Cleaning Products

Health Issues Related to Everyday Cleaning Products


When we as consumers buy commercial cleaning products, we expect them to do one thing: clean! We also tend to believe that these products will leave our homes sparkling and sweet-smelling. But while the chemicals in cleaners foam, bleach, and disinfect to make our dishes, bathtubs, and countertops gleaming and germ-free, many also contribute to indoor air pollution, are poisonous if ingested, and can be harmful if inhaled or touched. In fact, some cleaners are among the most toxic products found in the home. When you think about how often you clean and come in contact with these products and how soon after you, your kids or pets touch, lay or even lick, the area you just cleaned…It’s very scary!

One of the reasons I became so passionate about reducing chemicals in my home was when I was told to start reading labels and directions on how to use the products. Many of us learn from watching our Mother’s clean…or believing what we see in commercials, advertisements, billboards, but do we ever actually research and read the back of the labels?  I know I didn’t in the past.

One of the cleaning products that is used so often in homes and in schools is the disinfectant wipes.  We are even asked to bring these to school with our kids!  BUT…if you read the back of the label it says: The surface must remain visibly wet for 4 minutes and then let dry before coming in contact with the surface.  it also says to wash hands right away. How many people, especially kids do this??  So kids are using these wipes to wipe down their desks and then eating on them and probably not washing their hands.  To me, this is a problem so I wanted a safe and effective solution.  This is why I began and will always use Norwex cleaning products.

Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose. Some cause acute, or immediate, hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic, or long-term, effects such as cancer.

Products with Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia, which produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and should not be used by people with asthma or lung or heart problems. These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other or other chemicals to form lung-damaging gases. Combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia or ammonia and lye (in some oven cleaners) produces chloramine gases, while chlorine combined with acids (commonly used in toilet bowl cleaners) forms toxic chlorine gas.

One of the most toxic household product in your home are dryer sheets.
This is something many people don’t even think twice about using because they are not aware of what is actually in them. Our skin is the largest organ in our body so anything we come in contact with will be absorbed into our bloodstream. (see the full post on dryer sheets)

Fragrances added to many cleaners, most notably laundry detergents and fabric softeners, may cause acute effects such as respiratory irritation, headache, sneezing, and watery eyes in sensitive individuals or allergy and asthma sufferers. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. But because the chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients but merely label them as containing “fragrance.”

Other ingredients in cleaners may have low acute toxicity but contribute to long-term health effects, such as cancer or hormone disruption. Some all-purpose cleaners contain the sudsing agent’s diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA). When these substances come into contact with nitrites, often present as undisclosed preservatives or contaminants, they react to form nitrosamines – carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin. 1,4-dioxane, another suspected carcinogen, may be present in cleaners made with ethoxylated alcohols. Butyl cellosolve (also known as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether), which may be neurotoxic (or cause damage to the brain and nervous system), is also present in some cleaners.


Most ingredients in chemical cleaners break down into harmless substances during treatment or soon afterward. Others, however, do not, threatening water quality or fish and other wildlife.

Another famous water pollutant is phosphates, water-softening mineral additives that were once widely used in laundry detergents and other cleaners. When phosphates enter waterways, they act as a fertilizer, spawning overgrowth of algae. This overabundance of aquatic plant life eventually depletes the water’s oxygen supply, killing off fish and other organisms. Although many states have banned phosphates from laundry detergents and some other cleaners, they are still used in automatic dishwasher detergents.

Another environmental concern with cleaning products is that many use chemicals that are petroleum-based, contributing to the depletion of this non-renewable resource and increasing our nation’s dependence on imported oil.

The plastic bottles used to package cleaning products pose another environmental problem by contributing to the mounds of solid waste that must be landfilled, incinerated or, in not enough cases, recycled.
(See post on “The Real Truth About Plastic”)

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