It is truly hard to overstate the importance of keeping a clean home. Not only is a clean and tidy environment good for your overall sense of wellbeing, it is also better for your health.
A build up of mould, dust, and detritus in the air can make anyone feel sick, and can have severe health consequences for those who suffer from asthma, allergies, and a comprised immune system. Dirty toilets and showers can spread infection and fungus, and a filthy kitchen can cause many adverse health problems, including many food-borne illnesses.
While you might be in a rush to keep your home clean by all means necessary, don’t be too hasty. Yes, a clean and tidy home is important, but you need to be careful about the chemicals and cleansers that you use. Some household cleaning products (and the common ingredients that they contain) are terrible for your health, and can negatively affect your children and pets in serious ways.
Strike a good balance by using natural cleaning products when possible, and avoid the harsh and harmful cleaning products listed below.
Different types of household cleansers can cause different types of danger and damage to your health. While some symptoms may be acute and immediate (such as chemical burns, skin irritation, watery eyes, or breathing issues), others have negative long-term effects, and can cause lung infections and even cancer. Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose. Some cause acute, or immediate, hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic, or long-term, effects such as cancer.
While you should be careful with any household cleaning product, and always follow the instructions on the box, packet, or canister, be extra cautious with the following types of products.
Used in: Air fresheners, washing up liquid, toilet paper, washing powder, and even scented loo roll and sanitary napkins! Don’t look at the ingredients lists – phthalates are often encompassed under ‘fragrance,’ which most products are not mandated to reveal.
Health problems: Phthalates are proven to disrupt hormones, and are classified as endocrine disruptors in both men and women. In fact, men who had raised levels of phthalate compounds in their bloods also had lower sperm counts! This is a true problem, as we often come into contact with phthalates in the form of scented soaps and products applied directly to the skin, which is unable to protect itself against toxins.
What to use instead: If you want a healthier choice, skip artificial fragrances and go straight to the source. Natural and organic body and cleaning products use essential oils instead of synthetic fragrance. For natural air fresheners, use essential oils in diffusers, open your windows, and bring more houseplants into your home.
Used In: Fabric spot cleaners, dry cleaning, solutions and upholstery cleaners
Health problems: It has been proven that Perc is a neurotoxin, as well as being a ‘possible carcinogen.’ People who live close to dry cleaners often report neurological problems, including dizziness and confusion.
What to use instead: It’s a good idea to stay away from clothing that is ‘dry clean only,’ or you can seek out cleaning companies that offer a ‘wet cleaning’ option for your clothes. If you are looking for a spot cleaner for your sofa, accent chairs, or other upholstered furniture, try rubbing undiluted castile soap on the problem area, and then washing it with clean, cool water.
Used In: Washing up liquid, and most antibacterial hand soap liquids
Health problems: Triclosan is an extremely strong antibacterial agent, and it is known to encourage drug-resistant bacteria. Studies have also shown that they don’t actually help keep you safer or in better health!
What to use instead: Simple – just use hand and washing up soaps that don’t contain triclosan – the shorter the ingredient list, the better.
Used in: Products labels as ‘antibacterial,’ as well as fabric softener liquids and sheets
Health problems: Quats present many of the same issues as tricolosan, as they are another form of antimicrobial. They irritate the skin and can be harmful when breathed in.
What to use instead: Instead of adding fabric softener to your wash, simply add some plain white vinegar. It can remove soap residue and prevent static cling in your clothing and towels. If you are looking for an antibacterial product, consider mixing a few drops of tea tree oil a lavender essential oil with water in a spray bottle.
Used in: Multipurpose cleaners for the kitchen and bathroom
Health Problems: You’ll often find 2-butoxyethanol in household and window cleaners, giving them a sweet smell. It is a ‘glycol ether,’ a strong solvent that causes sore throats. At high levels, it can also cause severe liver and kidney damage and pulmonary edema.
What to use instead: Use a homemade cleaner made from white vinegar and water to clean mirrors, windows, and surfaces. For tougher kitchen and bathroom tasks, use bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, and/or castile soap.
Used in: Glass, window, and metal cleaners
Health Problems: Ammonia is known for evaporating without leaving streaks or smudges behind, making everything sparkling clean. However, it is a strong irritant for the skin, lungs, and throat, and can lead to chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other health problems. When mixed with bleach, ammonia will create a toxic gas.
What to use instead: Believe it or not, vodka is a great alternative! It also dries without streaking, and leaves a nice shine on mirrors and windows.
Used in: Toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, and scouring products
Health Problems: Chlorine is a problem, as you breathe in the fumes, absorb it into your skin, and even drink it in your tap water (which is at a safe level). However, in household cleaning products, chlorine can become a thyroid disrupter, affecting hormones and even leading to cancer.
What to use instead: If you need to scrub or scour surfaces, stick to bicarbonate of soda. White vinegar does a great job on whitening, or you can look into using a chlorine-free oxygen bleach powder.
Used in: Drain unblockers and oven cleaners
Health Problems: As you probably know, lye is harsh and corrosive – if you get just a small amount on your skin (or worse, in your eyes) it can cause severe burns and blindness. If you inhale lye, at the very least you will have a sore throat. At worst, you could end up with permanent lung damage.
What to use instead: Create a paste made from bicarb and water to clean even the grottiest ovens (a little elbow grease is required), and you can unclog drains with a snake tool.
As stated at the top of this article, bacteria, dust, and mould can harm the health of you and your family. While your busy life can get in the way of household chores, it’s important to clean regularly so that harmful bacteria, like E. Coli, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus, don’t have a chance to build and make you ill.
These tips might seem deceptively simple, but if you are diligent and follow them each day, you’ll have a cleaner, happier, and healthier home.
It should come as no surprise that the kitchen leads the way of the germiest room in your home, with bacteria from food lingering when things aren’t kept clean. The toilet and counters in your bathroom are another nasty location, as is the reception area or foyer where dirty shoes first enter.
Some of the yuckiest places in your home aren’t necessarily room specific – light switches, sockets, railings, and door handles all have shockingly high bacteria counts.
By swapping out some of the harsh chemicals and products listed above with their greener, more natural, and healthier equivalents, you can keep your home clean without compromising your health.
Edward is the managing director of Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs. He is an expert in quality, comfortable upholstered chairs.