There are many household cleaning products that contain hazardous chemicals that may be damaging your health as well as your environment. In this blog, we will be talking about these dangerous ingredients that are in your household cleaning supplies and give you safer alternatives that you can make yourself or purchase in stores.
How to Choose the Right Cleaning Product
When you walk down the cleaning supply aisles of your local grocery store and see all of the cleaning products on the shelves, it can be a little overwhelming. Do you choose the products that are familiar to you from advertisements/commercials or do you read the labels first?
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, picking out a cleaning product can take some time. You may even find yourself searching for about twenty to thirty minutes looking at all of the bottles and ingredients. Have you been through the same problem?
Most commercial cleaning products on the market contain toxic chemicals and when we use them in our home, we get exposed to them. We do this by inhaling the fumes, absorbing the chemicals into our skin, or coming in contact with our mucous membranes.
These chemicals also cause environmental hazards when we wash the products down our drains which causes aquatic disruption in our oceans. Unfortunately, the manufactures spend more time marketing their brands for the consumer, than considering their harsh chemicals inside their bottles.
It’s difficult to truly know and understand what’s in most commercial bottles since many chemicals are not listed. Manufactures don’t always reveal all of the ingredients on their label and this is why:
- They are not required to specify what they use for the term “fragrance.”
- They can say “cleaning agent or quaternary ammonium compound” to label anything they don’t wish to reveal.
- They don’t have to reveal ingredients that are considered a “secret method” on how they produce their product.
- Many laundry detergents, dish soaps, and cleaners don’t even have the ingredients listed.
So, because you are a concerned consumer, how do you find the safest yet effective cleaning products at your local grocery store? Here are a few simple ways:
Step 1: Try Reading the Labels
Read the ingredients. This doesn’t mean that you have to read the entire ingredient list and know exactly what each chemical does because we are not all chemists. But, there are a few certain chemicals that you should look out for.
Look at the warning/ caution label which are usually brief on the front side. It might say, don’t digest, avoid contact with eyes, skin irritant, etc.
Take caution on marketing claims such as, “all-natural”, “powerful”, “eco-friendly”, etc.
Step 2: Check-Out These Databases
Here are the links:
These databases can search your cleaning products that you are currently using in your home and can tell you how safe/unsafe the products are. Here, you may also search specific ingredients or safer alternatives to use.
Who’s in Charge
Companies in the U.S. are able to add any agent/ ingredient to their formulated cleaning products without government review or approval. So, in return the manufactures can keep these materials off their labels.
If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) feels that a cleaning product produces an unreasonable risk of injury, then that specific company may recall their product. If the company recalls their product, it’s due to an immediate risk that the consumer is going through such as a chemical burn or fire hazard.
Recall doesn’t usually occur if the product causes slow-developing problems. Also, companies do not have to prove that the chemicals are safe before placing them into your cleaning products. Are you scared yet?
While we are not supposed to directly consume, lather our bodies with the cleaning products, we still inhale the sprays/powders, swallow the particles in the air, and absorb those particles onto our skin accidentally. The residues of these chemicals can also end up in your food.
The sprays and powders can irritate our lungs over time and may cause asthma. Having certain chemicals can burn your eyes even in small amounts or irritate your skin. Both of these increase your risk for developing cancer.
Children and elders are more at risk because their reproductive systems are weaker. So, it is important to read your warning/caution labels before using your products. Some may even tell you to have a ventilated room before using their product.
Which Chemicals to Look Out For:
This is the main active ingredient in most chlorine bleach cleaners. This will usually be listed on the front side of the bottle. This active ingredient can cause irritants on skin, lungs, and is poison to aquatic life if flushed down our drains.
On the warning label Clorox cleaner+ bleach bottle it reads in red: “Not recommended for use by persons with heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as, asthma, emphysema, or obstructive lung disease.” This chemical poison is extremely hazardous, so try not to use bleach cleaners that contain this active compound.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
This is a category name which is usually read on labels but can have the ingredients listed individually. Exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds may potentially cause serious health risks including, contact dermatitis, triggering asthma symptoms, eye and mucous membrane injuries from splashes or contact with mists, and oral/ gastrointestinal injuries from swallowing the cleaning solutions accidentally.
