Are You Using Dangerous Chemicals to Clean?
Products we have used for decades to clean our houses are powered by chemicals that can actually do us harm. So many of these cleaning products have even become household names—Clorox, Windex, Mr. Clean, Febreeze. These products, however, even some that claim to be “natural” or “green,” contain harmful chemicals that could put you and your family at risk of irritation, chronic health problems, organ damage, and in some cases cause fertility issues or cancer.
Cleaning products are not required to come with a list of ingredients, which makes it incredibly easy for dangerous chemicals to slip through the cracks without us knowing about them. Here are some of the worst chemical culprits that toxify conventional cleaning supplies we use around the house:
Ammonia is found in glass cleaner and fixture polishes, it’s an irritant when inhaled through the throat and lungs and can contribute to asthma or bronchitis. It also forms a highly poisonous gas for if mixed with bleach. It could also lead to possible liver and kidney damage.
Coal tar dyes are found in most conventional cleaning products, though they don’t improve the cleaning function of those products—they are merely dyes that improve the visual appeal. They do, however, contain heavy metals—think arsenic and lead. Synthetic dyes are possible carcinogens and the heavy metals they contain can negatively impact the central nervous system if absorbed through the skin or ingested into the body through the digestive tract.
Chlorine is a chemical lurking in toilet bowl cleaners and whitening laundry detergent, most bleach products—and often your household tap water. When chlorine fumes are inhaled, they can cause irritation in the lungs, especially for those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma. In addition, an abundance of chlorine could change the proper functioning of the thyroid, resulting in a damaging hormone imbalance throughout the body. Ammonia is also present in urine, and can create a dangerous gas when mixed with chlorine. It’s best to avoid using bleach products on or near diaper pails, cat litter boxes and toilets.
2-Butoxyethanol is found in window and all purpose cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, stain removers. This chemical is an irritant to the skin and eyes and it has also been shown to cause reproductive issues for some.
Quaternary ammonium compounds, commonly known as “quats,” are found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets, and they are contribute to skin irritation and asthma. A study of mice has shown that exposure to quats can impact fertility and affect pregnancy and childbirth in females. These compounds are difficult to avoid altogether, since they play a large role in disinfecting hospitals and food processing plants, but reducing exposure by switching to homemade cleaning supplies is a good place to start.
Phthalates are a classification of a few thousand chemicals found in cleaning supplies like dish soap, air fresheners, and even toilet paper. Because companies are not required to list these chemicals on packaging, they will often group them together under the name “fragrances.” If you inhale these fragrances, you could be subject to migraines and asthma, and phthalates disrupt your body’s endocrine function, which could lead to a reduction in sperm count for men.
Perchloroethylene is most commonly found in dry-cleaned clothes, and California has a plan to phase out this chemical at professional dry cleaning establishments by 2023 because of its dangers. Also present in many spot removers and carpet cleaners, “perc” is a neurotoxin that has been characterized as a possible carcinogen.
Tricolsan is a chemical found in most “antibacterial” products, including soaps and dish detergent. Researchers have shown it to be a likely carcinogen and may create a hormonal imbalances in the body. It can also help the promotion of resistant strains of bacteria, which could put you and your family even more at risk of bacterial infection.
Homemade cleaning alternatives
If conventional cleaning products don’t clean without consequences, are there cleaning supplies that can do the cleaning job well without risking your health? Absolutely! Some you can buy at health-conscious stores like Whole Foods, while others are easy to make at home. Here are some of our favorite homemade cleaning alternatives:
Homemade Spot Remover from MommyPotamus – This spot remover uses just a few basic all-natural ingredients that cut grease and remove stains without all the chemicals.
DIY Citrus Glass & Window Cleaner That Beats Windex from The Hippy Homemaker – This one uses all the power of orange oil, an essential oil that contains, d-limonene, a powerful cleaning agent derived entirely from oranges.
Homemade All-Purpose Chemical-Free Cleaner from Everyday Roots – This is a favorite because it’s one of the few DIY all-purpose cleaners that doesn’t contain borax, which isn’t as readily as baking soda!
The Best Homemade Bathroom Cleaner Ever by Crunchy Betty – This winning recipe “puts Scrubbing Bubbles to shame,” and it’s easy and chemical-free. If you can’t find the ingredient washing soap in your local grocery store laundry soap aisle, you can make it with just baking soda and your oven.
Homemade Air Freshener by Thank Your Body – Using just three ingredients, this air freshener is so easy to make and can freshen up any room—even if you have pets.