Children get into all
kinds of home laundry products: detergent, bleach, stain remover,
fabric softener, pre-treatments, dry cleaning kits, rust removers,
and so on. Some of these products can burn the mouth, eyes, or
skin. Many can cause irritation. Whether a child will have problems
depends on the exact product and what the child did with it. Here
is a run-down of common laundry products – and why
they should be stored up high, out of children’s reach.
is the least common but most dangerous laundry product. Rust
removers often contain strong acids that can cause eye, skin,
and mouth burns on contact. A few rust removers contain
hydrofluoric acid, an especially harmful poison. It can be
absorbed through the skin and cause severe pain, tissue damage,
and even death!
Other types of
stain removers and pre-treatment agents contain a
variety of ingredients. Some can cause a bit of irritation,
while others can cause more serious irritation or a painful
rash. Often, the packaging limits the amount a child can get at
can cause mouth, skin, or eye irritation. This is true for
liquid and dry detergents. Serious injuries are not common but
contain some of the same chemicals as detergents and can cause
the same types of injury. Mouth, skin, or eye irritation is
possible if a child swallows or splashes fabric softener.
has a bad reputation that is not entirely deserved. Swallowing
small amounts of bleach might cause mouth irritation and
vomiting. More serious problems are unlikely unless someone
swallows a large amount of bleach; children usually don’t do
that. Splashing bleach might cause minor skin irritation. A
serious rash could occur with long skin contact, for example, a
child sitting in a puddle of bleach.
cleaning kits contain a pre-treatment chemical, similar
to laundry pre-treatment/stain remover products. The packaging
will determine how likely it is for a child to swallow the
product. Other chemicals in home dry cleaning kits are embedded
in solid objects and so wouldn’t be swallowed by a child.
by storing laundry products out of sight and reach of children.
Also, keep products in their original containers. Countless children
(and adults!) have swallowed bleach from a cup, thinking it was
water. Pouring bleach into a cup, then leaving it on the counter or
washing machine, is an invitation to poisoning.
If a child gets into a
laundry product, here’s what to do:
center expert will ask a few questions about what happened and if
there are any symptoms. Then, the Specialist will tell you exactly what
to do. Most of the time, the incident
can be managed at home if you call the poison center right away.
If the product is in
the eyes or on the skin, flush with running water for at least
15 minutes, then call the poison center at
If the product is
swallowed, give a small amount of water or milk. Then call the poison
center at 1-800-222-1222.