From relatively harmless compounds such as sodium bicarbonate to toxic reagents like sulphuric acid, our homes contain a variety of common chemicals. These chemicals are often found in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or shed.
When people think about common chemicals at home, most only consider those that are classified as compounds (mostly inorganic) and/or have some commercial value. However, if you follow these criteria then – technically speaking at least – the most common household chemicals include inorganic compounds such as sodium chloride (table salt) and sucrose (sugar).
Some of the other common chemicals that are found within the home include the following:
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Sodium fluoride
- Hydrochloric acid
- Ethylene glycol
- Sulphuric acid
- Phosphoric acid
Read on to learn more about common household chemicals, what they’re used for and how to handle them safely.
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How common is it to find chemicals in the home?
Chemical compounds that have commercial value are ubiquitous in most homes. Some of these chemicals, such as those present in dried paint and tap water, only exist in trace amounts. Others (typically those in bottles and containers) are present in much bigger quantities.
The average garage or shed, for example, is usually home to large amounts of chemical-based products like paint, paint thinners, lacquer varnish, epoxies, engine oil, fuel, denatured alcohol, bleach, and muriatic acid. These types of chemical products tend to be stored in glass bottles, plastic jugs, sealable buckets, metal cans, and barrels.
Many common chemicals or chemical compounds are also found in the kitchen. Sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate, for instance, are regularly used in cooking. While these types of chemicals are generally considered non-toxic, a few of the chemicals we use – particularly those found in cleaning products – are highly corrosive and poisonous.
Common chemicals found at home
Most of the common chemicals found at home are usually present in food ingredients or additives, cleaning agents, medicines, hygiene and cosmetic products, insect repellents, and DIY products.
Although many of these chemicals are intentionally added for a specific purpose, others are incidental contaminants that are present in water, food, and other products we use. Below are some examples of the most common chemicals found at home.
1. Sodium bicarbonate
Otherwise known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate has the chemical formula NaHCO₃. Most people usually have baking soda in their kitchen cupboard or pantry. Even those that don’t might have a fire extinguisher that contains sodium bicarbonate. Bread, rolls, biscuits, and other baked goods also contain baking soda.
2. Sodium fluoride
Ethanol (C₂H₅OH) is the only alcohol that’s not poisonous to humans – even at high concentrations. It’s the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, rum, gin, and whisky. Since prehistoric times, humans have been synthesising ethanol through the process of fermentation, using fruits and crops with a high carbohydrate or sugar content.
Sucrose, which has the chemical formula C12H22O11, is composed of glucose and fructose subunits. It’s purified from sugar cane and sugar beets for industrial production purposes. Sucrose (or sugar) is a common ingredient in sweets, chocolate, cake, carbonated drinks, powdered milk, and fruit juice.
5. Hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid (HCI) is a strong acid solution in water. It’s typically sold either as laboratory-grade acid or as a cleaning agent (muriatic acid). As a cleaning agent, hydrochloric acid is used to clean toilet bowls and bathroom tiles.
6. Aluminium chlorohydrate
Also known as alum, aluminium chlorohydrate is actually a group of aluminium salts. The most common variety has the chemical formula Al2Cl(OH)5. Aluminium chlorohydrate has strong hygroscopic properties, which means it readily absorbs moisture. As a result, it’s often used as an active ingredient in antiperspirant and deodorant products.
An organic compound, acetone (C3H6O) is commonly used as a nail polish remover. It has a pungent odour and is highly flammable. Trace amounts of acetone are also found in some cosmetic products.
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a chemical compound that exists in polymer form. It has the general formula (C2F4)n. Polytetrafluoroethylene is commonly used as a thin, non-stick coating for cookware like frying pans.
9. Ethylene glycol
10. Calcium carbonate
Marble is a metamorphic rock that’s mainly composed of calcium carbonate – a mineral with the chemical formula CaCO3. Marble is commonly used for kitchen countertops and floor tiles.
Formaldehyde is a colourless organic compound with the chemical formula CH2O. Although it’s generally safe at very low levels, it can be very toxic at high concentrations. A common preservative, formaldehyde is used in many household products, such as air fresheners.
12. Sulphuric acid
Sulphuric acid (H2SO4) is a universal industrial reagent and solvent. It’s commonly used as an active ingredient in drain cleaners because it can dissolve both organic and inorganic dirt. Learn more about sulphuric acid in everyday life here.
13. Phosphoric acid
Monoethanolamine (HOCH₂CH₂NH) is the common name for ethanolamine. It contains both primary amine and primary alcohol as functional groups. Monoethanolamine’s bifunctional properties make it an ideal cleaning agent for ovens, removing both grease and inorganic salts.
How to stay safe while using chemicals
Some of the chemicals commonly found in your home are toxic or poisonous, while others are highly corrosive and flammable. A few even have carcinogenic properties. That being said, many household chemicals are generally harmless when used correctly.
As with any kind of chemical, you should always read the label and safety instructions beforehand. When handling highly corrosive and noxious chemicals, make sure you wear protective clothing such as gloves, breathing apparatus, and goggles.
Our homes contain many different chemicals, ranging from relatively harmless compounds to toxic reagents. These common household chemicals are typically found in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or shed. Precautions should always be taken when handling chemicals – always read the label and keep chemicals out of reach of children.
The blog on chemicals.co.uk and everything published on it is provided as an information resource only. The blog, its authors and affiliates accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from following the information provided on this website. We do not recommend using any chemical without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet which can be obtained from the manufacturer and following the safety advice and precautions on the product label. If you are in any doubt about health and safety issues please consult the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).