Household detergents and maintenance products are safe when used and stored according to the directions on the label. So always read and follow the directions on the label, and always keep them out of reach of children.

As cleaning products come in many forms (e.g. liquids, solids, aerosols) and have many different applications (toilet cleaning liquid, surface polish spray, washing powder, etc), directions for use and storage vary and are specific to each product. 

In certain cases, they can contain hazardous ingredients.  Such ingredients are used because they are necessary for the product to work well.  For example, some detergents contain enzymes to help break up and remove grease and other food stains from fabrics, while disinfectants may contain a biocidal ingredient to remove and prevent the spread of germs.

When a product contains hazardous ingredients, EU law requires that specific hazard pictograms and information is included on the label.  In addition, you will see some handy safe use icons, developed by the European cleaning products industry, to help you use hazardous household cleaning products safely.

Have a look at the range of symbols you might see on a cleaning product label, to make sure you know what they all mean.

Follow this key advice to help prevent domestic accidents

Understanding hazard pictograms

In Europe, the regulation on classification, labeling and packaging of chemicals (CLP) determines what hazard information must be displayed on the label of a chemical product (including household cleaning products) to help you handle and use it safely.

Below you can find the CLP hazard pictograms that commonly appear on the label of household detergents and cleaning products with a simplified explanation of what they mean and what precautions you should take when you see this pictogram on a product.

Of course, you should always read the whole label carefully.

The European Chemicals Agency website (ECHA) has more detailed information on the regulation for the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals and its requirements.

If you still have old products sitting on the shelf from before 2015, they may have different hazard pictograms. Find out how these have changed.

  • Irritant

    Meaning: May cause allergic skin reaction or serious eye irritation

    E.g. on laundry detergents, hand dish wash liquid detergents, all-purpose cleaners, automatic dish wash detergents

    Precautions:

    Keep out of reach of children

    Avoid skin and eye contact

    In case of accident, rinse with water

  • Eye damage

    Meaning: May cause severe eye damage

    E.g. on laundry detergents, automatic dish wash detergents, all-purpose cleaners. Possibly, some hand dish wash liquid detergents

    Precautions:

    Keep out of reach of children

    Keep in original container

    Avoid eye contact

    In case of accident, rinse with water

    If unwell, contact a poison centre

  • Hazardous to the environment

    Meaning: Toxic to the aquatic life

    Precaution:

    Avoid release to the environment

    Collect spillage

  • Corrosive to the eyes and skin

    Meaning: May cause severe skin burns and eye damage

    E.g. caustic drain cleaners, acid toilet cleaners, limescale remover, etc.

    Precaution:

    Keep out of reach of children

    Avoid contact with skin/eye

    Immediately rinse with water if spilled on skin

    or eyes

    Seek medical advice if spilled on skin or eyes

  • Flammable

    Meaning: Highly or extremely flammable gas, aerosol, liquid or vapour

    E.g. aerosols (such as air fresheners, insecticides, polishes, oven cleaners, etc.). Possibly also on windscreen wash, glass cleaners, certain all-purpose cleaners, hand sanitizers.

    Precaution:

    Keep out of reach of children

    Keep away from heat

    Keep container tightly closed

About safe use icons

To help you use products safely and complement the important hazard information prescribed by EU regulations, you will also find safe use guidance on the label that has been developed by the industry.

These safe use icons and phrases help you use and store household cleaning and maintenance products safely.  They can be found on the label and provide safe use instructions in a simple, accessible and direct way. 

  • Keep away from children.

    This icon was officially endorsed by the United Nations in mid 2019 and included in the GHS Sub-committee guidelines (Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals).

  • Keep away from eyes. If product gets into eyes rinse thoroughly with water.
  • Rinse hands after use.
  • People with sensitive or damaged skin should avoid prolonged contact with the product.
  • Do not ingest. If product is ingested then seek medical advice.
  • Do not change container to store contents.
  • Do not mix with other products.
  • Ventilate the room after use.
  • Close the lid properly.
  • Use with dry hands.
  • Close the bag properly.
  • Do not pierce, break or cut.
  • Transfer refill content in the original container only.

Cleaning products are safe when used and stored as directed. That’s why you should always read the label before using a product. Here’s some good advice on how to prevent misuse and accidents and what to do in the event of an accident.