Toxic Effects of Common Household Cleaners

There is a growing awareness that common household cleaners contain chemicals that can adversely affect your health. These chemicals have the potential to greatly harm or even kill your children, your pets and you, should they not be used with the utmost caution. In addition these potent chemicals adversely effect our environment.

These products include dishwashing detergents that can contain phosphates that pollute the groundwater; wood polish that typically contains flammable toxins like nitrobenzene; and laundry detergents that may contain bleach and other corrosives.

Here are some alarming facts:

  • According to the US Poison Control Centers, cleaning products were responsible for approximately 10 percent of all toxic exposure in 2000.
  • According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the typical home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside; and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated. This is large due to household cleaning products and pesticides.
  • In Washington State the Regulatory Products Pollution Prevention Project Agency reports that 6 out every 100 janitors have lost time from their jobs as a result of injuries associated to toxic cleaning products.
  • In a 2002 US Geological Survey study of contaminants in US stream water, 69 percent of streams sampled contained detergent metabolites and 66 percent contained disinfectants.

What you can do:

  • Soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax and a course scrubbing sponge can take care of most household cleaning needs.
  • Instead of using a drain cleaner, which potentially contains lye, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, try pouring a quarter cup of baking soda down the clogged drain followed by a half cup of vinegar. Close the drain tightly until the fizzing stops, then flush with boiling water.
  • To clean glass, use a mixture of half white vinegar and half water.
  • To deodorize a carpet use baking soda and cornstarch.
  • Use a mixture of lemon juice or white wine vinegar and salt to clean up mildew and mold.
  • Make a paste of baking soda, salt and hot water to clean the oven.
  • In a rare instance when you need to use a hazardous product, use as little a possible and dispose of it where it will cause minimal environmental damage.

If you prefer the convenience of ready made toxic free cleaners you will find they are becoming increasingly available mostly in smaller retail outlets. You can also find them on the internet and have them delivered to your door (saves gas).