With the natural market growing constantly, it can be confusing to decide which products are safe to use in your home, and which are legitimately hazardous. For those of us who grew up in households that used a different cleaning product for every surface, it can be hard to imagine that these things aren’t actually safe to use.
When it comes to food, we know that organic can keep our bodies free of harmful pesticides and chemicals, and keep our families healthy. But the rules aren’t quite so clear with cleaning products. To sort through the confusion, we’ve compiled a list of the most common dangerous chemicals in cleaning products and simple swaps to clean your home naturally.
Things to avoid: Phthalates
Though often not on the label, these harmful toxins hide under the term “fragrance,” and you can often find them in commercial aerosols and air fresheners. Phthalates can cause serious damage to the endocrine system, and can be absorbed into the skin or inhaled.
To sidestep phthalates, look for fragrance-free products and natural ways to freshen the air in your home. Houseplants are great air purifiers, and essential oils can make your home smell great without any negative side effects.
Things to avoid: Ammonia
Often found in window cleaners and polishing products, ammonia is frequently used because it is streak-free, but this cleaning perk comes at a high price for your respiratory system. Ammonia is most damaging for those with asthma or respiratory issues, especially older adults. It can lead to chronic bronchitis and worsened asthma, even for people without prior health issues.
Natural cleaners have come a long way in terms of their cleaning effectiveness, but if you are still set on getting streak-free shine, try using vodka. The alcohol will leave metal and reflective surfaces just as shiny as if they were cleaned with ammonia-laden cleaners.
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Things to avoid: Sodium Hydroxide
This culprit is usually hiding in tough cleaning products like those intended for ovens. The problem with this chemical is that it is extremely damaging to skin, and if inhaled it can cause a sore throat and difficulty breathing.
Fortunately, there is a simple alternative to this harsh oven cleaner, and it’s something you probably already have in your house. A natural mixture of baking soda and vinegar can be used to remove oven grime, and best of all it’s safe to use.
Things to avoid: Chlorine
Cleaning the bathroom is one of the most daunting tasks, and the majority of people use a whole slew of products. Lurking inside your toilet bowl cleaner, mildew remover, and cleansing powders, chlorine can be absorbed into your skin or inhaled while cleaning. It can be damaging to your thyroid, and harmful to your respiratory system. We are already exposed to chlorine through our tap water, so we should limit any other contact with it wherever possible.
Instead, scrub your showers and toilets with natural baking soda, and use vinegar to clean bathroom surfaces. These natural products require a bit more elbow grease, but can protect you from the damaging effects of regular cleaning products.
Things to avoid: 2-Butoxyethanol
The chemical is a common ingredient in multi-purpose cleaners that you use for your kitchen and bathroom. When inhaled, it can lead to kidney and liver damage, and cause sore throats. Without proper ventilation, most people inhale 2-Butoxyethanol at an unsafe level, especially when using it to clean in an enclosed bathroom.
Rather than harmful multi-purpose cleaners, use a natural product like Bon Ami powder (http://www.amazon.com/Bon-Ami-Polishing-Cleanser-Powder/dp/B000RPXJ8S). It contains natural ingredients, and is free of harmful dyes, chemicals, and fragrances. You can use Bon Ami powder anywhere you would use a typical all-purpose cleaner, making it the perfect replacement.
While it’s nearly impossible to list all of the chemicals to avoid in household products, a good rule of thumb is to just go natural whenever possible. This will keep you and your family safe from harsh chemical exposure in your home. A great site to get you on the right track for avoiding the negative is Gimme the Good Stuff (https://gimmethegoodstuff.org). Aim to make educated choices about the products you use, so you can feel good about the safety of your home.