Open your cleaning cupboard and I bet you have a rainbow-colored selection of all sorts of cleaning products. One is for cleaning glass, one is for cutting through grease, one is for limescale...you get the point. Have you ever stopped to think about how safe these products actually are? Yes, they might do a great job at getting your house to sparkle (never as much as they do in the commercials!) but they can come with some very nasty side effects. It’s time to take a look at these harmful household cleaning products and what they are actually doing for your health.
That Clean Smell Isn’t Always a Good Thing
When we use a strong household cleaner, it’s usually our nose that can detect it first. You know exactly what I mean. Picture this: You’re at your friend’s house and use her bathroom. You can tell right away she has recently cleaned it because all you can smell is that pungent smell of bleach. For some, that smell represents the holy grail of ‘cleanliness’ while for others, they won’t be able to handle the stench. That smell can’t be good for us, can it?
If we’re just thinking about how good a product is at cleaning something, then yes – these products can be very effective. It’s why so many people are so carefree about using them. But what if I told you that studies have shown that there is a link between the chemicals we use in our cleaning products and people developing occupational asthma and other respiratory conditions?1 What about having allergic reactions to the cleaning products you are using? You might think twice before using some of these harmful cleaners again.
Some Harmful Ingredients to Avoid
It doesn't take a genius to know how harsh the chemicals in our household cleaners can be – just take a look at all the warning labels on the back. Luckily, some of these products we usually only use once in a while (if your cleaning is as sporadic as mine!) but others we could be using on a daily basis.
We can’t list every single ingredient that could be harmful – the list would be endless – but there are some key ingredients to stay away from or choose not to use on a regular basis if you’re putting your health first.
Chlorine Bleach: Bleach is found in lots of different cleaning products or even used on its own. It’s used for so many reasons like cleaning and sterilizing toilets (those poor fish!), for bleaching our white clothes, diluted as a sanitizer and floor cleaner, and practically everything in between. The smell is really what gives it away that it’s an extremely harsh and corrosive chemical. In simple terms, it stinks! And while you’re smelling it, it’s damaging your lungs, eyes and especially your skin if you come in contact with it.2
Ammonia: Ammonia is used in many products too. Floor cleaners, glass cleaners, disinfectant sprays and stain removers are just a few. Yes, it does a fantastic job at cutting through grease and grime but it also produces harmful fumes that irritate our eyes, nose, throat and lungs3 not to mention how bad it is for our skin. What’s even more alarming is that if ammonia is mixed with a product that contains chlorine, such as bleach, it creates an extremely dangerous and hazardous gas that can cause some real damage.2 Who wants to take that chance in their own home? Not me!
Phthalates: These are man-made chemicals that are linked to hormone disruption and may cause reproductive health issues, cancer and breathing problems.4 It’s a very tricky ingredient because it’s not always listed by its name and can fall under the more misleading label of ‘fragrance’. Air fresheners, detergents and dish soap are just a few examples of how phthalates end up in your home.
Look at the ingredients on your frequently used cleaning products to check for these harmful substances. If not all ingredients are clearly listed – which is very common – you can look it up on the product website to get a full list. This will help you know which products you might want to avoid from now on or at least not use often. There are so many gentler cleaning products available now so explore them for a better alternative.
If you find yourself using products with these harmful chemicals in them, make sure to properly ventilate the room by opening windows and doors and wear a face covering if you can. If there’s any chance of ammonia or bleach splashing up, remember to protect your eyes too!
Last but not least, take good care of your skin. Always wear protective gloves to keep your skin away from the corrosive materials. Using ashielding lotion like Gloves In A Bottle can give your skin a natural defense against any irritants getting in and also protects your hands from the gloves that you’re wearing. (Yes, even the gloves can affect your skin.)
You most likely won’t be able to get rid of all of the harmful household cleaning products in your home – there’s just too many to keep track of – but being aware of what some of these chemicals can do will be a starting point to keeping you safe from too much exposure. And you know what to get your friend for her next birthday present - a bleach-free bathroom cleaner!