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Staying safe with household chemicals

coloured bottles

Garden sprays, cleaning products, fuels and even cosmetics can all be dangerous if they are not used or stored carefully. The Environmental Protection Authority has some rules and tips that will help you protect yourself, others, and the environment when using these sorts of products in and around your home.

For more advice call The Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766.

If a person is not breathing or is unconscious, call 111 immediately.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Hazardous Substances Report 2016

Each year we report data on incidents involving hazardous substances. 


Read this year's report [pdf, 879kb]​

H​azardous substances in your home

Many of the household chemicals you use every day are considered ‘hazardous substances’. It’s a term that covers many everyday products that have one thing in common: they can cause harm to you or the environment, or both. Some common hazardous substances are:

  • Household cleaners
  • Garden products
  • Cosmetics
  • Fuels, such as LPG for barbeques and petrol stored for lawnmowers
  • Paints and paint thinners or solvents
  • Spa and pool chemicals
  • Poisons for pest animals
  • Pet products like flea and mite treatments

These products do not have to be labelled with the word ‘hazardous substance’, but will have special instructions on their label to warn you of risks and tell you how to stay safe. 

  • You can download our Safety begins at home poster

Take special care to protect children

Children are naturally curious, and don’t understand the dangers from hazardous substances such as cleaning products, garden sprays, cosmetics and paints. It is impossible for little children to tell the difference between something that is safe and something that could really hurt them.

Start by reading the label

check the label

You can find the best information for how to use, store and get rid of a product safely by looking at the label. Here you will find the special warnings and instructions that will let you know how to use and store these products safely.

Store all your hazardous substances safely

You can make your home safer by making sure all your hazardous substances are stored safely. Remember, many products we feel comfortable using every day are considered ‘hazardous substances’ – from children’s crayons to dishwashing liquid – so check the label if you’re unsure.

Dispose of used containers and old products carefully

pile of rubbish

The way you dispose of products when you’re done with them is important. You should read the instructions on the label to make sure you understand any special steps you need to take to protect yourself, others, and the environment. We also have some tips and advice to help you stay safe.

Find out how to safely use and store common products

Protect yourself, your family and friends, and the environment by taking some simple steps to reduce the risks posed by some common hazardous products.

Household cleaners

Dishwasher powder, bleach and detergents are common in New Zealand homes. Never mix cleaning products.

Gardening products

Weed-killers, pest sprays and fertilizers should all be handled with care.


Petrol is something we use often, but even its fumes can be deadly. Never smoke around petrol.

Cosmetics and toiletries

Sunscreen, hair dye, toothpaste, deodorants and soaps are all ‘hazardous substances’.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)

LPG is used to fire barbeques and heat homes. Take steps to stay safe with this gas.

Poisons for pest animals

Rats, mice and other animals can be pests. Learn how to control them safely.

Paints and thinners

Paint and painting products can catch fire easily, and are often poisonous. Learn how to stay safe.


Spray paint, air freshener and deodorant are sold in aerosol cans, and need special care.

Pet products

Flea, worm and mite treatments are helpful for pets, but never use them on humans.

Painting boats

Antifouling paints keep plants and animals off your boat. You must contain paint spray and scrapings.


Fireworks are popular for Guy Fawke’s. Be careful to prevent burns and fires.

Spa and pool chemicals

The chemicals you use to keep your water safe and clean can be dangerous.

Face paints

We've got some tips to keep your kids safe when buying and using face paints.

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