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Are Cleaning Products Toxic?

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Are Household Cleaning Products Toxic?

You likely use them every day around your house, but have you ever stopped to wonder: Are household cleaning products toxic? The dirty truth is shocking. Learn more about the scary secrets hiding in some of the popular cleaning products you use in your house and why you should stop using them today.

Related: How to Make Your Cleaning Routine More Eco-Friendly

Cleaning Products Doing More Harm Than Good

Cleaning our homes is important to protecting our health. Unfortunately, many household and cleaning products often contain toxic chemicals. These chemicals can do everything from irritate your eyes, nose, and throat to cause headaches, organ damage, and even cancer.

Sometimes these chemicals are simply present in the cleaning products from the start. However, sometimes these chemicals accidentally mix together to create toxic fumes. For example, say you’re cleaning your shower and you notice mold growing in the grout between the tiles and spots on the glass shower door.

So you grab your tile cleaner that contains bleach to clean the shower stall and your window cleaner that contains ammonia to clean the door. But now you have bleach and ammonia mixing in the shower, which creates toxic gases called chloramines.

Related: Natural Cleaning Ingredients You Should Never Combine

No Government Oversight

You probably don’t think twice about the cleaning products you purchase for your home because you figure there’s some type of government agency testing the chemicals in these products and making sure companies don’t include toxic ingredients.

Unfortunately, you’re wrong.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no control over cleaning products because they aren’t considered food or drugs. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires companies to list “chemicals of known concern” on their labels, companies can often skirt this law because the government doesn’t test chemicals for toxicity. It also doesn’t require companies to test these chemicals.

Instead, they rely on voluntary testing agreements with these companies.

Let’s be completely honest here. We know how companies treat “voluntary” agreements. If there’s a buck to be made, they’ll gladly ignore any health concerns.

Related: The Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products for a Healthier Home

Toxic Cleaning Products to Avoid

So now you know that cleaning products are toxic and you’re ready to start making the switch to natural cleaning products. But where in the world should you start? Here’s a look at some of the most common household and cleaning products and better options you can choose.

1. Aerosols

A lot of household products come in an aerosol can, such as air fresheners, furniture polish, hair spray, and deodorants. What they can spray out (sometimes using highly flammable butane) can include phthalates, formaldehyde, toluene, and other carcinogens. They can also damage your lungs and cause skin, eye, and throat irritation.

Better Options:

Look for household and cleaning products in pump bottles to avoid aerosols. You can also check out these natural and zero waste deodorants to avoid aerosols and other toxic ingredients that can be in traditional deodorants!

2. Air Fresheners

In an effort to make your house smell good, you might be doing serious damage to your health. Many air fresheners can contain phthalates, formaldehyde, naphthalene, terpenes, and dichlorobenzene. Dichlorobenzenes can reduce lung function and might even cause cancer.

Better Options:

If the weather permits, open up the windows to let in some fresh air. This DIY air freshener is also easy to make and works great.

No time to DIY? That’s not a problem! This list of the best non-toxic air fresheners has a variety of options that use plant-based, natural ingredients that smell amazing and are safer to breathe!

Related: Breathe Safer With These Best Non-Toxic Candles

3. All-Purpose Cleaners

All-purpose cleaners are supposed to make cleaning easier since you can use them on practically any surface in your house. Unfortunately, they can contain an awful mix of toxic chemicals. These chemicals can include:

  • Solvents and surfactants– Can cause or aggravate asthma symptoms
  • Phthalates, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol butyl ether– Can reduce fertility, cause reproductive problems, harm embryos, and has caused birth defects in animal studies.
  • Butyl cellosolve– A neurotoxin
  • Morpholine– Can cause liver and kidney damage
  • Fragrance– A catch-all phrase that can hide up to 100 undisclosed ingredients

Better Option:

This homemade all-purpose cleaner does an excellent job of cleaning up messes. Best of all, since it isn’t made with vinegar, it’s safe to use pretty much everywhere.

Related: 8 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar

4. Antibacterial Cleaners

Many antibacterial cleaners are made with triclosan. While triclosan kills most bacteria, it also leaves behind bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and creates “super bugs.”

Better Option:

When you’re at home, eco-friendly hand soap and water do a fine job of cleaning your hands. If you need to keep your hands clean when you’re on the go, this DIY hand sanitizer uses the CDC-recommended formula for killing germs without triclosan.

