We all believe keeping your home clean is a vital part of staying healthy. But do you ever stop to think that the things we use to clean our homes with could be toxic? Even those products advertised as “clean” or “green” may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. Some product labels even state “hazardous to humans and domestic animals.” Yikes! So, here I am cleaning the bathroom to keep myself safe from viruses, mold, and bacteria, but as I’m doing this, with each spray I’m breathing in cleaner and as I scrub it’s soaking into my skin. Do I really want these hazardous chemicals to have such easy access to my body? Let’s look at what common toxins are present in household cleaners and options we can take to avoid them.
Common Household Toxins
It is a colorless, flammable, strong smelling gas used in building materials, textiles, preservative in cleaning products and cosmetics. That “new” smell of a piece of clothing, mattress or new car comes from formaldehyde. These materials can release formaldehyde gas or vapor into the air. These vapors can cause asthma, reproductive problems and even cancer.
Healthier Choice: Use real wood products in your home, avoiding particle board. Buy organic clothing when possible. Avoid harsh chemical cleaning products.
Many household products that contain fragrances often contain phthalates. By law, companies do not have to disclose what is in their scents. So, if you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there is a high chance it contains phthalates. Exposure mainly occurs through inhalation but can also be absorbed through the skin. So all those beautiful smelling lotions and soaps may be causing disruption to your endocrine system.
Healthier Choice: Try to use fragrance-free products whenever possible. Ditch the air fresheners and opt for diffusing essential oils.
It is added to cleaning products to create suds (laundry detergent and dish soap). It is generated through a process called ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh. The FDA does not require 1,4-dioxane to be listed on the ingredient list, so this can be tricky. Read product labels and avoid sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and chemicals ending in -eth and PEGs. This chemical is linked to liver damage and cancer.
Healthier Choice: Avoid products that lather when possible. Try using non-scented castile soap. Look for the USDA Organic certification (which does not allow ethoxylation processing) and MADE SAFE certification. Also, find products labeled SLS-free.
This clear, colorless, flammable chemical is commonly used in multi-purpose cleaners and window sprays. It is a glycol ether solvent that helps break down dirt and oil. Chronic exposure can lead to neurotoxicity and anemia.
Healthier Choice: Avoid store bought cleaners. Make your own window spray using distilled water and vinegar. Use nontoxic brands such as Branch Basics, to make your multi-purpose cleaner.
So, if I have officially scared you in to throwing away all those toxic cleaners under your sink, I say this article was a success. Or if it spiked your curiosity to start reading product labels, again I would say that is a success. Navigating the toxic world of chemicals we live in can be a bit overwhelming, but do some homework find a nontoxic line of products you like and stick with it. Below I have listed a few of my favorite, plus a couple recipes to make some of your own. Happy Cleaning!
- 2 cups distilled water
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup hydrogen peroxide
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon unscented liquid castile soap
- 20 drops essential oil
A few Companies to check out. Click on the links to see more of their products.