Yellow sponge on soap covered metal surface.

Cleaning chemicals can pose serious risks if they are stored incorrectly. It’s not just a matter of adhering to workplace regulations set down by the Australian government, but also a moral obligation towards the health and safety of the workforce.

It’s imperative that small and medium businesses know where and how cleaning supplies and chemicals should be stored, as much as know the hazards caused by improper handling and storage.

In this brief post, we will give you vital tips about everything you need to know, such as labelling guidelines, using the appropriate container, and storage and handling systems. 

Labelling and Identifying Cleaning Chemicals for Safe Storage

The first step towards creating a safer work environment is the correct labelling of cleaning chemicals.

The Australian government takes workplace safety seriously and to eliminate hazards, all businesses must take a systematic approach to store cleaning chemicals safely. A good place to start is by labelling the chemical containers correctly according to model WHS Regulations.

Labelling guidelines for cleaning chemicals

Chemical labels must adhere to guidelines set forth by the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals). A chemical container must clearly display the following:

Cleaning chemicals purchased from a reputable supplier typically contain all the above information.

Labelling unknown substances

If a chemical container is without a label or if the label has faded or fallen off, businesses are required to:

  • Label the container with these words: Caution - Do Not Use - Unknown Substance.
  • Get in touch with the chemical supplier and try to identify the origin of the container.
  • Keep the containers away from work areas and isolate the container if necessary. Also, make sure that the container doesn’t come into contact with flammable materials.
  • If all attempts to identify the substance fail, contact your local waste management authority to dispose of it safely.

Containers with incorrect labels

If a chemical container is incorrectly labelled, provisionally attach a label with the correct chemical identifier. Keep this container isolated and away from work stations until it gets correctly labelled with all the information as per GHS’s guidelines.

Obtain safety data sheets

Should there be any confusion regarding a new chemical your workers will be handling, it’s a good idea to request a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) from Safe Work Australia’s official portal.

The Australian Law requires all homegrown chemical manufacturers and importers to furnish an updated SDS for all hazardous chemicals. The SDS will contain information such as ingredients, hazards, environmental effects, and methods for safe handling and storage.

Now that we have the correct process for identifying and labelling chemical containers out of the way, let’s see how and where cleaning supplies and chemicals should be stored.

Cleaning Chemical Storage: Tips for Businesses

Store in clean, cool, and dry spaces

Two things the cleaning chemicals don’t play well with are temperature and moisture.

When deciding where cleaning supplies and chemicals should be stored, it’s best to identify rooms and places that are cool and dry and that are cleaned regularly. Store rooms, rolling carts, caddies, and shelves with clear, plastic-labelled bins are all good places for cleaning chemical storage.

Storage spaces must be well-ventilated

Certain cleaning chemicals are notorious for their pungent odors so storing them in well-ventilated areas is crucial. You should also ensure that they’re placed away from any HVAC intake vents to prevent any toxic fumes from escaping into your HVAC and spreading to other areas of your business.

Train your workers and employees

Any workers or employees who are handling cleaning chemicals must be properly trained on not just the handling and storage of cleaning chemicals, but also what steps to take and the safeguards needed in instances of accidents, spillages, and other hazardous events. They should also have information on each chemical and the various hazards associated with it.

Limit access for non-trained employees

For businesses where only some of their workers have access to proper training, it’s a good idea to store chemicals in a secure storage room or a safety cabinet with appropriate signage with only trained employees granted access.

The Hazards of Improper Chemical Storage 

Some hazardous chemicals are highly flammable or incompatible with each other, and they can cause hazards even when not in use.

Chemical reactions

Cleaning solutions, such as disinfectant sprays, drain cleaners, aerosol cans, bathroom cleaners, and sanitisers, contain chemicals that are highly flammable. If they are exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations or high levels of humidity, it can set off a chemical chain of reactions.

For instance, some substances such as Sodium hydroxide – commonly found in drain cleaners and oven cleaners – are highly corrosive and may react violently and generate heat when it comes into contact with moisture.

Incompatibility between cleaning chemicals

Certain multi-purpose cleaners and cleaning solutions shouldn’t be stored together, but several businesses are habitually ditching their original containers and instead use generic containers, placing them next to one another.

For example, mixing ammonia (present in window and glass cleaners and multi-purpose cleaners) and bleach creates chlorine gas, which can cause coughing, breathing problems, and burning eyes. 

Hydrogen peroxide is found in almost every bathroom cleaner, and in contact with vinegar creates peracetic acid – which is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

Even if you are storing them next to one another in their original containers, being aware of which chemicals should not mix is how you can keep your staff and customers safe – as accidental spills, leakages, or ruptures are all it would take for them to react.

This can deal a mighty amount of damage to businesses that are lax with chemical storage practices. 

Extra Advice for Handling Commercial Cleaning Chemicals 

  • When using cleaning chemicals, ensure that you are wearing the right PPE gear for the particular type of chemical you are handling. This includes the right clothing, safety goggles, and glove, and ensuring to wash up thoroughly once you are done.
  • It is also essential to conduct regular inspections and maintenance in the storage area. Every three months is considered good practice. If your storage space falls in an area of the facility with high footfalls, it’s a good idea to conduct an audit more frequently.
  • Cleaning chemicals should be organized by hazard class and compatibility. You should never combine different types of cleaning products together, as doing so can result in the production of toxic gases or even explosions. 

All businesses should take the appropriate measures for the proper storage of any cleaning chemicals for the safety of their employees and customers. Cleaning chemicals should be kept in a clean, cool, dry, and well-ventilated secure location away from heat sources, direct sunlight, and HVAC intake vents.

Keep them on a top shelf if available, and away from any other potentially reactive materials. Never store cleaning products on the floor or along with mops, even temporarily. They can leak or spill, which could lead to accidents.

Discover here our range of cleaning chemicals and choose the right option for your business needs.

Authored by Stephanie Bennett

Cleaning supplies