5. Carpet Cleaners

Carpet cleaners can release dangerous fumes that are especially harmful to young children who play on carpets after they’ve been cleaned. These fumes can also cause liver and kidney damage in adults and kids.

Better Option:

This DIY carpet cleaner can effectively remove stains and messes on carpets, rugs, and even upholstered furniture. Best of all, it’s non-toxic and safe to use around your family.

6. Degreasers

Many degreasers contain butyl cellosolve, which is a chemical that can irritate mucous membranes in your body. They can also ham your nervous system and cause kidney or liver damage.

Better Option:

The acid in vinegar naturally cuts through grease and makes it easier to clean up without toxic fumes or chemicals.

Related: Surprising Uses for Vinegar Around Your Home

7. Dish Soap

Dish soap can contain all types of dangerous and toxic ingredients. Some of these ingredients include:

  • Formaldehyde– Irritates the skin and can cause cancer
  • Ethanolamine– Harms the nervous system and respiratory system
  • Methylisothiazolinone– A known allergen
  • Sodium borate– Can harm reproductive, developmental, and endocrine systems

Better Options:

This list of the best zero waste dish soap has several options that are better for your health and safer for the environment. You can also easily use Castile soap to make your own dish soap.

Also, don’t forget you can banish germs and get your hands naturally clean by using one of these best eco-friendly hand soaps.

8. Dishwasher Detergent

Dishwasher detergent typically contains complex phosphates, which can create oxygen-depleting and fish-killing algae blooms in our waterways. It can also contain chlorine, which can become a dangerous vapor during the drying cycle.

Better Options:

This DIY dishwasher detergent effectively cleans your dirty dishes. Best of all, even though some homemade dishwasher detergent recipes call for borax (which can be used as an ant killer), this detergent doesn’t use any borax!

Related: Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants Around the House

Don’t have the time or ingredients for DIY detergent? Not a problem! You can simply pick up one of these top eco-friendly dishwasher detergents instead!

9. Disinfectants

Just like antibacterial cleaners, disinfectants can also contain triclosan, which can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Disinfectants can also contain ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde, cresols, and phenols, all of which can irritate the skin and some of which can harm the central nervous system and internal organs.

Better Options:

If you need to clean and disinfect hard surfaces around your house, check out how to make these DIY disinfecting wipes. Need something to disinfect soft surfaces and that’s convenient to take with you when you travel? This homemade disinfecting spray is perfect!

10. Drain Cleaner

Drain cleaner is one of the most dangerous products you can keep in your home. It often contains sulfuric acid and lye, which are both severely caustic and can cause major damage to your eyes, skin, and airways.

Better Options:

If you have a clogged pipe, you don’t have to turn to a toxic drain cleaner. Instead, try one of these natural tricks to clear a clogged drain. If the clog is really deep or severe, one of these top natural drain cleaners can do the trick without toxic chemicals that are bad for your health and can damage your home’s plumbing system.

11. Fabric Softener

I think a lot of people don’t realize just how toxic fabric softeners are because they smell good and they have pictures of fluffy clouds and cuddly teddy bears on their bottles. Unfortunately, these are just some of the dangerous ingredients you can find in fabric softeners:

  • Quaternary ammonium compounds– Can trigger asthma attacks
  • Benzyl acetate– Known to cause pancreatic cancer
  • Chloroform– A known neurotoxin that can cause cancer
  • Benzyl alcohol– Known to irritate the upper respiratory tract
  • Ethanol– Known to cause central nervous system disorders

Even worse, fabric softeners cling to your clothes. This means that not only do you continue to breathe in the chemicals every single day, but your skin can also absorb the chemicals all day long.

Better Options:

You don’t actually need fabric softener to make your clothes soft and fluffy. Instead, check out these simple ways to naturally soften your laundry and learn more about the benefits of eco-friendly dryer balls. Then you can get rid of fabric softeners for good!

Related: How to Create an Eco-Friendly Laundry Room

12. Floor and Furniture Polish

The vapors from floor and furniture polish can contaminate your indoor air for days after you use them. They also usually contain petroleum distillates and cresols, which are toxic chemicals that can damage the central nervous system and cause skin and eye irritation.

Related: Hard-to-Kill Houseplants That Naturally Clean Indoor Air

Better Options:

This DIY furniture polish uses natural ingredients to leave a warm glow on your wood furniture. If you have hardwood floors you need to clean, check out this awesome homemade hardwood floor cleaner.

You can also take a look at this post on the best eco-friendly floor cleaners to find a variety of outstanding options made from natural, non-toxic, plant-based ingredients.

