TikTok’s “product overload” trend is dangerous, according to cleaning experts

TikTok’s “product overload” trend is dangerous, according to cleaning experts

TikTok is full of cleaning inspiration (just check out our own account!), but an eyebrow-raising trend that has been gaining momentum in the last year is now having experts worried about the safety of social media make users.

Aptly known as “product overload” According to those in the know, the trend — with users filming themselves loading a toilet, bathtub, or sink with copious amounts of astringent detergent — has become a proprietary form of ASMR for the platform’s so-called “CleanTok” corner. The #ProductOverload tag has garnered hundreds of millions of views since the concept first trended in early 2021.

But health experts recognize the serious risk involved in participating in this trend, including those Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center. dr Johnson-Arbor says poison control officials get many calls every day about adverse reactions to mixing chemicals in similar ways, often innocently and with less questionable cleaning supplies.

“One of the problems with these TikTok videos is that you don’t see the person filming,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor saying masks could be involved to avoid coughing or choking. “Just because someone puts chemicals in a video doesn’t mean it’s safe for viewers to do it at home.”

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Plus, health risks aren’t the only thing TikTok users need to worry about when attempting “product overload” videos at home – they can inadvertently compromise the integrity of their plumbing and impact their community’s wastewater.

“Flushing excessive amounts of mixed detergents down the drain or toilet can damage surfaces and clog plumbing,” he says Caroline ForteManaging Director of the Home Care & Cleaning Lab of the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Some of these videos show thick sludges of mixed products that can easily settle, clog pipes and cause clogs.”

Mixing products for a product overload video doesn’t make them more effective.

Most TikTokers who turn to the platform for this particular cleaning trend don’t exactly have the process in mind to replicate at home. Comments on the most popular “product overload” videos often refer to ASMR videos, as the tone involved in mixing handfuls of different cleaning liquids, powders and solutions can seem satisfying – and others react to the rainbow-like hue, which these mixtures produce in the end. However, there are some users who wonder if cleaning their own toilet, sink or bathtub in this way will give better results.

“Cleaning products are best used as directed on the label and are not formulated to work in combination with other cleaning products,” explains Forté.

Product manufacturers test very carefully how chemicals used in their products may interact with others, but Forté says deliberate overmixing of products used in “product overload” videos isn’t something most anticipate or test could. “Intentionally mixing detergents is never a good or safe idea,” she adds.

Attempting to attempt product overload at home can wreak havoc on your finishes and plumbing.

Even if you’re just thinking about shooting a TikTok-friendly “product overload” video at home, exposing your bathroom and kitchen surfaces to this trend can end up costing you, Forté says.

“Any product that isn’t formulated for use in a toilet or sink shouldn’t be – after all, manufacturers do extensive safety testing on products based on the right dose of cleaner and the recommended surfaces it’s used on.” should be,” she explains. Some of the platform’s most popular videos feature users using products intended for steel sinks, such as in a porcelain toilet bowl alongside a dozen other products. Even a single exposure like this can tarnish a surface beyond repair.

Excessive amounts of harsh cleaners can etch, scratch and otherwise damage the finish of your light fixture if they have been used extensively in your home. Why, you might ask? A majority of the products featured in popular cleaning videos are designed to be used with water to dilute, Forté clarifies — so using it at full strength poses a much higher risk of damage than someone using the product as directed .

There is also an inherent risk associated with the sheer volume of cleaning supplies being stacked in a basin over a drain.

“Flushing an excessive amount of mixed cleaning supplies down the drain or into your toilet can damage surfaces and clog your lines,” she says, noting that many TikTok users document the troubles they go through if they’re blocking a drain – which means they’re most likely scooping the mixture out into the trash rather than trying to flush it right away.

There is also some environmental concern, as experts like Dr. Johnson-Arber are concerned about how this volume of chemicals and solutions could impact local community resources — especially if done on a regular basis.

“It takes massive amounts of water to thoroughly flush these mixtures down a drain, and I suspect that wastewater treatment systems may not be able to adequately handle and process such crazy combinations of chemicals in a safe and thorough manner,” shares Forte with.

This TikTok trend poses a significant risk to users’ skin and respiratory health.

Most importantly, the decision to either attempt a “product overload” clean in your home or film one to share can result in significant risk to your health. especially if you are not properly equipped with protective gear.

“Cleaning products — including scouring powders and all-purpose cleaners — can have very high, alkaline pH levels,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber, adding that direct exposure should be expected to cause skin irritation. “People should wear rubber gloves when using these products as skin irritation, including redness and pain or even chemical burns, may occur after use.”

And mixing popular cleaning products can cause respiratory problems, even in healthy individuals.

“Mixing bleach and ammonia causes release of chloramine gas, and mixing bleach and toilet cleaner can trigger release of chlorine gas,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber. “Inhaling either can cause coughing, irritation of the nose and throat, and difficulty breathing; people with asthma, COPD or lung disease can develop serious respiratory problems and even death.”

What many TikTok users don’t realize is that bathrooms in particular don’t have adequate ventilation for chemical odors to dissipate, she adds. Without windows or a large open space, vapors can concentrate and increase the risk of respiratory toxicity from gas byproducts of chemical mixing.

The bottom line:

Attempting to cleanse with a variety of products or filming a trending “product overload” clip at home can have a direct impact on your health — and possibly indirectly on your family and loved ones as well. Since TikTok has an impressive reach, these seemingly innocent cleaning videos can lead to accidental exposure of others to dangerous gases.

“Kids might see these products being mixed together and think they’re something that might taste good,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber and reports that this is a common occurrence that has been noted by poison control center officials. “Some of the trending cleaning products, like Fabuloso, are of concern because they’re packaged in brightly colored bottles that look like juice.”

Mixing these cleaning supplies together to create rainbow colors for your social media channels can reinforce the idea that kids can play with them or consume them, “which is exactly what we don’t want kids to do with cleaning supplies.”

“These cleaning products should be used as directed on the product label,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arber. “If the label says to mix with another chemical, it’s best to follow the directions listed and not mix any products.”

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