health & beauty

Toxic Cleaning Products: Their Dangers & Alternatives

Lemons, limes and thyme on wood cutting board with spray bottle

Although green cleaning can be easy and relatively inexpensive, toxic cleaning products seem to prevail in our society. In fact, when we go to the store and reach for some of our most familiar cleaners, we’re trusting that the scientists, companies and distributors have our health and best interests at heart. Shockingly, often this is not the case. These companies give the consumer just enough ingredient information to make the user feel safe. Unfortunately, there is no law in effect in the U.S. for companies to list all of the ingredients in household cleaning products. In turn, not allowing consumers to make their own educated decisions regarding what kind of toxins they are paying for and bringing into their homes. We read fairly often about the cancer risks associated with certain substances. Even products labeled “skin or eye irritant” make us think the products and chemicals we’re buying have been researched and come out “clean.” What about the long-term effects and the toxicity to the brain, nervous system and reproductive organs? To this day, there has not been an adequate assessment of the dangers of these substances.

 

Commercial cleaning products have a list of unmentionable side effects that are rarely discussed. Sadly, children and expectant mothers are most at risk. Because the organs and immune systems of small children and fetuses are not fully developed, these toxins interfere with their neurological, endocrine and immune systems. The results include:

 

  • Fertility problems
  • Birth defects
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Asthma & reproductive disorders
  • Hormone disruption

 

These synthetic, mass-produced toxic cleaning products not only wreak havoc on human lives; the lives of our animals and eco-system are also at stake. A “Households Hazards Report” by the group Women’s Voices for the Earth cited a United States Geological Survey study that found traces of laundry detergent degradation products in 70% of North American streams! And even low–level exposure has been shown to reduce egg and embryo survival rates in fish. Remember: the next time you spray these products into the air or pour that clog remover down your drain, you could be single-handedly jeopardizing the health of our eco-system. If that isn’t enough to make you stop and take note, imagine what you’re breathing in every time you spray your kitchen counter cleaner or air-freshener. Carcinogenic chemicals associated with both respiratory and reproductive harm have been reported in countless products.

 

This can all be extremely overwhelming and might raise the question, “How do I safely clean my home?” For starters, avoid using products containing VOC’s and APE’s: two extremely harmful groups of chemicals that should be on the top of your “Hazard!” list. These do not readily biodegrade. Therefore, they end up not only harming you, but being toxic to the environment.

 

Here are some products where these nasty things can be found:

 

VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)

  • Aerosols
  • Disinfectants
  • Air-fresheners

 

APE’s (Alkylphenol Ethoxylates | nonylphenol ethoxylates)

  • Detergent
  • Pesticides
  • Cleaning products

Natural cleaning products on cutting board

Safer, Friendlier Alternatives

What some folks don’t know is that many things we already have in our kitchen pantry are extremely effective cleaners. A few go–to home green cleaning essentials we like to keep on hand are:

  • White vinegar – fights bacteria
  • Baking soda – dirt & odor eliminator
  • Lemons – natural anti-bacterial
  • Lemon, orange, tea tree, and lavender essential oils – disinfecting properties, aromatherapy
  • Hydrogen peroxide – disinfecting
  • Sea salt – abrasive properties

 

Drain clogged?

Pour 2 Tbsp. of baking soda down drain. Pour vinegar into drain and watch the bubbles do the work!

 

Kitchen sink odors?

 Drop a small lemon wedge into your garbage disposal for a clean & uplifting aroma as well as disinfecting

 

As you can see from just these two extremely simple concoctions, implementing natural cleaning into your home is fairly simple. There are so many creative and useful products you can make as alternatives to toxic cleaning products. What are some of your favorite homemade standbys? We’d love to hear about them!

We encourage you to educate yourself about not only incorporating non-toxic habits into your own home, but sustainable practices in general. Remember, we are all in this together. A few of our favorite enlightening and educational sites are: