A 'mesmerizing' TikTok trend of mixing cleaning chemicals could be harmful for the environment and potentially dangerous, experts warn

A 'mesmerizing' TikTok trend of mixing cleaning chemicals could be harmful for the environment and potentially dangerous, experts warn
"Product overload" TikTok videos have been viewed over 700 million times.Tara Rodberg/Getty
  • A TikTok trend known as "product overload" is huge on the app, with more than 700 million views.
  • It involves mixing cleaning chemicals in sinks and toilets to achieve "mesmerizing" visual results.

Over the past year, videos that involve dumping a number of household cleaning products into toilets, baths, or sinks have developed into a hugely popular TikTok genre known as #productoverload, a tag with 700 million views.

These clips typically feature brightly colored mixtures of liquid bleach, dishwashing liquid, multi-purpose cleaner, powdered bleach, fabric softener, and foaming cleaning sprays. Creators cater to the requests of loyal followers by creating mixes based on certain emojis or names and feature storytime audios created by other TikTok users, encouraging viewers to watch to the end to hear dramatic stories.

@athomewithrachael Answer to @barbiebreath.69 (1 of 2) #NissanShowUp #homewithrachael #cleantok #productoverload #overload #toiletscrubbing #mixingchemicals #asmr ♬ original sound - Rachael

A growing number of viewers find satisfaction in watching cleaning videos. On TikTok, videos featuring the tag #cleantok have been viewed over 40 billion times and led to the rise of "cleanfluencers," such as Mrs. Hinch, who shot to fame by posting cleaning hacks on Instagram, where she has over 4 million followers.

Product overload TikTokers often tend to use the #cleantok tag, too, despite the videos having little to do with housekeeping. One popular product overload TikToker is @cleaningmamabee, who has over 2 million followers and 40 million likes and says in her bio that her videos are for "ASMR purposes" only.

Commenters frequently praise the bright colors and "satisfying" nature of the videos, and claim that the sounds of spraying bottles and scrubbing surfaces prompt an autonomous sensory meridian response — known as ASMR — a sensation some people experience when hearing particular "trigger" sounds such as scratching, whispering, or the physical sensation of a soft touch.


But critics argue that the hugely popular trend may also be environmentally damaging, or in some cases, physically toxic, as creators mix multiple chemical agents with unexpected effects. Insider spoke to experts about the potential risks of product overload.

@.scrubadubdub #productoverload #cleaningtiktok #storytime #fyp #Coming2America ♬ original sound - gianna

Product overloading can reduce the effectiveness of your cleaning products and cause environmental damage

Dave Rudge is the operations manager at cleaning company REACT. He told Insider that cleaning chemicals "are designed to be effective when used in isolation and as directed, so there is no advantage of mixing them; doing so can reduce their effectiveness."

Using too many chemicals may also damage creators' toilets, sinks, and baths. Adam Leech, who owns a UK-based shower retailer, told Insider that "harmful chemicals deteriorate the enamel found on your sink, bath, and showers, leading to increased bacterial levels on the surfaces."

@cleaningmamabee Reply to @ily.chqrls0 request for #emojiclean really liked this one!! Hope you enjoy #toiletoverload #toiletscrub #cleaningasmr #amsrcleaning #asmr #asmrsounds #spongesqueezing #scrubbing #scrubbingasmr #cleaningtherapy4u #cleantok #cleaningtiktok #oddlysatisfying #satisfyingcleans #satisfying #xyzbca #fypシ゚viral #fypシ #fyp #foryoupage #foryou #productoverload #spongesqueezingasmr #asmrtingles #cleaning #clean #scrubdaddy #mixingchemicals #scrub #asmrtiktoks #stress #relief #fyyyy ♬ original sound - Cleaning Mama Bee

But a more significant concern around the trend is how people dispose of the vast quantity of products they're using to create these videos and their environmental impact.

Dr. Deborah Brosnan is a DC-based marine resilience specialist with over 25 years of experience in the field. Brosnan explained how the many compounds mixed in the product overload videos could lead to the disruption of marine life.


For Brosnan, the most concerning compound used in this trend is chlorine-based bleach. That's because purifying systems in the waterways "can't fully extract the bleach, leaving it to be sent out to the oceans," she told Insider.

"When dumped in water, chlorine in bleach reacts with other chemicals and causes the formation of dioxins which are harmful to human health and wildlife. Studies indicate that they contribute to the lowering of bird and fish populations," she said, adding that once in the marine environment, these dioxins take years to break down.

Richard Leigh, campaign manager at Unblocktober, the UK's month-long campaign to protect the drains and waterways, calls the product overload trend "alarming" and "dangerous."

A post shared by Unblocktober (@unblocktober)

Leigh, who has over 15 years of experience in the wastewater industry, told Insider, "The amount of product used in a single one of these videos is more than many households would be using over six months." That's especially noteworthy, given that many creators post multiple product overload videos daily.

He said phosphates, found at varying levels in different cleaning products, can cause eutrophication and "upset the balance of nutrients in rivers and streams, ultimately depleting aquatic oxygen supplies and altering the ecosystem." As a result, marine and plant life can suffocate.


Leigh urges product overload fans and creators to be aware of causing "unnecessary harm to the environment" and be "mindful of the products they use when cleaning."

Fellow creators are calling out product overload videos, while experts warn of the dangers of the trend

Jennifer Needham, who goes by @cleanwithjen on TikTok, uses her platform to educate her 1 million followers on the best ways to use cleaning products. After seeing several product overload clips on the app, she posted a video saying she was concerned that the "satisfying" videos are "dangerous" and "really can hurt people."

@cleanwithjen #stitch with @organised___chaos ✍️ DO ✍️ NOT✍️MIX✍️CLEANING✍️CHEMICALS #cleanwithjen #safecleaning #tidytok ♬ original sound - Clean With Jen

Needham told Insider she created the video because her "comments and DMs show there isn't an awareness of how dangerous using multiple cleaning products can be."

And while there have been no reports of fatalities linked explicitly to this trend, mixing cleaning chemicals has proven fatal in the past.

Bleach is a particularly hazardous chemical to mix. Bleach is comprised of highly reactive chemicals that make it effective at killing bacteria and viruses, chemist Alexander Lu of the Dong Research Group at the University of California, Irvine, told Insider's Ashley Laderer. Its high reactivity is also what makes it respond to other chemicals, which can result in the creation of toxic gases and compounds.


Giulia Guerrini, a pharmacist at Medino Digital Pharmacy in London, told Insider that "many cleaning products include already-toxic chemicals that, when mixed, can be lethal when ingested or inhaled."

"Mixing cleaning products is something that you should never, ever, ever do, no matter how 'pretty' or 'mesmerizing' it looks," Guerrini said.

For more stories like this, check out Insider's Digital Culture team coverage here.