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The Dangers of Getting Cleaning Products on Skin

Words By Martina

Martina is a wellness and skin-health writer, blogger, teacher, mother to twins and world traveler (not necessarily in that order). She believes that life is all about balance and has a special way of taking complicated topics and making them a pleasure to read. Her words are honest, informative and warm. Learn more about your skin health from Martina.

We all know that household cleaning products are for cleaning our homes but do you realize how often these products actually come in contact with our skin? Way more than we would like. We know by the labels – and by plain common sense – that these harsh chemicals should not be coming anywhere near our skin but how many of us actually know just what the side effects could be? Let me be your guide to take you down the rabbit hole of looking at the dangers of getting cleaning products on your skin! Buckle up!

Cleaning Products and Skin Don’t Mix

We know there are loads of chemicals that aren’t good for our skin and we don’t want to be living in a chemical cesspool but so many of these dangerous chemicals are actually hanging out in our cleaning cupboard and making their way onto our skin on a regular basis. If these household cleaners are made for cutting through grease, grime and disinfecting surfaces from dangerous microorganisms, imagine what it can do to your skin! (Insert McCauley Caulkin’s ‘Home Alone’ face here after he puts on his aftershave!)

How do you think your skin feels about working with such harsh and corrosive colleagues? If they touch your hands, you end up with dry, irritated, itchy and sometimes burning skin that is telling you your skin is being damaged. They can cause eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, are a huge contributor to contact dermatitis and can even cause allergic reactions. But oops! We forgot to be careful!

Common Cleaning Products That Harm the Skin

Reality check. Let’s look at what common household cleaning products we tend to use that are harboring enemies of the skin.

Drain Cleaners: I know – they’re handy and get rid of all that gunk that gets stuck and starts to smell up our drains. On the downside, these products are made with toxic ingredients like hydrochloric acid, lye and sodium hydroxide which can cause severe skin burns and literally eat through skin and flesh!1,3,4 

Stain removers: This amazing invention that helps us get rid of the evidence that we drink red wine or eat chocolate usually contains chemicals like ammonium hydroxide or sodium hypochlorite (bleach) which can severely irritate and burn your skin.2 With repeated contact, you’ll develop itching and inflamed skin.

Toilet bowl cleaners: We can’t seem to live without these but what we can live without are the awful side effects they can cause. Common toilet bowl cleaners usually contain chlorine bleach, hydrochloric acid, sodium bisulphate and phenol which can all cause severe chemical burns and blisters on the skin.3,4 

Oven cleaners: Because oven cleaners are made to cut through baked on grease and grime, the ingredients in an oven cleaner are extremely harsh. They usually contain lye and sodium hydroxide and are extremely corrosive. Again, this product can severely burn and damage your skin, not to mention your lungs and eyes too.3,4

Glass and window cleaners: Having windows with a streak free shine is a nice sight to see but the effects these cleaners can leave on your skin are anything but! They usually contain ammonia which severely dries out and irritates the skin4 – not to mention how awful it can smell! It’s also harmful to our eyes and lungs. 

All purpose cleaners: These are probably the most commonly used because, well, the name says it all. It’s multi-purpose! Unfortunately they also hide lots of ingredients that are definitely NOT friends with our skin like sodium hypochlorite, ammonia and many other skin irritants4. It may be good for cleaning many surfaces but it’s nothing but damaging to our skin.

How To Look After Your Skin Around Cleaning Products

I’m just trying to look out for the health of your skin so yes, I’ve brought you bad news...but I also have good news. There are steps you can take to help protect your skin from these cleaning products. 

1 - Many of our common household cleaners could actually be replaced with gentler products that are much better for our skin, our health and for the environment. Killing three birds with one stone sounds like a fantastic idea to me so look for alternative cleaning products whenever you can.

2 - I know you won’t be replacing every single cleaning product with a gentle alternative so make sure you protect your skin from any harsh chemicals by wearing protective cleaning gloves. But be mindful that these come with their own side effects so there is one more step that’s needed!

3 - Apply a shielding lotion like Gloves In A Bottle before you work with any cleaning products or before putting on protective gloves. Gloves In A Bottle is like a liquid glove that creates a protective barrier on the top layer of your skin that will help keep irritants out while keeping your skin’s own oils and moisture inside to stop your hands from drying out. This will also stop your skin from getting irritated from the gloves you’re wearing. 

I know that getting cleaning products on skin isn’t ever our intention when we clean our homes but it happens more than we think. I know you’re not about to dip your hands in bleach but I also know that when you spray that all-purpose cleaner on a surface or that window spray on the glass, some of it will end up on your hands. I also know that when you wash your hands to get any cleaning products off your skin, that soap will dry out and irritate your skin. If you want to avoid dry, itchy, irritated or inflamed skin on your hands, ditch the harsh chemicals and make sure to protect your skin. 

1 https://www.healthline.com/health/hydrochloric-acid-on-skin

2 https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/0103.pdf

3 https://puroclean.ca/blog/6-most-toxic-household-chemicals/

4 https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/cleaning-tips 

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