Risk level

Have you ever thought about who's responsible for our clean and fresh schools and workplaces every day? Cleaning is an out-and-out service job, and the fight against dust bunnies, stains and dirty floors involves the use of strong detergents. If you don't know how to protect yourself, there is a high risk that you will develop hand eczema.

What are the risks?

Cleaners come into contact with very strong detergents daily, some of which are also corrosive. This is particularly the case for different types of floor cleaner, polish and window cleaner. Wet hands don't help either, as contact eczema can easily result if you're not careful, and the skin becomes dry, red and flaky with cracks and blisters that itch. Nor is contact with keys and handles without its risks, as they often contain nickel, which can cause contact allergy.

Prevention and avoidance

Cleaning is a hazardous job in terms of eczema and allergies, but luckily there are ways of reducing the risk. The most important, and maybe easiest, is to protect the skin by rubbing in hand cream several times a day. Many cleaners use protective gloves, though unfortunately many gloves also irritate the skin and can cause eczema.

There are, of course, different types of cleaning work, and some are more risky than others: office cleaners are less likely to suffer from hand eczema than cleaners on industrial sites where lots of water and strong chemicals are used.

If you suffer from eczema or did so when you were little (atopic eczema), you should think twice before deciding to become a cleaner.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions or want to know more about allergy and eczema when working as a cleaner, get in touch with your school nurse or careers adviser.