The cleaning products you use every day from laundry detergents to air fresheners can pose serious health risks from throat aches to cancer. It is better to be safe than sorry, so find out what is hiding inside those colourful bottles you use to keep your home clean and fresh.

You eat healthy food, watch your weight and try to get enough exercise. You try to follow most (except that pizza you had last weekend) recommendations to lead a healthy lifestyle. But there is something hiding in your cabinet that can harm your health way more than the occasional pizza or caramel ice-cream.

When shopping for cleaning products most of us choose the ones that smell and clean better. How often do you thoughtfully read ingredients label on your dishwashing detergents, fabric softeners or even hand soap? If you actually take time to read through one of these, you will see endless list of ingredients that you can barely pronounce. Let alone know what impact they have on your health and well-being.

Babies born in America today will most likely carry hundreds of chemical ingredients in his or her body. Up until June 21, 2016 when President Obama signed Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the chemicals in products you buy at the store every day were not regulated or tested by anyone. The last act was passed in 1976, meaning that thousands new chemicals on the market today could be potentially harmful to you and your family. Until this day the act is being implemented while Americans continue to use products that contain toxic ingredients causing cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

Green Cleaning Products As Healthier Alternative

You can choose to substitute these for eco-friendly products or opt for natural (and really cheap) alternatives like baking soda, vinegar and natural oils. However do not be tricked into eco-friendly labeling on some of the brands: being green does not always make these products healthy. The study by TerraChoice Group revealed that 95% of green products ‘commit at least one of the sins of greenwashing’. So be careful when choosing biodegradable ecological products and stay informed when it comes to the contents of the products you choose for your home and family.

However using products that commit one sin still a lot safer than using the products that could be potentially fatal. Next time you are out shopping, try choosing the products that at least try to be safe and healthy to your family. Beware of products that have 'Danger', 'Warning' etc. written on the label. Eco-friendly products are not only safer for you, you family and pets, but can be a lot more effective. A lot of the stores will have a special section with organic and eco-friendly cleaning solutions for your home. A lot of them list ALL the ingredients unlike the more commercial brands.

Here we have gathered a list of the most widespread chemicals as well as products where these chemicals are most likely to be present. It will help you be aware of what is lurking inside those household cleaners that you choose and help you make well-informed choices.

Toxic Chemicals in Household Cleaning Products

1. Phthalates




Phthalates are used in endless number of consumer products from detergents, cosmetics and personal care products to toys, wallpaper and medical equipment. 95% of people today have detectable level of phthalates in their urine.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors which means that they interfere with function of hormones. There are numerous studies that show the influence phthalates have on our body. When passed from mother to fetus, phthalates contribute to the possibility of abnormal sexual development, less masculine behaviour and reproductive birth defect in boys. Furthermore, phthalates have been associated with lower IQ levels.

As their use is so widespread, you will probably struggle to banish them entirely. However it is totally possible to reduce your exposure to phthalates. The rule of thumb is to avoid anything that is artificially fragranced: shampoo, laundry detergent, air freshener and soap. So whenever you notice the word ‘fragrance’ on a label, just avoid it.

2. 2-Butoxyethanol



2-butoxyethanol is a glycol ether which is used in hundreds of cleaning household products and commonly found in stain removers, window cleaners, multipurpose cleaners and rust removers. The studies have shown that 2-butoxyethanol is an irritant to the nose, throat and eyes when inhaled. It also contributes to liver and kidney damage resulting in associated illnesses. Although there is workplace safety act in place, when you are using products containing 2-butoxyethanol at home as aerosols or heat in unventilated area, levels of this harmful chemical can exceed the ones permitted at a workplace.

It is recommended to avoid 2-butoxyethanol whenever possible, so try to use alternative methods at home. You can easily clean windows using old newspaper or paper towels. However if you cannot replace the above listed products with healthier alternatives, ensure that you use it in liquid form and avoid aerosol sprays and contact with skin.

3. Ammonia




Ammonia is very effective when it comes to cleaning properties however it comes at a high price of your health. Ammonia is so widespread that you will probably find ammonia-containing cleaning products in your cabinet right now. It is used in glass and window cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, stainless steel polishes, oven cleaners as well as some multipurpose cleaners. It easily evaporates so it will almost always be inhaled whenever used.

