Every day, it’s likely that you come into contact with a wide range of household cleaning products. Laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids, air fresheners, floor cleaners – there’s probably an array of different sprays and liquids you’re using around the home on a daily basis.
But when purchasing these kinds of common cleaning products for your home, do you ever stop to look at the list of ingredients? Unfortunately, many household cleaners contain toxic or dangerous ingredients that can be detrimental to the health of your family, as well as the environment.
Whether it’s in your food, toiletries, household cleaning products or simply the air you breathe, your body is ingesting huge amounts of toxins and pollutants daily. And unless you’re detoxing regularly, these chemicals can stay in your system, contributing to chronic health conditions and illness.
One of the best things you can do to curb the amount of toxins you’re exposed to is changing to eco-friendly cleaners for your home. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to think about the ingredients in the cleaning products that you’re purchasing.
To help you out, here’s some of the most well-known toxic ingredients that it’s best to avoid when choosing cleaning products for your home. We’ll also give you some tips for making your own natural, eco-friendly cleaners that won’t contain any nasty chemicals.
The Dangers of Commercial Cleaning Products
Looking at the household cleaning products in your supermarket aisle, they most likely look innocent enough. Sparkling white bottles of bleach, pine-scented disinfectants, and citrus-smelling sprays for benchtops and bathrooms – what could go wrong?
But the fact is, many of these products rely on harsh chemical ingredients to get the job done. We’re talking about chemicals that can cause a range of health ailments and issues.
The fragrances used in many cleaning products, particularly laundry detergents and fabric softeners, can often cause headaches, itchy or watery eyes, allergy-like symptoms and respiratory problems. Many people believe that the ingredients found in common household products can also be linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity, as ongoing exposure to chemicals adds to the body’s “toxic burden.”
There’s no doubt that the corrosive chemicals found in some common household products, such as oven foams or drain cleaners, can result in serious chemical burns to the skin. Toxic cleaning products can even result in fatal poisoning if ingested. When you think about it, it’s pretty risky leaving products like this sitting around under the kitchen sink!
Better for Your Health, Better for the Environment
In addition to the many health risks caused by chemical cleaners, products that contain toxic ingredients pose a serious threat to the environment.
Remember, anything that goes down your kitchen, bathroom or laundry sink will eventually end up in the Earth’s waterways, disrupting the natural ecosystem. The chemicals in many cleaners are also pollutants that contribute to smog, reducing air quality.
It’s also important to consider the impact of the packaging that these cleaning products come in. Plastic containers – sprays, bottles, tubs, packets – are very slow to biodegrade, if they ever break down at all. And some household products are still being packaged in aerosol cans, which contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are proven to damage the ozone layer.
Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Household Products
If you care about your health, and the health of the planet, it’s wise to avoid anything that’s labelled with the words “toxic” or “danger” or “warning.” You can also get a pretty good idea of what’s inside the bottle when the packaging contains wording such as “may cause skin irritation,” “flammable,” “vapours harmful,” or “may cause burns on contact”.
So what are the top five cleaning ingredients that you need to avoid?
First up, let’s look at ammonia. This ingredient is found in many glass and window cleaners, as well as products used for bathroom sinks and surfaces.
Unfortunately, ammonia is highly irritating to the respiratory system as is particularly problematic for anyone who suffers from asthma or breathing issues. Elderly people, and those with lung problems, should definitely avoid using ammonia products in the home. And ammonia should never be mixed with bleach, as it forms a toxic gas when combined.
Like ammonia, chlorine is an irritant, that has negative effects on both the respiratory system and when in contact with skin. It’s commonly found in cleaning products used in the bathroom and laundry, in the way of toilet cleaners and mildew removers.
Keep an eye out for chlorine listed on the ingredients label of household cleaners. Best to avoid using it in your home.
This is one of the most toxic ingredients that you need to be aware of. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is found primarily in heavy duty products like oven cleaners and drain un-blockers.
Think about how corrosive these products must be, if they can clear out blocked drains in just seconds. Then think about what it could potentially do to your skin, eyes and airways. Keep it out of the home, to avoid serious chemical burns to anyone in your household.
If you’re environmentally conscious, you’ll want to avoid any household products that contain phosphates. Phosphates are right up there on the list when it comes to causing damage to our oceans and rivers, as they cause an overgrowth of algae which reduces oxygen supplies for other marine life.
Unfortunately, phosphates are still readily found in many laundry and beauty products, even though we know the serious damage they’re doing to the planet. Be sure to look for phosphate-free labels when shopping.
