HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS TO AVOID?
surprising number of the most harmful toxins ever created are
found right in our own backyard — indeed, right inside your
home. We’d love to be the ones to help you detoxify your home
and have listed some chemicals below to avoid and help make
your home safer again.
The air in our homes is filled with fumes from petrochemical
solvents added to cleaners to dissolve dirt. The average
household contains anywhere from three to 25 gallons of toxic
materials, most of which are in cleaners. No law requires
manufacturers of cleaning products to list ingredients on
their labels or to test their products for safety. It’s up to
you to make sure your home is not only clean, but also
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to identify which products
contain these hazardous ingredients. While cleaners are the
only household products regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission under the Federal Hazardous Substances
Labeling Act, their sellers aren’t required to reveal these
products’ ingredients. These ingredients are considered “trade
secrets,” so government regulations are actually designed to
protect this proprietary information, not to protect human
health or the environment.
When it comes to cleaners, the consumer has little to go on
beyond the warning labels that manufacturers are required to
put on their products. The labels DANGER, WARNING and POISON
give only a very general idea about the seriousness of the
unknown substances a product contains. In fact, a New York
Poison Control Center study found that 85 percent of product
warning labels are inadequate.
These warnings apply only to a product’s immediate health
effects; they don’t illuminate what happens when we use them
over a long period of time. If you’re using common household
cleaning products, you’re likely to encounter the following
chemicals (among many others), and the following effects,
• Chlorinated phenols found in toilet bowl cleaners are toxic
to respiratory and circulatory systems.
• Diethylene glycol found in window cleaners depresses the
• Phenols found in disinfectants are toxic to respiratory and
• Nonylphenol ethoxylate, a common surfactant (detergent)
found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is
banned in Europe; it has been shown to biodegrade slowly into
even more toxic compounds.
• Formaldehyde found in spray and wick deodorizers is a
respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen.
• Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners damage mucous
• Perchloroethylene, a spot remover, causes liver and kidney
• Butyl cellosolve, common in all-purpose, window and other
types of household cleaning products.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got more than a
few rusty, crusty, almost-empty bottles of cleaning products,
along with some dried-out sponges and a
furniture-polish-soaked T-shirt hanging around in your mop
closet. With a little organization and attention to labels,
you can transform it into a complete and efficient collection
of green cleaners and other natural products that will not
only help keep your house spic-and-span, but also help reduce
dangerous indoor toxic vapors created by most conventional
Some cleaners may advertise that they are “environmentally
sound” but fail to provide a full list of ingredients. Be wary
The manufacturer that gives you the most information about its
product is usually the manufacturer you can trust and
certainly the one you want.
Read and learn about a wide variety of
topics, ranging from guidelines relating to the home cleaning
products you choose, to the impact of your choices on your health
and the environment.