It’s safe to say we all agree that cleaning products should do their job and do it well, or why else clean? Often, we equate a cleaner’s effectiveness to the potent chemicals it contains – if it zaps the dirt, stain, or icky spill quickly (and ideally smells good while doing so), it must be good. But just what are those chemicals? Are they safe for us, our kids, and pets to breathe, touch, walk on, crawl on, or wear?
Before we get going, let’s acknowledge that not all ingredients in common cleaners are exceedingly dangerous. Some are fillers or water, and may not rank high on toxicity scales. But many, many household cleaners, from glass cleaner to laundry detergent, contain ingredients that are harmful to touch or breathe, and can be very dangerous if accidentally ingested. The residues and vapors are constantly around us.
If you’ve ever tried to investigate cleaner ingredients, you may have noticed they often are not disclosed, and the safety precautions are extensive. If you’ve managed to find some ingredients in the small print, you probably found something similar to this:
A common, everyday, all-purpose cleaner may, for example, be bleach-based and contain Sodium Hypochlorite (chlorine compound), fragrances, dyes, patented chemical formulas with names that look like #39*34258, unspecified carriers and cleaning agents, and glutaraldehyde, to name a few. These cleaners warn you that they may cause allergic reactions, are dangerous to kids and pets, and to wash hands thoroughly if you’ve handled the substance or prior to touching anything that you may ingest or get near your mouth. [Glutaraldehyde is used to sterilize surgical instruments, as a tanning agent, preservative in cosmetics, anti-microbial in water-treatment systems, medicine, a biocide in metalworking fluids, and more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that workers may be harmed from exposure and side-effects include throat and lung irritation, athsma, burning eyes, and conjunctivitis. (cdc.gov)]
A common laundry detergent or fabric softener likely has low biodegradability, may contain nonionic/anionic surfactants, ethoxylated polyethylene, fragrances, dyes, dodecyibenzene sulfonate, increase flammability of some thicker fabrics like fleece which can already have flame retardants (anyone have a fleece baby onesie? Pajamas? Dog bed?), and require you to visit the parent corporation’s databases to locate complete ingredient lists. Any detergent scent that remains on fabric after washing and drying is more than likely a heat-resistant chemical that will ride around on your clothes and skin. Not to mention the vapors that the steamy washing machine creates.
An aerosol-based everyday bathroom freshening spray may contain propellants, petroleum solvents, solubilizer, preservatives, and fragrance. The bottle likely warns that inhaling the spray can be harmful, as is getting it in eyes/skin contact, and advise you to only use the product in ventilated rooms that are not sleeping areas. The spray is probably advertised to contain “natural” fragrances, which could mean there are natural ingredients in it, but not 100% natural… The word fragrance = chemicals.
Hi, I'm Jessica! Owner & Founder of Wildflower Beauty by Jessica, lover of making natural skin care products, momma of 1, and serving the world by creating a safer and natural alternative to bath, body, skin, hair and cleaning products.