No one wants to keep a dirty home, but regular cleaning using chemical compounds can be dangerous for your health. Cleaning substances are the 3rd most common reason for exposure to poison in adults, and the second most common reason for exposure in children. Everything from dish soaps to fabric softeners can include toxins that pose a risk to you, your family, and the environment. The next time that you go to clean the messiest rooms of your house, it’s a good idea to be aware of the dangers that your cleaning products may pose to your wellbeing.
Harsh chemical cleaners are known to cause damage to the skin. While mild detergents might just dry skin out and become dehydrated, stronger corrosive and acidic cleansers can lead to severe burns if they come in contact with the skin or eyes. If ingested, these cleaners can also do internal damage to the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Some of the most dangerous cleaners include corrosive drain solutions, oven cleaners, strong bleach mixtures, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners.
If you're cleaning a poorly ventilated area, chemical cleaners may produce fumes that can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. Chlorine bleach and ammonia can both cause breathing difficulties, especially in people with asthma or other chronic lung problems. Combining different cleaners can be particularly dangerous. Adding ammonia to chlorine or lye can produce hazardous chloramine gases while combining chlorine with acids can lead to caustic chlorine gas.
While many health issues caused by chemical cleaners are brief and temporary, there can also be long-term consequences. Some cleaners contain compounds that increase your risk of developing cancer. All-purpose cleaners containing diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) create carcinogenic nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrites. 1,4-dioxane and phenols are also commonly found ingredients that are suspected carcinogens.
In addition to impacting your health, chemical cleaners can also affect the environment around you. Some cleaners contain compounds that don’t readily break down during the treatment process, releasing hazardous detergents and disinfectants into the waterways. Not only does this threaten the health of local marine wildlife, but it can also lead to dangerous chemicals and carcinogens showing up in your food. You might begin to see dangerous levels of toxins in local fish populations, or runoff may make its way into the soil and affect crops.
It's important to be careful about what products you bring into your home when dealing with cleaners. You should always read the label to ensure that no ingredients are present that might harm you or your family. Switching to green products such as MamaSuds Household Cleaners can help to keep your dishes, your clothes, and your home free of toxic chemicals.
Contribution by freelance writer Sally Preston
Today's post is about ditching your cleaners. People have a lot of cleaners. There is a specific cleaner for every nook and cranny in your home. Not only is that a lot of product that is most likely harmful to your health and to our environment, it's a LOT of plastic.
Do you really need ALL those products? You will quickly learn that you don't. Do you know what else you will learn? You will learn that after a month or two after ditching your old products and switching to green products, you will have a hard time walking down the cleaning aisle at the grocery store. Seriously. The fumes will overwhelm you. Today you might be skeptical because you LOVE the smell of your products, but after you learn what is in them and your nose adjusts to the actual smell of "CLEAN" and the natural smell of essential oils, you'll be walking past the cleaning aisle holding your breath.
So how many different cleaners do you have? Seriously, go look. Go under your sink in your kitchen and count how many cleaners you have.
This is what my cleaning products consisted of before my cleaners went green.
We learn very early on in life to stay away from things that will hurt us. At some point, companies in our country have decided that products that will hurt us are okay if we don't overuse them or if we don't use them very often. I couldn't agree less. Which leads me into:
How to Switch to Safe Cleaners in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: Ditch products that have warning labels on them.
Small quantities of hazardous substances can accumulate over time to reach dangerous levels and contaminate the air, our water and soil. Others can have a more immediate effect- like poisoning, if discovered by our kids or pets. If the label says, CORROSIVE, FLAMMABLE, or TOXIC/POISON it is considered household hazardous waste and should be disposed of (properly).
This is the warning label on bleach.
You will most likely find these warnings on oven cleaners and products that unclog drains. These labels and symbols warn us about acute health hazards associated with a single or short-term exposure to chemicals in the product. What about the long term? What if we are exposed to cleaning products and their residues at low levels on a daily basis?
*side note: all products will have a caution statement on them. These are okay. They are legally required to be on all products.
Step 2: Ditch products that have ingredients with numbers attached to them.
Why? Theses are typically artificial chemicals that have been added to change the product's appearance or shelf-life. This is bad news for our planet. The more an ingredient is processed the more damage it does. Our water supply gets increasing polluted when these toxic chemicals get flushed out of our homes and into our ecosystem. It is a vicious chain of events that affects our water, animals, plants and people. Not all ingredients with numbers are necessarily a health concern, but what should bother you is the fact that it synthetic and is an environmental concern.
Step 3: Ditch products that say 'fragrance' or 'parfum'
The products in your home that list fragrance or parfum as an ingredient are most likely synthetic fragrances that contain phthalates. (If a company is using phthalate-free fragrance they will definitely tell you). Most phthalates (actually pronounced thal-ates) are a group of chemicals in a gajillion of products in your home.
Concerns have been raised about phthalates because studies have found a link between phthalates and thyroid hormone levels in humans, and between phthalates and male reproductive health. Phthalates can be found all over your house because they are in almost every product AND THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED TO BE LISTED ON THE INGREDIENT LIST. Phthalates are disguised under the word "fragrance". They are so widely used it's nearly impossible to eliminate them from your life, but there are some steps to reduce your exposure by eliminating products from your life. No doubt, this is difficult and daunting at first but if you do it slowly you can gradually take this toxin out of your home. I took the time to look at the labels and eliminate the products that said the word "fragrance" on them. If there wasn't a full ingredient list, I searched for it. Here is another article I wrote about fragrance and air fresheners.
There you have it. Three easy steps. It's just a start, but once you start you'll create momentum and soon your household cleaners will be healthy and eco-friendly! Are you interested in learning more about how to read labels and become a ingredient ninja? Have more confidence when you go to the store and buy cleaning products? Learn how not to be duped by companies that act like "green" companies (aka green washers)? Want to know which products work (not just my products!)? I can totally help you... I am just finishing up creating my 10 Day class called EcoCleaners 101. If you're interested in being notified when you can sign up for this class opt-in below. Just for opting in, I will send you my Top 5 Most Important Products for SAFE & ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANING!