preventing poisonings in the home is available to use from RoSPA’s YouTube site. This is in partnership with Nottingham University Hospital’s Paediatric Emergency Department and can be viewed at

Translate »