When we were kids, one of our friend’s moms was a fastidious housekeeper. She was always cleaning and polishing everything in sight. Their house was always sparkling clean. But it also smelled of lemon pledge, bleach, Windex, and 409, among other noxious fumes.
I remember the smell of 409 gave me a terrible headache. I was sure it wasn’t good for you but I was too young to really understand why. Luckily for us, my mom didn’t use many of those household cleaners. She also had some trepidations about us playing at our friend’s house, because of all the toxic fumes.
Later on, our friend’s mom died of cancer. And our family always wondered, did the toxins from all of those household cleaners play a role in her cancer? While we’ll never know for sure, one thing is sure—we breathe in the fumes from those products.
How cleaning product toxins end up in your body
And those toxins can get into our bloodstream. Or they may be absorbed through our skin if we don’t wear gloves. Did you know tens of thousands of chemicals found in cleaning products in the US have never been tested for their long-term toxic effects? Let alone what happens when several of those chemicals are combined together, within our bodies.
No bueno! Ironically, most of them are banned in Europe, for being too toxic. And laundry soaps, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets are some of the worst offenders. Those toxic fragrances that make your freshly cleaned clothes “smell so good” (or give you a raging headache!) can actually rub off on your skin, and then be absorbed into your body. Did you know your skin is like a giant mouth, and absorbs anything it comes into contact with? My motto is “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.”
So are your household cleaning products toxic? How can you find out? And what can you use instead?
What you need to know about your cleaning products
According to scientist David Suzuki, here are some of the worst offenders lurking in your cleaning products:
- 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE, also known as butyl cellosolve): found in glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers — associated with blood disorders and reproductive problems.
- Coal tar dyes: found in most cleaning products — associated with cancers and nervous system disorders.
- MEA (monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine): found in liquid laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, car wash products, degreasers, dishes soap, oven cleaners, and glass and surface cleaners — associated with asthma and cancer.
- Fragrance: over 3,000 fragrance chemicals are used in most types of cleaning products — associated with allergies, migraines, and asthma, they can also build up in the environment where they are toxic to aquatic organisms.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs): found in liquid laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers, and car wash products — a synthetic hormone associated with breast cancer as well as causing adverse reproductive effects in fish and other aquatic organisms.
Find out what to look for in your household cleaning products on David Suzuki’s site EXECUTIVE SUMMARY — Searching for a List of Ingredients in Home Cleaning Products
Non-toxic alternatives to your cleaning products
Luckily, you can spring clean your home naturally with these toxin-free, DIY recipes. I make and use my own cleaning products, and they really work!
Leave a comment to let us know your biggest takeaway.