Ammonia cleans floors, microwaves, and ovens with burned-on food. But is it the best way to go when cleaning your home?
Ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, is often touted as a "natural cleaner," but this is one instance when natural isn't always best. Ammonia is known for its very pungent odor. The smell alone can be overpowering, and your eyes may begin to tear up as soon as you smell it, even in the low concentrations that are usually reserved for household cleaning. It's that strong. Many people get turned off by the smell and wonder how something that stinks so heavily can clean so effectively.
But ammonia is an effective cleaner and, when handled correctly, it's safe.
Never mix ammonia into any liquid that includes bleach because it could generate a poisonous gas.
Here are the many advantages, tips, and some pitfalls when cleaning with ammonia.
What to Use Ammonia Cleaner For
You can use ammonia effectively to clean surfaces, glass, fabrics, and tough baked-in food grime. It is an inexpensive cleaner compared to brand-name cleaners.
- Surface cleaner: Commonly used as a surface cleaner for tubs, sinks, toilets, countertops, and tiles
- Breaks down oils and stains: Can cut through grime or stains from animal fats, vegetable oils, cooking grease, and wine stains on surfaces, fabrics, upholstery, and carpets
- Glass cleaner: Evaporates quickly; avoids streaking when cleaning windows, mirrors, and crystal
- Heavy-duty cleaning power: One of many methods used to clean microwaves and electric ovens; loosens caked-on food particles
- Jewelry cleaner: Jewelry cleaning soak good for gold, silver, platinum, or diamond jewelry (not safe for pearls or other gemstones)
Tips for Cleaning With Ammonia
These handy tips can help you save money and keep you safe when using this potent ingredient.
- Always read the instructions on the bottle carefully: Use and store safely. Dilute ammonia correctly. Learn how to handle an ammonia accident.
- Use gloves when using it: Skin contact with ammonia can cause redness, pain, irritation, and burns.
- Glass cleaner formula: Make an ammonia solution (5 percent to 10 percent by weight) by mixing 1 tablespoon of clear ammonia with 2 cups water in a spray bottle. Spritz it on and wipe it dry immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth.
- Oven cleaning formula: To clean your electric oven with ammonia, warm the oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit while boiling a pot of water. Open the windows to ventilate the area. Put 1/2 cup of ammonia into an oven-safe, non-reactive bowl on the top shelf and put the container of boiling water on the shelf beneath it. Shut the door and let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. After the time has elapsed, open the oven door and let it ventilate for an hour before using a sponge, warm water, and dish soap to wipe away the loosened food particles. If you must use this method on your gas oven, make sure that the pilot light and gas lines are turned off.
- Use in the laundry for regular stains: Soak stubborn stains on cotton, polyester, or nylon fabrics with a solution of 2/3 cup clear ammonia, 2/3 cup dish soap, 6 tablespoons of baking soda, and 2 cups warm water. Let it soak for about 30 minutes, then launder as usual. Never use ammonia on wool or silk. Never mix with bleach.
- Use in the laundry for blood or grass stains: Pretreat with a solution of one-part ammonia to one-part warm water on cotton, polyester, or nylon fabrics.
What Not to Do With Ammonia
Keep ammonia safely out of reach of children; it can be dangerous if inhaled in high concentrations. If swallowed, it can be corrosive and cause injury to the mouth, throat, and stomach. It is a common skin and eye irritant, so use gloves and protect your eyes when cleaning with it.
- If used for laundry, never mix it with bleach, and do not use it on silk or wool fabrics; it can eat away at the natural fibers.
- Never use it on gemstone or pearls; it can break down the natural finish.
- Don't use ammonia as a floor cleaner for no-wax floors. Over time, the ammonia can cause damage to the floors.
- Avoid using ammonia as an oven cleaner for gas ovens. The combination of ammonia gas and a live flame might ignite and pose a hazard.
Ammonia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach After an Emergency. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.