TikTok is full of cleanup inspiration (just look at our own account!), but one shocking trend that’s been gaining momentum over the past year has experts worried about the safety of social media users.
Accordingly known as “product overload” According to those in the know, the trend, where users film themselves filling a toilet, bathtub or sink with copious amounts of astringent cleaning products, has become its own form of ASMR for the so-called “CleanTok” corner of the platform. The #ProductOverload tag has garnered hundreds of millions of views since the concept first became popular in early 2021.
But health experts are aware of the serious risks associated with this trend, including Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, medical toxicologist and medical director of the National Capital Toxicological Center. Dr. Johnson-Arbor says poison control officers get many calls every day about adverse reactions to mixing chemicals in a similar way, often innocently and with fewer cleaners.
“One of the problems with these TikTok videos is that you can’t see the person filming,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor, who says masks can be used to avoid coughing or vomiting. “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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Also, health risks aren’t the only things TikTok users have to worry about if they try to recreate the “product overload” video at home — they could inadvertently compromise the integrity of their plumbing, as well as affect their community’s wastewater.
“Flushing excessive amounts of mixed detergents down the drain or toilet can damage surfaces and clog plumbing,” says Caroline ForteCEO laboratory of home care and cleaning of the Institute of Good Management. “Some of these videos show a thick sludge of mixed products that can easily settle, clog pipes and cause blockages.”
Mixing products for product overload videos does not make them more effective.
Most TikTokers who turn to the platform for this particular cleaning trend aren’t too keen on replicating the process at home. Comments on the most popular product overload videos often associate it with ASMR videos, as the audio of mixing different cleaning liquids, powders, and solutions can sound satisfying, while others react to the iridescent hue that these mixtures create as a result. . But there are some users who wonder if cleaning their own toilets, sinks or bathtubs this way will lead to better results.
“Cleansers are best used as directed on the label, not to work in conjunction with other cleaners,” explains Forte.
Product manufacturers carefully check how the chemicals used in their products might interact with others, but Forte says the intentional over-mixing of products used in the “food overload” video is something most can’t predict or verify. “Intentionally mixing cleaning products is never a good or safe idea,” she adds.
Trying to overload the product at home can ruin your surfaces and plumbing.
Even if you’re just thinking about making a TikTok product overload video at home, subjecting your bathroom and kitchen surfaces to the trend could end up costing you, Forte says.
“Any product that isn’t intended for use in a toilet or sink should not be used—after all, manufacturers do extensive product safety testing based on the correct dosage of detergent and the recommended surfaces it should be used on,” she explains. Some of the platform’s most popular videos show users using products designed for steel sinks, such as a porcelain toilet, along with a dozen other products. Even just one such exposure can tarnish the surface beyond repair.
Excessive amounts of harsh cleaners can corrode, scratch and otherwise damage the surface of your light fixture if they have been used well in your home. You may ask why? Forte clarifies that most of the products featured in popular cleaning videos are meant to be used with water to dilute, so a full application poses a much greater risk of damage compared to using the product as directed.
There is also an inherent risk associated with a huge amount of detergents piled up in the basin above the drain.
“Flushing excessive amounts of mixed detergent down the drain or toilet can damage surfaces and clog your plumbing,” she says, noting that many TikTok users document the lengths they go to to block drains, meaning they’re more likely to run out of the mixture. into the trash rather than trying to throw it away.
There is also some environmental concern, with experts like Dr. Johnson-Arber concerned about how this amount of chemicals and solutions could affect local community resources, especially if done regularly.
“It would take a tremendous amount of water to thoroughly flush these mixtures down the drain, and I suspect that wastewater treatment systems may not be able to adequately process such crazy combinations of chemicals in a safe and thorough manner,” shares Forte.
This TikTok trend poses a significant risk to the skin and respiratory health of users.
Most importantly, trying to clean the house with “overloaded product” or remove it to share can lead to a significant risk to your health; especially if you don’t have the proper protective gear.
“Cleansers, including abrasive cleaning powders and all-purpose cleaners, can have a very high basic pH,” 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 including redness and pain or even chemical burns may occur after use.”
Mixing popular detergents can also cause respiratory problems even in healthy people.
“Mixing bleach and ammonia releases chloramine gas, and mixing bleach and toilet cleaner can release chlorine gas,” Dr. Johnson-Arber tells us. “Inhalation of any of these can cause coughing, nose and throat irritation and breathing problems; those with asthma, COPD, or lung disease can have serious breathing problems and even death.”
What many TikTok users don’t realize is that bathrooms don’t provide adequate ventilation to allow chemical odors to dissipate, she adds. Without windows or a large open space, fumes can concentrate and increase the risk of respiratory toxicity from any gaseous byproduct when mixing chemicals.
Trying to clean with a lot of food or making a fashion video about food overload at home can directly affect your health, but also indirectly affect your family and community. Because of TikTok’s impressive reach, these seemingly innocent cleaning videos can lead to others being inadvertently exposed to hazardous gases.
“Kids can see these foods mixed together and think it’s something that might taste good,” says Dr. Johnson-Arber, noting that it’s often noticed by poison control workers. “Some trendy cleansers like Fabuloso are worrying because they come in colorful bottles that look like juice.”
Mixing these cleaning products together to create a rainbow of colors for your social media feeds can reinforce the idea that children can play with them or consume them, “which is exactly what we don’t want kids to do with cleaning products.”
“These cleansers are meant to be used as directed on the product label,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arber. “Unless the label says to mix with another chemical, it’s best to follow the directions as listed and not mix the products.”
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