A product label can provide important information about product safety, product effectiveness and how and where to use, store and dispose of the product. When using a household cleaning product, it’s important to understand and follow the instructions on the label. Not following the instructions may result in personal harm and less effective product performance, especially when it comes to eliminating potentially harmful germs.

Safety Instructions

Many cleaning products provide a caution or warning on the label, such as:

  • Eye irritant
  • Skin irritant
  • Harmful if swallowed
  • Contents under pressure
  • Use in a well-ventilated area

If a product label recommends using personal protective devices such as gloves and/or eye protection, follow those instructions carefully. Look for first aid instructions, make sure you understand them and have the recommended first aid equipment within reach before you begin using the product. In addition, closely follow any instructions for proper storage of household cleaners (including temperature and location requirements), especially in homes with children and animals.

Effective Use Instructions

Always follow the product’s instructions for use. If the label provides a “set time” such as “apply cleanser and let stand for five minutes,” avoid shortcuts such as wiping/scrubbing before the set time has passed. Set times may be based on scientific research, and are recommended to maximize product performance, especially for products designed to help kill germs. Acting before a recommended set time has passed may result in less effective performance.

However, allowing a product to set longer than the recommended set time can also be a problem and may damage the surface you are cleaning.

Many cleaning products also list the types of surfaces they should be used on and the types of surfaces they should NOT be used on. Read and understand these instructions to avoid damaging your household surfaces. If you’re unsure of how a cleaner will react to a new household surface, try testing the cleaner on a less noticeable area first.

Disposal Instructions

As interest in environmental health and safety rises, many cleaning products offer instructions on disposing or recycling the product container. Some may also provide instructions on how to safely dispose of the product itself, especially unused or expired amounts. Others may caution against reusing empty containers because of the potential for misuse and/or risk of mixing chemicals.