Safety Tips for Household Cleaning and Medication Storage During COVID-19

Gloved hands spraying and wiping counter surface

Posted April 6, 2020 by UVM Medical Center

Based on the empty shelves at the grocery store, it seems like everyone is stocked up on cleaning products and medications as they self-isolate at home. We want to make sure that you are keeping yourself and any children in your home safe, not only from the virus, but from potential dangerous situations. 

Using and Storing Bleach

Using household bleach for cleaning and disinfecting can be safe and effective when used in the right way; however, bleach can be dangerous if you don't use it properly. Never mix bleach with an acid, such as vinegar, or with ammonia, which can be found in many different products including bathroom cleaners.

Mixing bleach with acid and ammonia can create unhealthy vapors like chlorine or chloramine gas. In small doses, these vapors can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. In large doses, it can be deadly. 

Protect Yourself and Loved Ones

Read the labels on all cleaning products on how to properly use them. 

Ventilate! Bleach and other cleaners (even when they aren't mixed) can produce vapors that can irritate your lungs and damage other parts of your body. If you feel stinging in your nose and eyes, coughing or feel light-headed take a break from cleaning and get some fresh air. 

If you have questions on how to best clean or disinfect, please visit the CDC's website for recommendations on the cleaning and disinfection of households where persons under investigation (PUI) or those with confirmed COVID-19 reside.

Store Medication Safely

It doesn't matter if you stocked up on prescription medications, or purchased extra over-the-counter medication. These tips will help you store it and use it safely.

Keep medications out of the reach of children; ideally in a locked cabinet. It is unsafe to store medication on a counter, table or windowsill.

Always read the label on your medication bottles. It will tell you what the medication is, what it is for, how much to take and possible problems. Check the label each time you take the medication and every time you give it to someone else. 

If you have any questions about your medication, ask your doctor, pharmacist or the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Always keep medication in its original container, or in a child-resistant pill reminder box. It is unsafe to store medication in a household container like a sandwich bag or plastic container.


If you have more questions about safely cleaning or using and storing medications, contact the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 85511 or visit for live chat with the experts. They are available 24/7 and it is free and confidential.

Gayle Finkelstein, MSN, RN is a Vermont poison prevention coordinator with the Northern New England Poison Center. Abby Beerman, MPH, is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and UVM Children's Hospital.

Learn More Ways to Stay Healthy and Cope with COVID-19