We all want to keep a clean house – but at what cost? The chemicals in many typical cleaning products can be just as harmful as the things we’re trying to clean up with them. It’s impossible to keep every single possible toxin out of the house, but these are five common chemicals you definitely want to avoid. Fortunately, there all have more natural alternatives that will get the job done.
1. Chlorine Bleach
Bleach is well known for keeping clothes white, but did you know it’s also the active ingredient in toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removes, and scouring powders? The vapor from any of these products can be harmful to your respiratory tract, and if you accidentally combine one of them with an ammonia-based cleaner, the result is deadly chlorine gas.
Instead of chlorine bleach, try baking soda. It has many of the same whitening properties and acts as a mild scouring powder too.
Until the 90s, triclosan was only used in hospital cleaning solutions, but now it’s commonly found in antibacterial soaps. However, its use can cause resistant forms of bacteria to develop, and research also suggests that children who use antibacterial products are more likely to develop allergies. Fortunately, in most cases, regular soap is actually sufficient for getting our hands clean.
3. Sodium Hydroxide
Also known as lye, sodium hydroxide is used to clean out ovens and sink drains. Unfortunately, it’s just as harmful to our skin and eyes as it is to those grimy appliances; even a small amount of exposure can lead to nasty chemical burns.
While no natural alternatives can match the dissolving power of sodium hydroxide, most of the things it’s used for can be accomplished just by putting in a little more effort. For example, clogged drains can be softened with boiling water and unplugged with a mechanical snake, and a dirty oven can be scrubbed out with baking soda and a stiff brush.
Phthalatesare probably the most unnecessary toxic chemicals in your home right now. They’re used to create the fragrances in air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and dish soaps – and they’re a known endocrine-disrupter that blocks the effects of some of the body’s hormones.
While phthalates might cover the bad odors in your house, essential oils will do the same thing without the risk. Just add a few drops to a phthalate-free cleaning solution, and you’ll get a much more pleasant scent anyway.
5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
This one is a common ingredient in both personal hygiene products and detergents, but it can cause serious irritation to the eyes and skin. Plus, it strips away natural oils on the skin, meaning environmental toxins can be absorbed into the body more easily.
For the most part, sodium lauryl sulfate is unnecessary, as its main effect is just making products easier to handle. Natural products will be a little bit thinner, or they can be bulked up with a safer ingredient like coconut oil.