Household pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers


Most homes use insect repellents, fly and insect sprays, weed killers and fertilizers. These chemical agents are available in a variety of forms:

  • surface and space aerosol sprays
  • liquids
  • powders, crystals and pellets
  • herbal and organic products such as eucalyptus and tea tree oil

Fertilizers, rat poison and weedkillers are usually stored in garages or workshops, but fly sprays and insect repellents are often left within easy reach of children: under sinks, in cupboards or on benches. Chemicals may be toxic, flammable or may react violently when mixed.

Tips for Safe Chemical Storage and Use

The fire services recommend this simple safety checklist:

  • Read the label before purchasing any chemical. Understand the correct use, and the dangers posed by the chemical.
  • Choose the least dangerous product that will do the job, especially if children are present.
  • Lock chemicals in a cabinet out of the reach of children. Children are curious, inventive and good climbers.
  • Seal chemicals in their original containers.
  • Do not reuse empty containers or repack product in different containers.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Handle with extreme caution.
  • Use recommended protective equipment: gloves, safety goggles, trousers and long-sleeved shirts are a minimum. Ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Stop using immediately if you notice any reaction: skin rash, headache, breathing problems, nausea, eye or nose irritation, etc
  • Do not mix chemicals.
  • Do not prepare more chemical than you need for the job.
  • Do not pour chemicals down the drain, the toilet or the gutter.


  • Have you inspected your chemical storage areas and container seals recently?
  • Have you contacted your local council to discard old or leftover chemicals? (See Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW [external link])
  • Follow first-aid instructions. If skin or eyes are burnt, if chemical has been swallowed or ingested or fumes inhaled - seek immediate medical attention.
  • Remember the Poisons Information Line: 131 126

In an Emergency Call Triple Zero (000)

A collaboration of the Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire Brigade and ACT Rural Fire Service