How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals When Choosing House Cleaning Supplies

October 15, 2023 by justin davis

spotless shower cleaned with organic cleaning solution

Have you ever noticed just how many cleaning products there are? From dish soap to furniture polish, it can seem like every type of surface in your house gets its own cleaning product. However, if you’re trying to replace conventional cleaners with non-toxic alternatives, this can seem bewildering. Is it really possible to keep your house sparkling clean without the use of harmful chemicals? As it happens, the answer is “yes” – and it may turn out to be easier than you thought.

Which cleaning chemicals should you avoid?

The first part of the process is knowing which chemicals to get rid of. If you want to use commercially formulated cleaning products, you won’t necessarily be able to get 100% non-toxic ones. That is, they won’t disrupt your hormones or elevate your cancer risk, but you should definitely avoid ingesting them.

That being said, you can still eliminate the most dangerous ingredients in household cleaners by choosing eco-friendly alternatives. The question is, which chemicals should you be looking out for? Here’s a list of the worst offenders.

  • Phthalates – linked to reproductive issues, neurodevelopmental disorders, breast cancer, ADHD, asthma, and more.
  • Phosphates – while they aren’t particularly toxic for humans, they can cause massive damage to marine life once they make their way into the water supply.
  • Formaldehyde (and other petroleum solvents) – can cause irritation of the throat, nose, eyes, and skin, as well as certain types of cancers in high concentrations.
  • Chlorine – can cause irritation of the lungs, nose, and eyes, and can damage the eyes and skin if direct contact is made.
  • Monobutyl, ethylene glycol, or butyl glycol – these three names describe the same substance, which can damage the kidneys and liver, as well as harm the nervous system.
  • Ammonia – is quite toxic whether it’s inhaled, touched, or swallowed; it also keeps emitting fumes for several hours after being used.

Why it’s important to read labels

Typical household cleaners aren’t marketed as particularly “green” or non-toxic; instead, the focus tends to be on their cleaning abilities. Then there are the cleaning products that are supposed to be better for you and the environment; they may even have a special sticker marking them as non-toxic or environmentally friendly. The problem is that these labels are unregulated, creating considerable confusion around what “non-toxic” actually means. Does it mean that you won’t have a higher risk of cancer if you use these products, or that they won’t irritate your skin? Does it mean that they won’t disrupt marine life, or that they won’t make your allergies worse?

Keep in mind that it’s possible to find cleaning products that really are safe to use around you and your family; you just have to be smart about which labels you trust. Instead of being instantly impressed by the claims on the front label, flip the bottle around to check the label on the back. Which ingredients are listed there? Do you see any of the substances listed above, or others that are known to cause adverse symptoms? You should also look for words like “poison”, “danger”, “corrosive”, “caution”, or other warnings.

It takes a bit more work, but checking individual ingredients is the best way to ensure that you’re only using non-toxic cleaning products. Once you’ve found safe and effective replacements for common household cleaners, you won’t have to spend time constantly checking labels.

Commercially produced vs. DIY cleaners

For some people, the preferred option is to find non-toxic cleaning products that are still commercially produced, but made with less harmful ingredients. This is definitely the easier way to do things, especially once you’ve identified which cleaners are actually safe to use. The main drawback is that these products are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts. In some cases, they won’t be that much pricier; in others, they could be two or three times as expensive. Some brands simply focus on removing the most toxic ingredients from their products, while others develop formulations that are truly non-toxic. They could also be organic, vegan, or something else that certain consumers value. This often causes the price to be marked up significantly, mainly because it’s expensive to produce this type of product that will still clean just as effectively as regular cleaning products.

This being the case, many people decide that the best route is to make their own cleaning products. While this does involve more work, it also saves quite a bit of money, even compared to standard cleaning products. Best of all, most DIY cleaners don’t require specialized ingredients. If you need something that isn’t already in your house, you can easily find it at a grocery store or online. Here are a few basic cleaning products that you can make yourself.

  • Baking soda is great for any cleaning job that involves scrubbing. It’s abrasive enough to effectively remove grime, but won’t damage surfaces like stainless steel or ceramic. Just add enough water to barely moisten it, and go to town. It can also be used as a degreaser.
  • Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener, a rinse aid in the dishwasher, a window and glass cleaner, a lime/calcium deposit remover, and more. It’s usually diluted with water, as straight vinegar can be a little strong for some jobs.
  • Lemon juice can be used in many of the same ways as vinegar, plus it leaves behind a fresh, pleasant scent.
  • Castile soap is a 100% natural soap that’s perfect for anything that requires suds. It’s made from either vegetable or olive oil, and can be used for washing your hands, body, hair, or laundry.
  • Borax is a multipurpose product that’s often used for washing laundry, as well as removing tough stains.

Although these products are non-toxic and completely natural, they should still be used with a certain degree of caution. For example, they can all cause eye irritation if exposure occurs. Even so, regardless of the type of cleaning products you end up using, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your house is not only clean, but free from toxic cleaning chemicals as well.

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