TikTok is ripe for cleansing inspiration (just look at our account!), But an eyebrow raising trend that has taken hold over the past year now has experts worried about the safety of social media users.
appropriately known as “product overload “ from those in the know, the trend – involving users filming themselves loading a toilet, tub or sink with copious amounts of astringent cleaning products – has become its own form of ASMR for what is known as the “CleanTok” corner of the platform. The #ProductOverload tag has amassed hundreds of millions of views since the concept started trending in early 2021.
But health experts are understanding the serious risk of participating in the trend, including similar ones Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, medical toxicologist and medical co-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 fewer cleaners involved.
“One of the problems with these TikTok videos is that you don’t see the person filming,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor, who says the masks could be involved to avoid coughing or gagging. “Just because someone mixes chemicals in a video doesn’t mean it’s safe for viewers to do it at home.”
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Additionally, health risks aren’t the only thing TikTok users need to worry about if they attempt to create “product overload” videos at home – they could inadvertently jeopardize the integrity of their plumbing, as well as impact their community’s wastewater.
“Flushing excessive amounts of mixed detergents down the drain or toilet can damage surfaces and clog plumbing,” he says. Carolyn Forteexecutive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s cleaning and home care laboratory. “Some of these videos show thick mixed product sludge that can easily settle, clog pipes and cause blockages.”
Mixing products for a product overload video doesn’t make them more effective.
Most of the TikTokers who turn to the platform for this particular cleaning trend aren’t exactly watching the process to be replicated at home. Comments on popular “product overload” videos often link it to ASMR videos as the audio associated with mixing handfuls of different cleaning liquids, powders and solutions can seem satisfying and others react to the rainbow hue these blends end up producing . But there have been some users who wonder whether cleaning their toilets, sinks or bathtubs in this way will result in better results.
“Cleaning products are best used as directed on the label and are not formulated to work in conjunction with other cleaning products,” explains Forté.
Product manufacturers are accurate in testing how the chemicals used in their products can interact with others, but Forté says deliberate over-mixing of products used in “product overload” videos is not something most could predict or to test. “Deliberately mixing cleaning products is never a good or safe idea,” he adds.
Attempting to overload the product at home can damage surfaces and plumbing.
Even if you’re just thinking of filming a TikTok-compatible “product overload” video at home, exposing your bathroom and kitchen surfaces to this trend could end up costing you, says Forté.
“Any product that is not formulated to be used in a toilet or sink should not be, after all, manufacturers perform extensive safety tests on products based on the correct dose of detergent and the recommended surfaces on which it should be used,” explains. Some of the platform’s most popular videos show users using products designed for steel sinks, for example, in a porcelain toilet alongside a dozen other products. Even a single exposure like this can blur a surface beyond your own repair.
Excessive amounts of harsh cleaners can etch, scratch and otherwise damage the surface of your device if they have been used well in the home. Why, you might ask? Most of the products featured in popular cleaning videos are designed to be used with water for dilution, Forté clarifies, so a full-strength application carries a much higher risk of damage than when someone uses the product as directed. .
There is also an inherent risk associated with the huge amount of detergents stacked in a basin above a drain.
“Flushing an excessive amount of mixed detergents down the drain or toilet can damage surfaces and clog plumbing,” he says, noting that many TikTok users document the lengths they go to when blocking a drain, which means they most likely collect water. mixture in the trash rather than attempting to empty it outright.
There is also an ecological margin for concern, with experts like Dr Johnson-Arber concerned about how that amount of chemicals and solutions could impact local community resources, especially when done regularly.
“It will take huge amounts of water to thoroughly drain these mixtures into a drain and I suspect that wastewater treatment systems may not be able to properly handle and process these crazy chemical combinations safely and completely,” he shares. Loud.
This TikTok trend poses a significant risk to users’ skin and respiratory health.
More importantly, the choice of attempting a “product overload” cleanup at home or filming one to share can pose a significant health risk; especially if you are not properly equipped with protective clothing.
“Cleaning products, including abrasive cleaning powders and all-purpose cleaners, can have very high basic pHs,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber, adding that skin irritation can be expected from direct exposure. “People should wear rubber gloves when using these products, as skin irritation can occur after use, including redness and pain or even chemical burns.”
And mixing popular cleaning products can also cause respiratory problems, even for healthy people.
“Mixing bleach and ammonia causes the release of chloramine gas, and mixing bleach and toilet cleaner can trigger the release of chlorine gas,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber. “Inhaling any of these can cause coughing, nose and throat irritation, and breathing problems; for those with asthma, COPD or lung disease, severe breathing problems can occur and can even lead to death.”
Many TikTok users don’t realize that bathrooms in particular don’t provide adequate ventilation to allow the chemical odors to dissipate, he adds. Without windows or a large open space, fumes can concentrate and increase the risk of respiratory toxicity from any gaseous byproducts when mixing chemicals.
The bottom line:
Attempting to clean using a myriad of products or filming a trendy clip of “product overload” at home can have a direct impact on your health and can also have an indirect impact on your family and community. Since TikTok has impressive range, these seemingly innocent cleaning videos can lead others to inadvertently expose themselves to dangerous gases.
“Children might see these products mixed together and think they are something that might taste good,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber, reporting that this is often the case noted by poison center officials. “Some of the cleaning products on the trend, such as Fabuloso, are troubling because they are packaged in colorful bottles that look like fruit juice.”
Mixing these cleaners together to create rainbows of color 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 products.”
“These cleaning products should be used as directed on the product label,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arber. “Unless the label says to mix with another chemical, it is best to follow the directions listed and not combine products.”
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