We buy a myriad of cleaning products to clean and disinfect our homes, believing we’re creating a safer, more sanitary, and more comfortable living environment for ourselves and our families.
But did you know that some of the chemical ingredients commonly used in these household cleaning products have been linked to both short term issues like headaches and skin irritation, as well as longer term health problems including asthma and cancer?
Even if you don’t notice the impacts right away, remember that many of those cleaning products that go down the drain (e.g. toilet, sink and shower cleaners) end up back in our drinking water in trace amounts.
These chemicals may make household cleaning quicker and easier, but they are not good for our health or the health of the planet!
The Worst Offenders:
Over the past few years there has been a push for greater transparency in ingredient labeling on household cleaning products. Yet, many of the most toxic chemicals are still commonly used in conventional household cleaners. A few of the worst offenders to watch out for on ingredient labels include:
- Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, Methanol, and Ethylbenzene are chemicals commonly used in disinfectants, tub and tile cleaners, and toilet cleaners. These compounds have been linked to nerve system damage, memory loss, reproductive system damage, and an increased risk of several types of cancer.
- Bleach is a common ingredient in cleaning products, and many people buy them, believing it is necessary to get household items their absolute cleanest and whitest. But bleach is one of the most potentially dangerous and reactive substances around! When mixed with ammonia and acids it forms toxic gases that are highly irritating to the eyes and lungs.
- Formaldehyde is used in air fresheners, antibacterial detergents, and carpet cleaners, and is a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, in humans.
- Fragrance is a general term that can mask the presence of allergens and known hormone disrupting chemicals like phthalates.
Although it may feel overwhelming to scan the ingredient label of every cleaning product you bring into your home, in the end, it’s not much different than reading food or cosmetics ingredient labels. The products we use on a regular basis, whether in or on our bodies or in our homes, can have a profound impact on our health.
Probably the easiest way to ensure your home cleaning products are safe is to look for natural products from trusted brands. There are a handful of brands committed to ingredient integrity, environmental sustainability, and developing cruelty-free products. A few of our favorites are highlighted below:
Natural Cleaning Product Recommendations:
Seventh Generation is probably the most popular and widely available natural cleaning brand on the market. The company is committed to reducing the environmental impact of production, ensuring product safety, and enhancing sustainability. Their products are safe for people, pets, and the environment, and the company fully discloses all ingredients.
The company makes a popular line of general household cleaners, including All Purpose Cleaner, Glass and Surface Cleaner, Shower Cleaner, Tub and Tile Cleaner, and Toilet Bowl Cleaner. For those with fragrance sensitivities, look for several of these products in unscented, or “free and clear” varieties.
They also make a line of disinfecting cleaners, including Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes, Multi-Surface Cleaner, and Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, and a line of specialty cleaners for Wood, Stainless Steel, and Granite and Stone.
Their Counter Top Spray is available in Geranium, Lavender, and Lemon Verbena scents.
All Purpose Cleaner – look for it in scents like Lemon Verbena, Lavender, Basil, and more.
Mrs. Meyer’s Surface Scrub is tough on dirt and grime, but won’t scratch delicate surfaces. Use it on bathroom tile, appliances, and even for pots and pans! Lemon Verbena is the most popular scent, but the surface scrub also comes in Geranium, Lavender, and Basil.
Method produces several types of natural cleaners, each made with biodegradable, non-toxic, and naturally-derived substances. Their packages are 100% recycled and recyclable, and their products are never tested on animals! This is one company that is highly committed to sustainable production practices and ingredient integrity.
Look for their All Purpose Natural Surface Cleaner, Glass Cleaner, Wood Floor Cleaner, Furniture Polish, and Toilet Bowl Cleaner. These cleaners come in pleasant fragrances like mint, almond, and citrus – no harsh fumes or artificial fragrances here!
BabyGanics is another great brand offering an extensive line of natural cleaners and bath/body care products. The line was designed exclusively to be safe for the most sensitive populations, including pregnant women, infants, young children, and even pets. All the company’s products are either fragrance free or naturally and delicately scented, with no toxic fumes or harsh residues. Try their All Purpose Cleaner, All Purpose Surface Wipes, Toy and Highchair Cleaner, and Tub and Tile Cleaner.
Other Natural Cleaning Alternatives:
Sometimes the purest, simplest, most effective, and most cost effective cleaners are items you probably already have already the house:
- Lemon juice and vinegar are great for cleaning windows and cutting through grease, and vinegar is also useful for preventing mold formation.
- Ordinary table salt (or sea salt) is great for scrubbing and scouring tough dirt and grime, and for helping to disinfect high traffic areas.
- Baking soda is indispensable for natural household cleaning! It scrubs and scours, cleanses, deodorizes, and even helps unclog drains when mixed with vinegar.
Did we miss your favorite natural cleaner? Or perhaps you have a great cleaning tip to share. We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!