Ammonia irritates eyes, nose and throat so no wonder it will it is the most dangerous to those with lung conditions and asthma as well as elderly people. It was also found that ammonia can have negative impact on liver and kidneys. Long-term housekeepers will often develop chronic bronchitis due to high exposure. Mixing ammonia with chlorine bleach leads to dangerous chemical reaction.

Therefore regardless of all the wonderful streak-free cleaning properties ammonia has, it is always better to avoid it and choose other healthier alternatives. For example vodka or vinegar will give you the same shine on metal or mirrored surfaces.

4. Chlorine




Chlorine or sodium hypochlorite is found in many household products such as bleach, mildew removers, toilet bowl cleaners, washing detergents. Almost all of us are familiar with the smell but many of us have never wondered what dangers that smell poses to them and their family members.

Chlorine is an aggressive respiratory irritant. Recent studies have found that inhaling chlorine increases chances to develop COPD (Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease) by 32%. Chlorine is absorbed by inhalation and skin contact so when you use it in dishwashers, washing machines and unventilated rooms like washrooms, you will definitely be affected. The study, which focused mostly on nurses, revealed that the medical care workers who used disinfectants containing chlorine on a regular basis at least once a week, had 22% chances to develop COPD. And when you add to that the regular exposure through washing and dishwashers the chances increase even further.

Furthermore, chlorine is a highly corrosive ingredient which can damage your skin and eyes. ‘There are people who end up at plastic surgery clinics to treat the chlorine-induced scarred tissue.’ says Dr. Riad Rhumi from You New plastic surgery clinic. Moreover there were some deaths related to bronchotracheal necrosis caused by chlorine exposure.

Watch out for products containing chlorine. There are plenty of healthier alternatives when it comes to cleaning and washing solutions. Try using toilet paper, paper towels and coffee filters that have not been bleached with chlorine.

5. Sodium Hydroxide




Sodium hydroxide which is sometimes referred to as lye or caustic soda is extremely aggressive and corrosive when touches skin or eyes. It is usually contained in drain and oven cleaners. If you inhale sodium hydroxide you can get a sore throat. If you add too much of the solution to your drain, it can actually start boiling and produce a splash. It is so corrosive that it can cause blindness.

This is probably not the risk most of us will willingly take after familiarizing ourselves with the dangers these wonder-cleaners pose. Especially so when baking soda and vinegar solutions can solve the clogged pipe problem just as well.

6. Perchloroethylene




Perchloroethylene or otherwise known as PERC, which is common in consumer products like spot removers, shoe polish, dry-cleaning solutions. Exposure to low levels of PERC can cause dizziness and loss of coordination. So if you often dry clean your clothes or live in a residential building with drycleaners and experience these symptoms that have no other medical explanation, you might have found the cause and should discuss it with your doctor. Higher levels of perchloroethylene can cause unconsciousness and death.

Moreover PERC has been named ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ in the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program.

The items that have to be dry cleaned can instead be taken to eco-friendly water-based drycleaners that use no harsh chemicals.

How To Avoid Chemicals in Cleaning Products?

There is a lot of evidence that a lot of chemicals can be found in water and air, so unless you live in a remote rural area, you cannot banish them all together. But you can start taking steps to protect yourself and loved ones from harmful exposure and reduce it to a minimum.





  • Try using natural ingredients at home. For instance a lot of the cleaning products can easily be replaced with combinations of soda, vinegar and natural oils. There are plenty of recipes available on the internet today which will tell you exactly how to clean your oven, unclog your drain and polish metal without using toxic store-bought products. While pouring sodium hydroxide down your drain for 5 minutes seems like an easier solution, very often it is not worth the price with health and environmental dangers it poses.

  • Ensure to stick to fragrance-free eco-friendly cleaning products. While a lot of these products still contain unwanted ingredients, they are still a lot less harmful than their more popular alternatives.

  • If you use dry cleaners or cleaning services, opt for green water-based options that do not use harmful or toxic cleaning products. Thanks to the population becoming more environmentally and health conscious, there are organic cleaning and drycleaner services like available in almost any area.