How to Check Your Home for Hazardous Materials

A red sign with the words "danger" above a skull and cossbones.

Homes are filled with numerous products that include hazardous household materials. Knowing which products pose a risk, how to properly handle and dispose of them, and what to do in an emergency are all things homeowners should be aware of. Consider these how-to tips to maintain a healthy and clean environment without exposing your family, friends, and pets to unsafe chemical accidents.

Before You Begin

Make a checklist for each area of your home where hazardous materials are stored such as the garage, underneath bathroom cabinets, and in the kitchen. Look for key warning words on the product label such as toxic, corrosive, poisonous, reactive, caution, explosive, and flammable. Once you’ve identified hazardous materials, it’s important to keep them securely stored away from children and pets.

Always store and dispose of any hazardous chemical product per the instructions provided by the manufacturer. To avoid a chemical accident, thoroughly read all the instructions on how to handle and use the product safely. Taking a few minutes to understand product use and safety can deter the risk of accidents.

Have contact numbers readily available to the poison control center, hospital, and fire department in case of dangerous exposure to any of the hazardous products in your home.

To be as informed about hazardous products and materials as possible, contact the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Red Cross or check their websites to ask questions about dangerous products and find out which antidotes are used in the event of exposure or consumption.

Kitchen and Bathroom

A collection of cleaning supplies.

Both rooms receive daily use and high volume traffic, resulting in the need for frequent maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Products to check in the kitchen area include drain cleaners, dish detergent, oven cleaners, household disinfectants, glass cleaners, and powder cleansers for sinks. For the bathroom, include cleansers for showers and bathtubs and products to clean the toilet, along with drain openers.

Laundry Area

Check the labels on laundry detergent products for cautionary information on powder and liquid cleansers, spot removers, spray starch, and bleach.

Living Area

In areas with hardwood or laminate flooring, the polish used to clean the flooring is often considered hazardous. The same is true for upholstery, carpet, and rug cleaner. Furniture polish is also deemed hazardous.


Fleas and ticks are a year-round concern for pet owners. To avoid infestations, over-the-counter chemical-based powders and sprays are available to eliminate pests. Flea collars are also treated with chemicals and need to be handled with care.

Garage or Storage Shed

A row of bottled chemicals against a wall.

Both areas are havens for stored hazardous materials. These include fertilizer, lawn chemicals, herbicides, lighter fluid, pesticides, chemicals for a pool, lye, paint, and paint thinners. These areas may even be used to store old motor oil, which contains hydrocarbons and lead, car batteries, battery acid, turpentine, kerosene, transmission oil, brake fluid, car wax, car polish, and old tires. Antifreeze is highly toxic and lethal when consumed by pets.

Miscellaneous Products

Throughout areas of the home, you may have need for other types of hazardous products such as fire extinguishers, mothballs, and nail polish remover. Prescription drugs are also considered hazardous if taken by someone other than the patient.

While air fresheners may add a pleasing fragrance, many contain petrochemicals. When enjoying the outdoors, insect repellent is necessary, but this is also a chemical-based product. Regular batteries are necessary for many items found in the home, but they contain hazardous material such as nickel, cadmium, zinc, mercury, and manganese.


When the product container is ready to be disposed of, follow the proper instructions cited on the product label. With some products, disposal at specified collection sites or a recycling center is required. This information should be listed on the product label. Do not put products in the regular garbage or recycling bin for standard pick-up if they should be taken to designated sites.

Older Homes

If you’re buying an older home or currently living in an older home, schedule a home inspection by a licensed professional to look for hazardous materials that may be present such as lead paint, asbestos, and radon.