Household Cleaning Products

RoSPA fridge magnet

Take Action Today, Put Them Away

A major pilot programme to promote awareness and prevent accidents with household cleaning products

A pilot project has been developed in consultation with the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association to raise awareness of the dangers of household cleaning products. The programme has so far been delivered in the West Midlands, Liverpool, Bradford, Norfolk, Nottingham and Newcastle. However, the information on these web pages will provide information and resources that will equip all consumers with the skills to recognise the dangers and take steps to prevent accidental ingestion of household cleaning products.

Factsheet: Take Action Today, Put Them Away
Checklist: Safety Checklist for Parents


Who is most at risk?

Telephone enquiries

Every year thousands of infants need medical care for poisoning from products commonly found in and around the home. Whilst long term injury is rare, the anxiety and distress caused to both child and parents could be avoided by increased awareness.

  • Most accidental poisoning happens to children younger than five years old, with children aged one to three years being most at risk
  • On average 15 under fives are admitted to hospital each day due to suspected poisoning
  • Children from the poorest families are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital due to an accident, including accidental poisoning.

Why young children are more likely to be poisoned?

Common household agents

  • Exploring is part of growing up but young children have little concept of potential dangers
  • They are inquisitive and will often put things in their mouth to further explore their texture and taste
  • Part of growing up is to watch and copy what other do, unfortunately this includes copying using potentially dangerous things like household products and medication
  • Small children may mistake liquid capsule style dishwasher and washing machine detergents for toys or sweets. These are not only a danger in relation to ingestion but can also cause serious irritation to the eyes which can result in long term damage.

How can accidents with household cleaning products be prevented?

  • Closely supervise children in and around the home
  • Keep household chemicals out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard. Remember this also applies to the garage and shed
  • Always store household cleaning chemicals in their original containers
  • Replace lids and put all products away immediately after use
  • Dispose of unwanted household cleaning products safely
  • Store household cleaning products in a different place from food and medicine
  • Use household cleaning products according to label directions
  • Mixing household products can cause dangerous gases to form.

For more information on how to prevent poisoning accidents including those caused by medication, plants and household products, download the factsheet here.

Case Study - Gemma Duke

Gemma Duke and son Zachary

Birmingham mum-of-two Gemma Duke, from Birmingham, is supporting the campaign after her two-year-old son Zachary squeezed a liquid laundry capsule in his eyes in July.

Gemma Duke, aged 31, said: "It is so important for parents to take note of these safety messages as it only takes a moment for a child to grab a cleaning product.

"I left a liquid laundry capsule in the washing machine drum, ready for the next wash, and Zachary picked it up and squeezed it in both of his eyes. I've never heard him scream like it and I hope I never will again."

Gemma washed the liquid out of his eyes and took him to the Midland Eye Centre, in Winson Green, where Zachary had tests on his eyes, an eye wash with a saline fluid and antibiotics before being given the all clear.

"Thankfully, there was no lasting damage but the experience was traumatic," added Gemma Duke. "I had to hold Zachary down while a nurse washed his eyes out with two litres of liquid. It was a horrendous experience for a mother to go through and the poor lamb looked so upset. Although the procedure took 25 minutes, it felt like forever.

"I always had cupboard locks in the kitchen and kept cleaning products high up, out of reach from the children, but on top of that now, I never leave a liquid laundry capsule in the washing machine as toddlers especially can get their hands on anything.

"Zachary doesn't have any eye damage but the experience affected him and he is wary of going near the washing machine. It isn't worth the risk and I hope other parents will remember this important advice."

Case Study - Roxanne Tomkinson

Roxanne and Hayden Tomkinson

Mum-of-three Roxanne Tomkinson, from Cradley Heath, near Dudley in the West Midlands.

Roxanne Tomkinson was pregnant with her third child and getting her two sons ready to go out when she nipped to the toilet. Moments later, she heard screaming and discovered her 22-month-old son Hayden had bitten into a liquid laundry capsule and sucked out its contents.

"It happened so quickly," said the 25-year-old hairdresser. "I flew down the stairs and found Hayden doubled over in pain and his four-year-old brother screaming.

"Hayden vomited three times and I was in such a panic waiting for the ambulance to arrive. After he had been sick, he started to get better and back to his cheeky self, which was a relief, but he needed some checks at A&E as the doctors were concerned he may have suffered burns to his mouth, but luckily he hadn’t.

"It only took the briefest of moments for Hayden to get into the kitchen cupboard under the sink and go straight for a liquid laundry capsule. When it happened in August 2013, I'd just had a new kitchen fitted and hadn’t got round to putting locks or safety catches on the cupboards.

"It was one of the scariest experiences of my life and since that day, all the household cleaning products are high up and out of reach of the children. I hope other parents will take note of the important advice in the Take Action Today, Put Them Away campaign."

The Local Programme

Factsheet and Checklist

Most poisoning accidents involve medicines, household products and cosmetics. Some poisoning agents can cause breathing difficulties. RoSPA will supply information material highlighting the key facts in relation to household poisoning and general preventative messages.

These will include:

  • A magnetic notepad has been produced to convey the important messages in relation to this issue
  • A fact sheet (PDF 90kb) containing all the information necessary to support the delivery of the programme in your area
  • A simple, effective assessment tool (PDF 92kb) for use in and around the home.

The Educational Programme is providing magnets and education to more than 200,000 families across the West Midlands, Liverpool, Norfolk, Bradford and Nottingham.

As well as providing the information to everybody across the country this webpage supports the programme by providing campaign information to organisations who wish to support the programme, as well as links to the checklist, factsheet and other resources. Updates will also be posted here as the programme develops.

Interested in becoming a local partner?

The Programme will generate publicity and information that will be beneficial to all sectors of society but it is important to target limited resources at those most at risk. The focus will be on building partnerships with organisations that are in direct contact with families with children under five years of age to maximise the impact of both the practical and educational elements of the programme.

All local partners will agree to:

  • Work with vulnerable clients, particularly families with children under five years of age
  • Provide some feedback on the families who have received the materials
  • Participate in the programme evaluation

If you are interested in becoming a local partner you can contact us on +44 (0)121 248 2107.

If you would like details of partners who have signed up to the programme and can provide you with a fridge magnet and note pad please click on the relevant city: Birmingham, Bradford, Liverpool, Newcastle, Norfolk and Nottingham.

RoSPA cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or completeness of any pages on linked websites.


RoSPA are pleased to report that the number of children attending hospital emergency departments due to poisoning has been cut following a series of RoSPA home safety campaigns.

In Birmingham and Liverpool the number has halved since the launch of RoSPA’s Take Action Today, Put Them Away campaign.

In addition, after Take Action Today, Put Them Away was launched in Bradford a year ago child hospital admissions due to poisoning in the city decreased by a quarter.

For more details please see the full Take Action Today report.

Contact Us

Public Health
+44 (0)121 248 2107
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