skip to content

Poison Your House by Cleaning It

Poison Your House by Cleaning It

There’s a long list of non-toxic or less-toxic products as alternatives to hazardous household chemicals. For example, use one cup of vinegar mixed with one gallon of water for floor cleaner. Or use equal parts vinegar and salt for mildew remover.

October 13, 2007 —

The labels of many household cleaning products promise a lemony-fresh sparkle (or something similarly natural).  But the list of ingredients in small print reads more like a chemistry experiment.

Few consumers have the scientific background to know what the different chemical ingredients are, how they work, and their potential impact on our health or the environment.  The assumption is that the creators of the product will deliver on promises.  Not so, according to Annie Berthold-Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home and Clean & Green. "There's probably no quicker way to poison your house every week than by cleaning it," said Berthold-Bond.

A recent five-year government study by Green Seal, a nonprofit environmental organization, found that concentrations of 20 toxic compounds are as much as 200 times more prevalent  inside homes and offices compared with outdoors. No one knows for sure about the health effects related to chronic exposure to low levels of chemicals, but evidence suggests that cleaning products can cause headaches, dizziness and breathing difficulty. It's also possible that they could result in more serious problems, such as cancer, birth defects or damage to the central nervous system.

Activists encourage people to avoid products with certain chemicals, including chlorine or ammonia, which can cause respiratory and skin irritation and create toxic fumes if accidentally mixed together. In order to protect water quality and aquatic life, avoid detergents with phosphates—which may cause rapid increases in algae—or alkylphenol ethoxylates, including nonylphenol and octylphenol.

Alternatives Exist

There’s a long list of non-toxic or less-toxic products as alternatives to hazardous household chemicals. For example, use borax instead of bleach.  Use one cup of vinegar mixed with one gallon of water for floor cleaner. And use equal parts vinegar and salt for mildew remover.  Of course, it’s often easier to run to the store and pick up a cleaning product, than making an effective product at home.  But with the slightest effort, the ethical consumer can reduce the level of toxicity in your home, while avoid spending money with companies that are essentially pushing toxic chemicals.

 If you insist on a packaged product, a number of non-toxic, all-natural cleaning products are available—with Seventh Generation, Ecover, and Dr. Bronner’s leading the pack.

Comment on this article:

Buy It

Don't Buy It

  • Processed meat sold as 'natural' food. Union-buster.
  • Weapons-maker. Multiple environmental offender.
  • Racial profiling and discrimination
  • Unethical marketing of baby formula in developing nations
  • World's largest oil company--human rights, oil spills and misinformation about climate change