Cleaning Product Symbols

Cleaning product symbols also referred to as hazard pictograms alert us to the presence of a hazardous chemical.  The pictograms help us to know that the chemicals we are using might cause harm to people or the environment.

According to OSHA,

“As of June 1, 2015, the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will require pictograms on labels to alert users of the chemical hazards to which they may be exposed. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s). The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification.”

essential oils for sensitive skin


According to Princeton University Environmental Health Safety,

Hazard symbols have come a long way from the rudimentary drawings used to designate poison in the early 1800s.

As a result of updated OSHA chemical labeling requirements, 2016 marks the first full year of adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in the U.S.

The GHS system, part of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), consists of nine symbols, or pictograms, providing recognition of the hazards associated with certain substances. Use of eight of the nine are mandatory in the U.S., the exception being the environmental pictogram.

Each pictogram covers a specific type of hazard and is designed to be immediately recognizable to anyone handling hazardous material.

In addition to pictograms, labels are required to include a signal word (“danger” or “warning”), a brief hazard statement and a precautionary statement outlining ways to prevent exposure.




Cleaning product symbols

CLP hazard pictograms

CorrosiveExplosive (Symbol: exploding bomb). This symbol is used on products that have the potential to explode.

FlammableFlammable (Symbol: flame). This symbol is used if the product is flammable. It is also used if there is concern for self heating or if the product can emit flammable gas.

OxidisingOxidizing (Symbol: flame over circle). According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 

“Oxidizing materials are liquids or solids that readily give off oxygen or other oxidizing substances (such as bromine, chlorine, or fluorine). They also include materials that react chemically to oxidize combustible (burnable) materials; this means that oxygen combines chemically with the other material in a way that increases the chance of a fire or explosion. This reaction may be spontaneous at either room temperature or may occur under slight heating. Oxidizing liquids and solids can be severe fire and explosion hazards.”

CorrosiveCorrosive (Symbol: Corrosion). This symbol is used for products that contain ingredients that are caustic to the skin and eyes. These ingredients may also breakdown metal.

ToxicAcute toxicity (Symbol: Skull and crossbones). This means that the product is toxic and can be deadly.

Environmentally damagingHazardous to the environment (Symbol: Dead tree and fish). This symbol is used if there is concern for the environment. Some ingredients may not harm us but they wash down the rain and make their way into lakes and streams where they can damage wildlife.


Health hazardSerious health hazard. This symbol is used if the products  contain ingredients known to be carcinogenic. It can also be used if there are concerns for cellular changes also referred to as mutagenicity. These products may cause lung irritation, organ toxicity and reproductive concerns.


Compressed gasGas under pressure (Symbol: Gas cylinder). This symbol is used for gas that is under pressure.


cleaning product symbolsExclamation point is used for skin irritants, toxic chemicals, narcotic effects and organ damage. This symbol is also used if there are concerns for the ozone layer.

Source Health and Safety Executive UK and OSHA

Do you think OSHA should add cleaning product symbols?


Spread the love