The Dirty Truth About Toxic Cleaning Products

Bucket of Cleaning Supplies

The 8 Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Cleaning Products

Nothing compares to the feeling of a freshly cleaned house. After hours of scrubbing, dusting and getting rid of all the dirt and germs, you look around feeling this incredible satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. Ah, yes. We know the feeling.

However, many of us don’t realize that there are dangerous toxins hiding in our household cleaning products. Did you know 1 out of every 3 chemical cleaning products contains toxic ingredients? And what’s worse, out of the 85,000 industrial chemicals in use in the US, the majority are not tested for safety.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), over 53 percent of the 2,000 cleaning products they examined were filled with ingredients known to harm human health. The chemicals in cleaners have been linked to asthma and respiratory problems, reproductive issues, cancer and more.


8 Ingredients to Avoid

The next time you’re out shopping for cleaners, check the labels! Here is a list of ingredients to stay away from (many of which are rated an “F” by the EWG):

  • Phthalates: While many of us are drawn to that refreshing lemon scent, it’s best to steer clear of cleaning products that contain fragrances. Scented products are often filled with chemicals known as phthalates that can harm the immune system, lower sperm count, and in severe cases, cause congenital disabilities and cancer. When you’re browsing at the store, opt for products that say “unscented” and “fragrance-free.”
  • Sodium Borate: Along with damaging the endocrine system and causing fertility problems, sodium borate can also lead to skin allergies and irritation.
  • Triclosan: Found in antibacterial liquid dishwashing detergent, and hand soaps, this toxic chemical is linked to numerous health risks. Triclosan can negatively affect your endocrine system - more specifically the hormones that control your metabolism and reproductive function.
  • Butoxydiglycol: Linked to respiratory issues, genetic defects, and cancer, butoxydiglycol is extremely toxic.
  • Chlorine: One of the main ingredients found in bleach is sodium hypochlorite, a chlorine-based chemical. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant, and exposure to too much chlorine can cause coughing, sneezing, and pneumonia in some cases. Additional side effects include headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and skin irritation.
  • Ammonium: Be EXTRA careful with ammonium because this chemical can come in the form of ammonium hydroxide and ammonium chloride, all of which can lead to skin issues, eye irritation, and respiratory problems.
  • Ethanolamine: This toxic ingredient can lead to eye damage, asthma issues, skin burns, and irritation.  
  • Parabens: Many household products such as dish soap, bathroom cleaner, and glass cleaner are labeled “antifungal” or “antimicrobial,” which often means they are filled with parabens. They are more specifically listed as propylparaben, methylparaben, and butylparaben. Regarding health risks, parabens can cause imbalances in your hormones and are linked to several types of hormonal cancers (breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer).

Not sure what you should be looking for when you buy cleaning products? Read What is Green Cleaning? (And Why Should You Care?).