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First Aid for Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning

Last updated March 2, 2018

Toilet bowl cleaners are synthetic and commercially-available solutions used in cleaning toilets. These are generally caustic in nature and may release obnoxious gases/fumes on mixing with water. Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may be through skin or eye contact or following an ingestion of the chemical.


What is Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

  • Toilet bowl cleaners are synthetic and commercially-available solutions used in cleaning toilets. These are generally caustic in nature and may release obnoxious gases/fumes on mixing with water
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of any product containing the compound. The exposure may be through skin or eye contact or following an ingestion of the chemical
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner Toxicity
  • Toilet Cleaner Poisoning
  • Water Closet Cleaner Poisoning

What are the Causes of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of toilet bowl cleaner (liquid). The exposure may also be through direct skin or eye contact
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Inhalation of the toilet bowl cleaner vapors may lead to respiratory problems
  • The poisonous and corrosive ingredients present in these liquids may include, carbolic acid, isopropyl alcohol, sodium bisulfate, ammonium chloride, di-chlorobenzine, hydrochloric acid, among others

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the digestive system, respiratory system, vascular system, nervous system, urinary system, skin and ENT may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning may include:

  • Severe burning and associated pain in the mouth, throat, and food-pipe; this may affect the eyes, nose, and ears also
  • Severe skin irritation and burns (perforations on the skin may be observed)
  • Respiratory difficulties, which may be severe if the chemical is inhaled; wheezing
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting (blood in vomit may be seen)
  • Bloody stools
  • Stomach and abdominal pain that may be severe and cramping
  • Vision loss
  • Suddenly reduced blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Seizures
  • Severe changes in blood pH value affecting many parts of the body and organs
  • Collapse and coma

How is First Aid administered for Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number immediately, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give milk to drink (if instructed by the healthcare professional)
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the compound bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate and seizures
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Following this, a suitable skin or eye ointment may be used to treat the exposure
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

First aid for Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning is dependent on the amount and type of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms, with appropriate medication and early support, the outcome is generally good
  • In case of severe symptoms including severe burns, seizures, and coma, it may considerably worsen the outcome. Eye injuries may be severe resulting in blindness, due to exposure of the substance to the eye
  • Ingesting toilet bowl cleaners can result in long-term damage to the mouth and food-pipe; the chemical has the potential to continue causing damage (via bleeding and infection) to the affected region, even after exposure is ceased

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning be Prevented?

Toilet Bowl Cleaner Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household chemical products
  • Keeping any poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • Using appropriate protective wear when working with such chemicals
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 3, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018