Dirty cleaners - how to keep your household safe from chemicals

By Buds & Babes

Food drops on the table. We quickly pick it up within 3 seconds and pop it into our mouth anyway, as we are sure there was not enough time for that piece of food to have picked up any germs. Baby crawls on the floor then sits up and puts hand in mouth. We do not worry, as we sweep and mop the floor every morning. That play mat is religiously wiped every morning and evening too. Baby puts toy into mouth. We do not panic, as we clean the toys regularly with soap. The toys, mat, table and floors are clean. But…is it, really? 

Did you know….Some of the ingredients in that 'all purpose cleaner' used to wipe the table are known carcinogens. That antibacterial spray? It is very likely that it contains sodium hypochlorite, a type of volatile organic compound (VOC) linked to asthma and respiratory problems. Getting that white shirt whiter with the chlorine bleach? Chlorine bleach has been linked to respiratory problems too. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) have the potential to cause liver and kidney damage. Ammonia is another commonly used ingredient in household products, which if used in too high doses or in unventilated areas can cause burning sensations in eyes, skin, throat and lungs.

It is no surprise that WebMD lists the following household cleaners as common skin irritants at home:

  • Air fresheners
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Carpet and upholstery shampoo
  • Dishwasher detergents
  • Furniture polish
  • Mould and mildew cleaners
  • Oven cleaner
  • Antibacterial cleaners
  • Drain cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Laundry room products

The skin is the largest organ of our body and has lots of surface area for chemicals to be absorbed into. Any residue from the product, whether on the table, floor, toilet seat, even in the air, will eventually have contact with our body. The chances of getting allergies from household products is high. As we use the products ourselves, we expose ourselves even more to contact with these chemicals. 

It doesn’t help that there is no need for manufacturers to disclose the ingredients. No government body regulates household products. 

With the lack of regulations, manufacturers can use any chemical at any dosage. It is likely that something cheap and effective will be chosen, even if the ingredient is hazardous or has high impurities. They can still highlight the product claims as 'amazingly clean' or 'remove 99.9% mite-dust'. However, the manufacturer does not inform you that the ingredients working this ‘magic’ are actually detrimental to you, your family and the environment. Knowing this, do you feel safe?

We presented ingredient lists of various products, including supposed ‘green’ products to Buds Organics’ Research & Development Director who expressed surprise if that was all the ingredients used in the product. He remarked that most, if not all, the ingredient lists are not complete as it would not produce a product that actually works or stable. This supports EWG’s claim that most manufacturers 'provide vague or incomplete information, listing broad chemical or functional groups instead of individual ingredients. Many others keep customers completely in the dark'.

So don’t fall for the perceived green product and be careful that they are being truthful on all fronts. It is easy to hide ingredients especially as there are no regulations requiring honesty and transparency in declaring ingredients on the labels.

What should I be using?

If you want to choose a safe product, it is easiest therefore to choose a product that is

  • Certified: look for a reputable certification
  • Truthful: has the manufacturer declared all ingredients on the ingredient list?

Choosing the right product

The following list will help you identify what should exist in cleaners, and the differences between conventional cleaners and green cleaners.

                                    Ingredients used in conventional household product Safer alternative used in green products
Surfactant SLES, DEA/TEA, PEG, Sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate Palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, potassium soap, decyl glucoside, sodium lauroyl glutamate, sodium coco sulphate
Preservative Formaldehyde, formaldehyde release Potassium sorbate, dehydroacetic acid, lactic acid
Builder STPP, polyphosphate, phosphate builders Sodium gluconate
Anit-bacterial Triclosan, sodium hypochlorite, glutaraldehyde Lactic acid, tea tree oil
Chelating agent EDTA Citric acis, sodium glucontate
Scent Synthetic fragrance Natural essential oils

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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