Cleaning is crucial when it comes to protecting our health. We’re exposed to toxins, bacteria, and other harmful invaders in our homes, schools, and workplaces. However, household and cleaning products often include harmfully harsh chemicals. The good news is that you can limit your exposure to these harsh chemicals. Not to mention that a movement of “green” and “natural” cleaning products is occurring now!
Our Health VS. Harsh Chemicals
Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat. They can cause headaches rashes. Some cleaning products can cause other health problems, including cancer. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released when these products are being used. VOCs are gases, some are harmful by themselves. However, they can also react with other gases and form other air pollutants after they are already in the air.
VOCs and other chemicals increase the risk of chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches. Studies are underway to see how these chemicals affect those with asthma and other respiratory issues. Cleaning supplies and household products containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include, but are not limited to:
- Aerosol spray products (health, beauty, and cleaning products)
- Air fresheners
- Chlorine bleach*
- Detergent and dishwashing liquid
- Dry cleaning chemicals
- Rug and upholstery cleaners
- Furniture and floor polish
- Oven cleaners
Never mix bleach or any bleach-containing product with any cleaner containing ammonia. The combination of gases can lead to chronic breathing problems and in some cases, death.
What Should You Look for When Buying Cleaning Products?
We all can’t be a “Gwyneth Paltrow” make your own all-clean, all-natural GOOP inspired cleaning products. So, here are some shopping guidelines to help you choose products with the lowest impact on your health and the environment when you’re in a pinch.
Read Your Labels
While most cleaners don’t actually list their ingredients, you can learn about specific hazards by reading the label. Most products will use a signal word like “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”. Remember, “Danger” or “Poison” usually signifies a more hazardous formula. Products that say “Warning” are usually moderate. And those labeled with “Caution” are considered slightly less hazardous. Make sure to read instructions to learn how to use the product and avoid any potential harm.
Also note for phrases such as:
- “may cause skin irritation”
- “vapors harmful”
- “may cause burns on contact”
Help the Environment
Do your best to choose cleaners in the largest container sizes available. Bulk products tend to give you both the most bang for your buck while also utilizing the least amount of packaging materials. Also, keep an eye out for select products in bottles made with at least some recycled plastic. By doing so, you support companies that are providing a market for recycled plastic.
When you can, choose concentrated formulas. These products normally contain only 20% or less water. This is important because dilution with water is now done at home, rather than at the factory. Concentrated cleaners overall require less packaging and fuels for shipping!
Going Chemical Free
Trade products with numerous chemicals for a few simple ingredients. Aided by a little elbow grease and a coarse sponge for scrubbing, they can take care of most household cleaning needs just as well as their harmful counterparts. Plus, they can save you money from purchasing unnecessary, specialized cleaners!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.