Manufactures can add QACs to “all-purpose” cleaners, dish soaps, fabric softeners, hand soaps, floor products, air-refreshers, baby-care products, window cleaners, floor products, and other cleaning products that advertise as anti-microbial activity.
Some names you may find are:
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides (BACs)
- Ammonium saccharinate
- Ammonium chloride
- Benzalkonium chloride
- Cetylpyridinium chloride
- Stearalkonium chloride
- Centrimonium bromide
Just be cautious of QACs in your cleaning products before purchasing them.
These are antimicrobial/antifungal preservatives that are in many commercial cleaners to extend shelf life. They are hazardous to your immune system, skin, and may cause an allergic contact dermatitis. If directly inhaled, it is known as a carcinogen to humans.
Some names you will find are:
- Glydant (DMDM hydantoin)
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Imidazolindinyl urea
This is an antibacterial additive can be found in some commercial dishwashing soaps ad hand soaps. When flushed down your drain, this can cause damage to aquatic life. Triclosan may cause a decrease in thyroid function and act as an endocrine disrupter which secrets hormones and other products directly into our blood stream.
The Word “Fragrance”
This term is used in almost every single household cleaning product and may mean 3,163 different chemicals. Fragrance mixtures have been known to linked to cause dermatitis, allergies, raspatory distress, and may potentially affect the reproductive system.
Note: These are just a few chemicals to look out for but, there are many more that we didn’t cover, so it’s up to you to make the decision on your own. The important thing is for you to be able to become pre-cautious of your household cleaners before using them.
What You Should do
Decide if the cleaning products you are currently using are really worth the potential health risks. There are many products and ways to save yourself, your loved ones and the environment that can be just as effective without the hazardous health risks.
Do a little research. The database links listed above can be a guidance to your cleaning product solutions.
Alternative and Easy Solutions
With our busy lives, it may be hard to find time to create a safer yet effective cleaner. Listed below are just some ways you can start creating a natural home.
Here are 3 pre-made cleaning products that work well and are cost-effective.
Dr. Bronner Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner
This is a plant based (coconut) mixture that cleans surfaces very well and can even be used as a laundry detergent.
Bon Ami Polish and Cleaner Powder
This helps to clean grime and tough stains on surfaces such as my shower, sink, and floor.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid or Bar Soap
This is a gentle combination to make laundry detergent, hand soap, and for house cleaning.
Other DIY and Pre-Made Solutions
If you are a DIY homemade person, listed below are some projects that you can try at home. If your not a DIY person, that’s okay. There are pre-made cleaners that you can purchase that are inexpensive but effective.
Whether you wash your dishes by hand or in your dishwasher, you can make or find cleaners that are safe and effective.
Natural dish soap: ¼ cup of the Sal Suds biodegradable cleaner and water and place into a 16 oz soap dispenser.
Natural dishwasher detergent:
- Tropical Traditions Dishwasher Detergent
- Ecover Powder
- Mrs. Myers
Or Try: Homemade Dish Soap Recipe
For Laundry Detergent
Natural detergent: 1 tablespoon Sal Suds for large loads and 1-2 teaspoon for smaller loads.
Natural all-purpose cleaner: dilute 1 teaspoon of Sal Suds with water into a 16oz spray bottle.
For Stove-Top Messes
Natural cleaner: Bon Ami Powder
Or Try: Simple Stove-Top Cleaner Recipe
DIY bathroom cleaners:
For Grime in shower or tub:
¼ cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, ¼ tablespoon baking soda.
-Scrub tough grim with sponge. It’s best to wear gloves when cleaning.
For Toilet Cleaner:
1/4 tablespoon Borax and dilute with water.
Pour into toilet bowl and let stand for 2 minutes. Then scrub inside then flush.
For Glass and Windows
Natural window/glass cleaner: 50/50 vinegar and water mix in a spray bottle and wiped with old rags from cut-up t-shirts or newspaper (paper towels leave a lot of residue with this method).
Or Try: Homemade Glass and Window Cleaner Recipe
Points to Remember:
Try to replace all of your chemical-based cleaners and try to find better and safer options for your health, your loved ones and your oceans. Use the databases to help guide you if you don’t want to make your own household cleaners. Let’s make a change together.
Have you tried any homemade cleaning products? Share Below!