Why the TikTok “Product Overload” Trend Is So Dangerous
Love a good cleaning trend? Don't try this one at home. Why "product overload" is just as stupid and dangerous as it sounds.
Cleaning our homes has always been a private activity. Immediate family and pets comprise the audience, and let’s face it, that crowd’s not giving us the feedback we need. There’s the satisfaction of a job well done, but come on. It’s nice to get some external validation.
Social media figured that out quickly, and over the years a cleaning subculture emerged. One powerhouse is TikTok’s #CleanTok hashtag, which has nearly 47 billion views. Billion! If you like to clean, get tips on how to better clean or just watch people clean, this place has something for you.
But humanity is never satisfied, and the internet exploited that immediately. We’re always taking it to 11 when 10 was loud enough. The dangerous cleaning trend “product overload” is the latest example, and experts are concerned. Do not try this at home.
What Is Product Overload?
“Product overload” describes the trend perfectly: TikTokers cram their sinks, bathtubs and toilets with cleaning products. We’re talking entire bottles, and lots of them. Some of the creations are artistic, while some just look like multicolored gruel. Once the bowl is loaded, they scrub. And film. And post to TikTok.
One thing the name doesn’t help with is: Why? As with most things on the internet, it comes down to clicks.
This trend is extremely popular. The hashtag #productoverload has 735 million views, and that’s only one tag. Some videos have millions of views by themselves. In the social media world, clicks means followers, which means influencer cred and potentially, money. Tapping into this or any trend can be lucrative.
And people genuinely find watching this activity soothing. It’s not really the cleaning, but the sensory response to the visuals and sounds, aka ASMR. Product overloading specifically caters to those who experience these sensations.
Why Experts Say Product Overload Is Dangerous
Spoiler alert: Jamming pounds of Comet and gallons of Mr. Clean down your drain isn’t good for your health, your plumbing or the environment.
Product overloading can cause dangerous chemical reactions, says Michael L. Dourson, executive director of the Toxicology Education Foundation. Most cleaners are bases (like oven cleaner and bleach) or acids (like toilet bowl cleaners). They work by breaking down more neutral substances like grease and oil.
Guess what’s also on the neutral side? The human body. Mixing chemicals increases the chance you’ll create a toxic substance like chlorine gas, which had such devastating effects on soldiers in World War I that the Geneva Conventions banned it in 1925.
“If chlorine gas gets into your lungs it reacts with the lung lining, and you can basically drown in your own fluids,” says Dourson. It’s a horrible, irreversible tissue reaction.
Your home is vulnerable to damage from product overload, too.
“Older homes often have copper or steel waste piping, and harsh cleaners, even used normally, can greatly accelerate corrosion,” says Enoch Heise, a licensed journeyman plumber and training coordinator for Legacy Plumbing in Plano, Texas
When household cleaners are poured down the drain undiluted, the potential for corrosion “increases exponentially,” says Heise. Plastic pipes fare better, but the combinations of chemicals can strip the finish off fixtures and hardware.
Finally, this trend is wasteful and terrible for the environment. These cleaners last months with regular use. Instead, they’re being dumped down the drain in 30 seconds for entertainment. Excess plastic bottles end up in a landfill or the ocean. And chemicals make their way into our waterways, affecting marine life for generations.
Cleaning Trends To Try Instead
Product overloading may be a terrible idea, but lots of cleaning trends actually work. Many methods that go back decades or more have been reintroduced to today’s online audience.
Instead of wasting money and natural resources, jeopardizing your health and your home’s pipes, try these cleaning hacks the next time you feel the need to clean.
Baking soda and vinegar to unclog a drain
If you made an erupting papier-mâché volcano in the third grade, you know that this #CleanTok video will work.
To unclog a drain, start by pouring boiling water down the drain. Add one cup baking soda, then one cup each of white vinegar and water. Cover the drain and allow the mixture to bubble. Then flush with more boiling water.
Ice to freshen a garbage disposal
If your garbage disposal is a little funky, add a handful of ice cubes. There’s no need to pack them in. And don’t use hot water, like some TikTok videos show. That’s a recipe for gunk coming up into your sink.
Insinkerator, maker of the most popular food waste disposer, says to run some cold water, turn on your disposer, then toss in ice cubes and lemon wedges. Make sure to clean under the sink baffle (aka the splash guard), too.
Squeegee before vacuuming
Vacuum cleaners do their best, but they have a hard time penetrating down to the carpet fibers when they’re fighting through a layer of pet hair first. This ingenious cleaning hack has hundreds of thousands of likes, and it’s easy to see why. The rubber squeegee grabs the hair and efficiently whisks it aside. A must for pet owners.