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The Poisons in Your Garage and Shed

Garage chemicals on shelf
Photo Credit: Utah Poison Control Center
Blue look a like products showing you can't tell blue liquids apart when not labeled
Photo Courtesy of Upstate New York Poison Center

If you or a loved one is exposed to a product discussed in this article, call the Utah Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for quick, free, and confidential help.

Spring is finally here with summer not too far away. This means that garages and sheds may be open for yard work and play. How does this affect you and your loved ones? It increases the risk of exposure to dangerous things stored in these areas such as car products, fertilizer, and pesticides. Poison exposures to these products is unfortunately very common. In 2022 alone, the Utah Poison Control Center handled over 1,500 calls of people who were exposed to car products, fertilizers, or pesticides.

Read on for information about products commonly stored in garages or sheds. Call the poison control center right away for exposure to any of these products as some can be deadly even small amounts. Our medically trained specialists will help you know what to do next based on your situation.

Car Products

There are many different types of car products available. Products used for the inside of the car (carpet shampoos, air fresheners) are generally less dangerous compared to products used under the hood (windshield wiper fluid, coolant). Some of these products can be toxic in very small amounts and can even be dangerous if they get on your skin. Here are some examples:



Poisonous Effects


In the mouth

Kidney damage, possibly death

Motor Oil

In the mouth

Mouth irritation, diarrhea


On the skin

Skin irritation, redness


In the mouth

Lung damage if inhaled

Wheel Cleaner

In the mouth or  on the skin

Burns/irritates your skin, heart problems, possibly death

Windshield Wiper Fluid

In the mouth

Blindness, possibly death








Fertilizers are products used to help plants grow big and lush. The majority of outdoor fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Occasionally, these products will also contain iron, copper, zinc, or ammonia. In small taste amounts (a few granules), most people have mild mouth irritation and do not need to go to the hospital. In larger amounts, people are at risk of electrolyte imbalance and methemoglobinemia. Severe electrolyte imbalance can cause heart problems and seizures. Methemoglobinemia means your blood can no longer transport oxygen very well to your organs. Both can be life-threatening.


Herbicides are products used to kill invasive plants and weeds. Herbicides accessible in the United States are generally much less toxic compared to other pesticides, though there are exceptions. Less-concerning herbicides may cause some mouth and skin irritation in small amounts and perhaps an upset stomach and vomiting in larger amounts. More dangerous herbicides not only cause an upset stomach but make it hard to breath, cause kidney and liver failure, and can even be deadly.


Insecticides are products used to kill insects such as cockroaches, ants, and wasps. The majority of household insecticides contain either boric acid or pyrethroids which may cause some mouth or skin irritation and an upset stomach. However, certain products can be dangerous even in small amounts. These insecticides can make you very sleepy, make it hard to breath, slow your heartbeat, and can be life-threatening.


Rodenticides are products used to kill rodents such as mice, rats, and gophers. They are often made into small pellets or blocks to be left out in either the home or the garden for rodents to find. Unfortunately, this makes the products very accessible to children and pets. Though newer rodenticides are generally safer, many products are still very concerning in tiny amounts. Depending on the rodenticide, symptoms of exposure may include bleeding more easily, having painful and severe muscle contractions, breathing difficulties, heart problems, and possibly death.

5 Tips for Staying Safe
  • Never leave a product unattended where a child or pet could get into it.
  • Keep harmful products locked up and away when not in use.
  • Store products in their original container. Products stored in other containers can be mistaken for common beverages such as sports drinks or soda.
  • Always discard old and unused products safely. Contact your local health department or state department of environmental quality for guidance on appropriate disposal techniques.
  • If you or a loved one is exposed to any of these products, call the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately for quick, free, and confidential help from a trained medical professional.
Author: Joseph E. Lambson, PharmD, Clinical Toxicology Fellow, Utah Poison Control Center