Toxic chemicals can be found in everyday household cleaners. These chemicals often leave behind a film on our countertops and other surfaces and interact with food, our skin, and more. This makes them dangerous to us and to our families, all while we are trying to create a safe and clean environment.
Instead of providing you with a list of specific cleaners that contain toxic chemicals, we thought it would make more sense to provide you with information on the top ten toxic chemicals found in common household cleaners, so you can read the labels of your cleaning agents and avoid these chemicals.
What does “toxic” mean?
We use toxic to mean that a chemical is harmful to people, animals and the environment. Cleaners with toxic chemicals often have labels like “Caution, harmful if swallowed” or “Keep out of reach of children” or simply “DANGER”. We have all seen labels like this.
Top ten toxic chemicals
Cleaners containing chemicals that require the above warning labels should absolutely be kept to a minimum in every household. Be sure to check your cleaners for the following toxins:
Air freshener, furniture polish, disinfectants and other products contain phenol. This chemical can cause irritation to skin, eyes, and throat when inhaled or exposed to the skin. Long-term exposure can cause more alarming issues like anorexia, unexplained weight loss, vertigo, blood and liver effects and more. Animal studies indicate that phenol affects fetal development when the chemical gets into the body through the mouth.
This flammable substance is used in anything from air freshener to embalming fluid. This toxin can cause breathing problems, chest pains, gut issues, reproductive disorders and it has been linked to cancer. It’s not always easy to spot in your cleaners either. Avoid cleaners containing:
- 1,3 Dioxetane
- Methylene Oxide
- Formic Aldehyde
- Oxomethane FOrmalin
- Phenol Formaldehyde
Besides cleaners, you might find formaldehyde in soaps, baby wipes, and lipstick.
These are a group of chemicals that can be found in plastics, vinyl, insecticides, detergents, wood finishes, and many cleaners that say “fragrance” on the label. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, many phthalate chemicals have been linked to cancer and reproductive disorders.
One of the easiest ways to avoid phthalates in cleaning solutions is to simply buy products that are “fragrance free”. It can be a little trickier to avoid plastics containing phthalates, however. One way to do so is to stop using plastic to package and store your food.
4. Hydrochloric acid or muriatic acid
Hydrochloric acid can be found in cleaning supplies such as drain cleaner, toilet bowl cleaners, tile cleaners, and pool cleaners. This chemical can cause anything from chemical burns when touched to breathing problems when inhaled. Exposure to this chemical has been linked to causing asthma and long-term liver issues.
5. Petroleum Distillates
These are solvents produced from crude oil. You can find petroleum distillates in furniture polish, air freshener, and general cleaners. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that this chemical can cause dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and skin irritation in the short term. If used over a long period of time, petroleum distillates can cause skin disorders, liver disease, chronic breathing problems and kidney disease.
This is another industrial chemical that gets used in common household cleaners like furniture polish, paint solvents and the fragrance in some cleaners and soaps. Nitrobenzene is highly toxic and can cause anything from skin irritation to a blood condition that affects the ability of blood to carry oxygen. This product by itself has a bitter almond smell to it, but that smell is often overpowered by the combination of chemicals in household cleaning solutions.
Currently under review by the FDA, triclosan can be found in many antibacterial cleaning agents and soaps. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing this chemical because it has been linked as a contributor to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While triclosan is currently approved for human use, the FDA cautions users that it has no evidence that adding this chemical in soaps and body washes provides any added benefits over plain old soap and water.
Chlorine is the basis of most common bleaches. While we all know not to drink bleach and not to mix it with ammonia, a recent study found that children exposed to bleach when used according to label instructions were more likely to get infections and have breathing problems.
9. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Trethanolamine (TEA)
These sudsing agents are commonly used in hand soap, scrubbing pads, and all-purpose cleaners. When mixed with common preservatives called nitrates, these chemicals form a cancer-causing chemical which can penetrate skin.
10. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds or “Quats”
Quats are commonly found in fabric softeners and many antibacterial household cleaners. Quats are an antimicrobial substance, so they can contribute to breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Additionally, they are a skin irritant and have been linked with respiratory disorders.
Healthy solutions for common household cleaners
Now that we have shared which chemicals can harm you, we wanted to provide you with a few simple, healthy solutions for common household cleaning agents. If you would like a full list of easy to make natural cleaning agents, be sure to attend our free June 2nd class at the Revive Family Healing Center. You can get the details here.
However, we don’t want to leave you in suspense, so here are some natural solutions you can use to replace some of your toxic household cleaners:
Air freshener: You can replace chemical air fresheners with coffee beans, whole bean or ground. Coffee will absorb odor rapidly and can be easily placed around the house in an open jar.
Furniture polish: If you have wood furniture, you don’t need to use a chemical polish. Instead, use a natural beeswax furniture polish or rub in lemon oil.
General cleaners: There are many nontoxic cleaners on the market. You can also diluted white vinegar* to clean up a mess or as a mild disinfectant and baking soda if you need something abrasive for scrubbing out those deeper stains.
*Bonus tip: You can also use a quarter cup of vinegar in place of fabric softener.
For a full list of healthy cleaners, along with recipes and more recommendations, be sure to head over to our Thursday, June 2nd class on natural cleaning products. We are here to help you make a change for the health of it.