It’s also really important to be aware of polypropylene, otherwise known as ‘microbeads’ or ‘microplastics.’ Those tiny little plastic beads are often included in many cleaning and beauty products for their scrubbing and buffing properties – but they are devastating to the environment.
Once washed down the sink or drain, they have easy access to waterways, as they’re too small to be caught by any filters. They are then eaten by fish and marine animals, who mistake them for food sources, with the toxins from those plastics being absorbed into the tissue of the animals and disrupting the marine ecosystem.
Choose Chemical-Free Cleaners for Your Home
Reduce the presence of these toxic ingredients in your life, by switching to natural chemical-free cleaning products for your home.
Next time you’re browsing the supermarket aisle, take some time to look at the label and read the ingredients list before you put that cleaning product in your trolley. Look for product labels that mark the product as ‘phosphate-free’, ‘containing no solvents,’ ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly.’
Choosing products made with plant-based, instead of petroleum-based, ingredients is always wise.
Make Your Own Natural, Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
You can also make your own natural cleaning products, that will guarantee you’re not putting the wellbeing of your family, or the environment, at risk.
You can clean your home safely – and cheaply – with just a few key ingredients such as baking soda, lemon, white vinegar, and water. After all, a clean home shouldn’t actually smell like anything – there’s no need for heavily fragranced sprays and air fresheners.
Have you ever walked into someone’s home and felt hit by a wave of chemical cleaning products? If you use heavy chemical cleaners regularly, over time you can stop noticing just how strong and invasive these products are. But it will be very noticeable to visitors who come to your home.
When you start using natural cleaning products, you’ll love the fresh, clean feel of your home, while having peace of mind that you’re doing the best thing for your health and the environment.
Here are three natural ingredients you can use instead, to replace those heavy chemical cleaners.
Baking soda, bicarbonate soda, or just plain ‘bicarb’ – whatever you like to call it, this pantry staple really is a secret wonder cleaner.
First of all, it’s really good at eliminating odours. You can use it to get rid of bad pet odours, cigarette smells in carpets, rugs or curtains, and to neutralise food odours in fridges or garbage bins. Just sprinkle it around the area in question. When using to clean carpets or soft furnishings, leave the bicarb to absorb for fifteen minutes, then vacuum.
Another top tip for using baking soda? It has the ability to unblock drains. To do this, you’ll need to also enlist the power of white vinegar. Pour half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda slowly down the sink or drain. Rinse with water and watch the magic happen.
You might have noticed that many household cleaners contain citrus ingredients, or at least lemon fragrance? There’s a reason for that. Because of their acidity, lemons are a natural disinfectant and stain remover. And there’s no doubt that they do have a pleasantly fresh smell!
Lemon is great for removing stains from kitchen surfaces. Countertops, chopping boards, inside microwaves and fridges – a squeeze of lemon juice will lift surface stains and leave areas clean and fresh.
In the bathroom, use lemon to remove lime scale from taps and fixtures. Rub lemon juice over surfaces and leave it to sit overnight. Rinse in the morning and you’ll notice the difference.
You can use white vinegar to clean all areas of the house. However, it’s particularly good for cleaning kitchens, bathrooms and toilet areas, because of its mild disinfectant properties. It has the power to kill both salmonella and E.coli, two of the most common bacteria found around the home.
We recommend combining the powers of white vinegar and bicarb, to make your own natural all-purpose cleaning spray. Simply mix 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 2 litres of water. Fill up your spray bottle with this solution and you’ll have a great all-purpose cleaner that’s environmentally-friendly, as well as far cheaper than expensive chemical brands.
White vinegar is also very handy for keeping ants under control in your home – they hate it! Using your white vinegar and bicarb solution, you can lightly spray window sills, doorways, kitchen benches… anywhere ants are causing trouble. Because both products are completely non-toxic and safe for your animal friends, you can even wipe down surfaces where pet bowls are kept, to deter ants from feeding areas.
For more natural cleaning tips, take a look at our tips for making your own professional home cleaning kit – a handy checklist of cleaning supplies that every Australian household should have. All 100% eco-friendly and chemical-free.
Keen to find expert cleaners who are committed to using natural, chemical-free cleaning products? Book Melbourne’s eco-friendly professional cleaners through Uber Clean House platform.
Author: Kerrie-Anne Chinn
Freelance Copywriter & Editor, working with ethical companies to create positive change.