Related: How to Make DIY Laminate Floor Cleaner

13. Glass Cleaner

Most glass cleaners contain ammonia, which is a poison that can irritate your eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Some can also contain butyl cellosolve, which can be toxic.

Better Option:

This DIY glass cleaner is an outstanding alternative to store-bought cleaners. It even contains a secret ingredient for a streak-free shine!

You can also check out this list of the best eco-friendly glass cleaners to find a variety of non-toxic cleaners that will leave your windows and mirrors spotless.

14. Laundry Detergent

The University of Washington did a study on laundry detergent and every product they tested emitted one or more carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants that the EPA says has no safe exposure level. Even worse, the air surrounding the detergents contained 7 compounds that are considered toxic or hazardous under federal law.

Plus, just like fabric softeners, laundry detergents will cling to your clothes after they’re washed so you continue to breathe in and absorb the chemicals.

Better Options:

There are a variety of outstanding alternatives to laundry detergent. Soap nuts are a natural product that you can use in your washing machine to effectively clean your clothes.

Related: How to Make DIY Soap Nut Liquid Laundry Detergent

You can also make DIY laundry detergent for naturally clean clothes. No time to DIY? No problem! Just check out this list of the best eco-friendly laundry detergent for a safer option.

15. Mold and Mildew Removers

Most mold and mildew removers contain bleach and butyl cellosolve, which can both damage the respiratory system. Some removers may also contain pesticides.

Better Option:

These natural ways to kill mold and mildew are amazingly effective and safe for you to use.

16. Oven Cleaners

Just like drain cleaners, oven cleaners can contain lye, which can cause severe damage to your skin, eyes, mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach. Aerosol oven cleaners are even worse because you can easily inhale them. Both versions can be fatal if swallowed.

Better Option:

You can make a paste using castile soap and baking soda to effectively clean your oven without toxic chemicals.

17. Scouring Cleansers

Many scouring cleaners can contain butyl cellosolve, which can cause liver and kidney damage. Some brands can also contain silica and chlorine bleach. This abrasive combination can be dangerous if you breathe it in.

Better Option:

Even though this DIY sink scrub uses just a few simple and natural ingredients, it cleans just as effectively as the store-bought stuff!

18. Toilet Cleaners

Many contain toilet cleaners contain harmful chemicals that can include chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and ammonia. In addition to irritating you skin, eyes, nose, and throat, they can also produce lung-damaging gasses.

Better Options:

These homemade toilet cleaning tablets do an amazing job of cleaning your toilet. Just drop them in and watch the fizzing action go to work! Do your toilets just need a quick freshening up between cleanings? These toilet refreshing tablets will do the trick.

Don’t have time to DIY? That’s OK! Simply check out this list of the best eco-friendly toilet cleaners to find a non-toxic cleaner that gets the job done quickly and effectively.

19. Tub and Shower Cleaners

Many tub and shower cleaners contain chlorine and may form of organochlorines. These dangerous compounds can cause disorders in the immune, reproductive, and endocrine systems. They can also contain phosphoric acid, which will irritate the eyes, lungs, and skin.

Better Option:

This DIY tub and shower cleaner will melt away soap scum and grime without you having to spend an entire afternoon scrubbing.

Make Natural Cleaning Easier

So now you know why it’s so important to make the switch to natural cleaning products. However, if you’re like me, you’ll quickly run into one major problem. It’s so darn hard to remember how to make the different products!

Every time I needed to refill a bottle, I had to go back to my computer and find my recipe to get the correct ingredients and measurements. It was a pain.

That’s why I created these natural cleaning product recipe cards. They’re an easy and convenient way to keep all the recipes you need in one spot.

Natural cleaning recipe cards

This natural cleaning bundle comes with over 25 recipe cards and labels for all the products you need to clean your entire home. You’ll even get a list of my favorite essential oil cleaning blends and a cheat sheet on the natural cleaning ingredients you should never mix together.

With this bundle, you’ll have everything you need to stay organized and make natural cleaning easier!

Are Cleaning Products Toxic?

You now know that yes, cleaning products are toxic and terrible for the environment. Fortunately, you also know what you can do about it. Make the switch to natural cleaning products and enjoy an effective clean without toxic and dangerous chemicals!

More Eco-Friendly Living Tips

Now that you’ve learned more about toxic cleaning products, are you interested in discovering more about eco-friendly living? Then please be sure to check out some of our other popular posts:

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