Household cleaners and soaps are some of the biggest offenders of toxins in homes and they can routinely expose us to chemicals that can affect us to varying degrees ranging from minor skin irritation to hormone disruption or cancer. If you’re cleaning up what you’re putting IN your body, you should care what you put ON your body, and what you put in your environment. Period. There are safe cleaning products out there.
Most every household contains traditional cleaning supplies that are laced with toxic chemicals that are harmful. We’re exposed to them routinely — from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. According to the Environmental Working Group, using them just once a week can have a harmful effect.
How Toxic Are Your Cleaning Supplies?
Toxic chemicals in conventional household cleaners vary in their severity – from immediate hazards such as skin or respiratory issues, chemical burns or watery eyes to long term major problems such as cancer, fertility issues, ADHD, compromised immune system and more.
It can be overwhelming to to start to realize how many toxic chemicals are in our home, and I’m not saying we can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, but it is possible to reduce it, and significantly decrease our risk of illness. Some chemicals build up and can cause enough harm in our bodies over time, that can trigger harmful effects. So knowledge is power.
How Do I Find Out What are Truly Safe Cleaning Products?
Here’s the thing: there’s so much we cannot control, but for the things we can, and use daily, why wouldn’t we do a little research and make safer swaps for our families? At the very least, we should be aware of what is in them! I use two resources in our home to identify how toxic our products are. One is EWG.ORG/SKINDEEP and the other is the Think Dirty APP. Both are apps that you can use to scan barcodes in your home, and see how toxic your current products are. Pretty cool, right?
It can be slightly terrifying when you start scanning your products, but remember: make small changes and do the best you can. I’m not advocating you throw out every product in your home right now, but rather once you are informed you can try to make the best choices you can going forward.
What are the Harmful Chemicals in Household Cleaning Products to Avoid?
Here are a few to look out for:
1. Phthalates: Often found in many household products with a fragrance, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what is in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.
2. Perchloroethylene or “PERC”: Often found in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.
3. Triclosan: Found mostly in liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”
4. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”
5. 2-Butoxyethanol: Often found in window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.
6. Ammonia: Find them in polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.
7. Chlorine: You’ll find this in toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.
8. Sodium Hydroxide: An ingredient often in oven cleaners and drain openers.
A Note on “All Natural Cleaners”
This might surprise you, but many “all-natural” cleaners found in grocery and health food stores still have harmful chemicals and may even score worse than conventional cleaning products. This is where those handy apps above come in handy. Again, do your own research!
What Safe Cleaning Products are in my Home:
I avoiding conventional household products as much as possible and have found great alternative, safe swaps for cleaning products, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and air fresheners. Here are some options for you:
- You can make your own DIY household cleaners: LCK Food Editor Kelli uses a mixture of Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, Water, and Essential Oils for almost all cleaning tasks. For heavy duty jobs she also will add in baking soda.
- All-Purpose Cleaning Products: I use Branch Basics for my Bathroom, All-Purpose Counter Cleaner, Glass, and hand soap!
- Laundry Detergent: Again, I use Branch Basics. I also use their Oxygen Boost for my Whites. I’ve also heard Molly’s Suds is a good brand, but haven’t personally tried it!
- Dryer Sheets: I use Dryer Balls (see this post).
- Air Freshener: I use this home spray by The Laundress or safer candles by Phlur.
For me, Branch Basics is literally magic. Their multi-purpose concentrate makes cleaning simple, affordable and sustainable. The products are refillable and they’re significantly less expensive than similar single-use products. You dilute The Concentrate with water, and then it’s ready for any cleaning job around the house, even dirty laundry!
A word from the Branch Basics team:
“We’re not fans of shipping water. Our multi-purpose concentrated cleaner makes cleaning simple, sustainable, safe and affordable. Just dilute with water in our spray and foamer bottles (complete with marked fill lines) and you’re all set to effectively tackle every room in the house and your laundry too! Our kits come with everything you need to get started or you can purchase the concentrate in whatever size it best for you.”