désherbage maison
Daily life
2 min

Home-made weedkillers: never mix bleach and vinegar

Because of bans on the sale of numerous herbicides to the general public, more and more people have been choosing to make their own products. However, mixing certain ingredients such as bleach and vinegar can cause poisoning that sometimes requires hospitalisation. ANSES and the poison control centres are issuing a warning about this hazardous practice and recommend using only products bearing the words "Authorised for use in gardens".

Mixtures of inexpensive, everyday products used to replace banned herbicides

Since 2019, many herbicides have been banned from sale to the general public because of their toxicity to health and the environment, and these products have therefore disappeared from shop shelves. Deprived of the products they were accustomed to using, certain individuals have been turning to alternatives suggested on the internet. Some of these recommend the use of bleach, vinegar or hydrochloric acid, which are all inexpensive, everyday products.

A hazardous practice that can lead to hospitalisation

Combining bleach and vinegar (or another acid) releases chlorine gas, which is toxic.

While only one poisoning case was recorded by French poison control centres from 2002 to 2013, this number has risen to 203 since the ban on the use of certain herbicides by the general public came into effect in 2019. These poisonings occur mainly in late spring and early summer, when most weeding takes place.

The most frequently observed symptom was coughing, most often combined with breathing difficulties or irritation of the ear, nose or throat. Almost half of the exposure victims required medical treatment, and of the five patients admitted to hospital, three were placed in intensive care.

Use only products authorised for use in gardens

To limit the risks of poisoning, ANSES and the poison control centres recommend using only products bearing the words "Authorised for use in gardens ". These include so-called biocontrol products, products described as low-risk such as iron phosphate for slug control, and products that can be used in organic farming.