We want to keep our houses sparkly clean, germ-free, and smelling fresh. We can quite easily achieve that with household cleaning products that are available in any supermarket.
Using cleaning products that are loaded with chemicals can pose serious health and safety risks. Most chemicals are quite harmful, especially to children, elderly people or persons with fragile immune systems.
Studies show that 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, used in products such as room deodorizers and toilet bowl cleaner blocks, can have serious acute and chronic effects on our health. They include irritation of the skin, throat, and eyes, dizziness, asthma as well as effects on the liver, skin, and central nervous system. This chemical is also possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Detergents – especially the ones with perfumes, colourants and optical brighteners – can be harmful to our brain, cause respiratory problems and skin rashes.
Ingredients found in carpet cleaners can cause loss of appetite and dizziness and affect our liver and central nervous system.
Choosing toxic-free cleaning products is a better idea. However, even natural or green products are not necessarily harmless.
Advertising is not always ethical, information that’s available on the Internet can be confusing, and an average sales assistant knows as much about a product as they can find reading the label. No wonder we make assumptions that are wrong or even dangerous:
- “There are not many harmful chemicals listed on the label, so the product is probably quite safe.”
According to Choice magazine, bathroom cleaners manufacturers don’t even have to list chemicals on the label.
“About 40,000 individual chemicals are permitted for use in consumer products, and many are considered safe only because they’ve been used for a long time without known adverse effects. For now, you’ll just have to trust that chemicals classified as non-toxic won’t hurt you, and that chemicals classified as toxic are used in low enough concentrations to steer clear of your system.”
If you want to know more about the product contact the company and ask them for a Safety Data Sheet. Reading online reviews may give more information about the product quality and possible negative effects as well.
- “It’s better to use a different cleaning product for every surface I clean than a multi-cleaner”.
Using a cleaning product specifically design to remove baked-on grease or to make windows sparkle makes a lot of sense. Mixing different chemicals is not a good idea.
Mixing bleach and ammonia produces a toxic gas called chloramine which is volatile and can kill a person if inhaled, especially when used in a confined space, such as a small bathroom.
Even products that are reasonably safe when used alone, for example hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, can be but dangerous when combined. Mixing them creates potentially toxic peracetic acid, which can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
- “I use natural, earth-friendly, green products so they must be fine”.
Eco-friendly cleaning products still must be used correctly to be safe. Even natural, plant-based ingredients can be toxic, especially to children and pets.
Additionally, there’s a lot of misinformation about some terms, like “organic” which is not regulated in Australia. Some product makers use it to their advantage and describe their products as “organic” even if percentage of organic ingredients is very small.
“Green” and similar claims found on labels may be incorrect or misleading. Some companies use them because “green” sell better even if they’re more expensive. Those “green” products can cause migraines, asthma attacks and breathing difficulties, just like the ordinary cleaning products.
“Professor Steinemann, a world expert on environmental pollutants, compared 37 best-selling household products, including a number labelled ‘green,’ or ‘organic’ and found they emitted 157 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 42 of which were classified as toxic or hazardous.”
- “I use essential oils so there’s no risk.”
Essential oils have antibacterial and antiseptic properties and they make your house smell divine. You can use them to deodorise your fridge, disinfect your dish sponge, freshen your kitchen or bathroom and get rid of pet odors. They are highly concentrated though and can be harmful to pets. They need to be used in small amounts, even for cleaning.
Using undiluted essential oil on the skin can lead to skin irritation or a blistering rash. Some oils can cause photosensitive reactions (burning, itching, reddening or peeling of the skin).
Some brands sell essential oils that have been adulterated with alcohol, solvents, and other oils and make irritate skin.
If you want to keep your house clean and healthy, choose non-toxic products and learn as much as you can about them. Don’t trust the labels and don’t underestimate the dangers of cleaning products just because they’re suitable for domestic use.