Savvy Swaps: Toxic Cleaning Products

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Welcome back to our series, Savvy Swaps, where we analyze popular store-bought products and offer up healthier alternatives, without any of the negative additives. Last time, we looked at healthier packaged food. Today, it's all about tossing toxic cleaning products for safer cleaners for your home: all-purpose cleaning spray, bathroom cleaner, laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent and glass cleaner.

Savvy Swaps: Toss toxic store-bought products for safe, natural alternatives without the negative additives and harmful chemicals. |

Read the ingredients labels on most store-bought cleaning products and you’ll find most of these items are filled with loads of toxic chemicals, including synthetic colorants, fragrance and ammonium.

The Truth About Toxic Cleaning Products

After analyzing over 2,000 cleaning products, the EWG found that over 53 percent contain ingredients known to harm the lungs and 22 percent contain chemicals reported to cause asthma. Many other toxic chemicals in popular cleaning products cause cancer and hormonal issues.

And if that weren't enough reason to stay away from toxic cleaning products, they're also bad for our planet–many aquatic organisms in streams, rivers and lakes have been harmed by cleaning product ingredients that washed down drains or were discharged in wastewater.

Take a look at some of the leading brands’ ingredients labels to get an idea of how some of these toxic cleaning products compare to their safer counterparts (Note: Don't be fooled by “green marketing” on the label, these are often some of the worst offenders):

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Toss toxic cleaning products for safer alternatives without any of the negative additives. |

You may be wondering why some of these ingredients are even bad for you in the first place (I for one hadn't heard of most of these chemicals, besides the fact that I could hardly pronounce them). To give you an idea, here are a few of the worst offenders from above:

  • Synthetic Colorants: The U.S. is way behind other countries on outlawing harmful ingredients in our products, but even the FDA prohibits the use of synthetic colors, like FD&C Red #3, in cosmetics because it causes cancer, notably thyroid tumors, in rodents. But it's still allowed in our cleaning products… there's a head scratcher. Just like in food, these cheap, artificial dyes also pose a risk for hyperactivity in children and allergic reactions.
  • Fragrance: Just like in cosmetics, Fragrance (one of the top five allergens in the world) in cleaning products is also a proven human immune system toxicant and often contains harmful chemicals in its secret mixture, like phthalates (these chemicals mimic human hormones and are known to cause birth defects, lower sperm count, thyroid issues and even cancer). Though some fragrance mixtures may be safe, since we can’t know exactly what’s in it, I try to avoid anything with “Fragrance” listed in the ingredients to be safe, including “Unscented” products. Be sure to look for the words “Fragrance-Free” instead.
  • Ammonium: This disinfecting chemical comes in many forms (in the above products, you'll see it as ammonium chloride and ammonium hydroxide) and are proven to cause asthma, severe skin burns and eye damage. It's also incredibly toxic to aquatic life.
  • ButoxydiglycolAnother chemical known to inhibit pulmonary and respiratory function, Butoxydiglycol (rated an F by the EWG) also causes serious eye irritation and has some concern for causing cancer, female reproductive toxicity and genetic defects. 
  • EthanolamineRated an F by the EWG, Ethanolamine causes severe skin burns and eye damage, asthma and respiratory issues, skin irritation and central nervous system depression.
  • Sodium Borate: Rated an F by the EWG, Sodium Borate is proven to damage fertility and the unborn child with clear evidence of endocrine disruption. It also causes skin allergies and irritation.
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So, I think it's safe to say that conventional household cleaning products are pretty scary. While I highly recommend making your own cleaning products (check out our DIY Homemade recipes here!), there are a handful of safer store-bought alternatives that will also get the job done:

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Toss toxic cleaning products for safer alternatives without any of the negative additives. |

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

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Bathroom Cleaner

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Laundry Detergent

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Dishwasher Detergent

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Glass Cleaner

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As always, be sure to read the ingredients label on any product you buy and search the item on EWG's database to see how it ranks. Being aware and making informed decisions is the first, and most important, step. Happy Cleaning!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.

4 thoughts on “Savvy Swaps: Toxic Cleaning Products”

  1. Jeanmarie Cahill

    Hi Kate. Thank you for all of your hard work. Your website is amazing. Your story is also quite amazing and inspiring. I am so glad you found a way to be healthy. I am wondering if you have any recommendations for a natural way to clean the oven grime? Thank you. Jeanmarie Cahill, Los Altos, CA

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Tips for a healthier home

Here are some eco-friendly home care tips for a healthy and green living:
  • Switch your cleaning products to eco-friendly options. You can find many of these in the grocery store and online.
  • Use sustainable materials for furniture, such as wood instead of plastic or metal. This will help create less waste and reduce the amount of natural resources that are used to produce them.
  • Choose lightbulbs with little or no mercury. These not only create less waste but also have an impact on climate change by using less electricity.
  • Plant trees around your property. Trees benefit the environment by providing shade, absorbing carbon dioxide, and purifying the air with their leaves. They also provide fuel for firewood during colder months and a habitat for wildlife. The benefits of planting trees go far beyond what you see right in front of you!

Green cleaning products

One way to make your home more eco-friendly is by switching over to green cleaning products. These products aren’t as harsh on the environment as traditional household cleaners and are less likely to cause allergies or other health issues. Plus, you can find a variety of green cleaning products that work for every type of surface in your home.

Switching to eco-friendly cleaning products

There are many cleaning products that you can use in your home that are environmentally friendly. One of the best ways to start is by switching to eco-friendly cleaning products. Many people don’t know that there are many types of eco-friendly cleaning products on the market today, including laundry detergent and dishwasher soap. A switch to green cleaners can be a simple way to create an environmentally friendly living environment.

Safer and more environmentally friendly ways to clean your home

If you want to make your home safer and more environmentally friendly, then you can switch from using toxic cleaning products to using eco-friendly alternatives. For example, if you want to clean your toilet, then you could use vinegar instead of bleach or other harsh chemicals. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer, so it will do the job without harming the environment. You can also use baking soda as a healthy alternative to many household cleaners. Baking soda is an abrasive cleaner that breaks down dirt and grime; it’s also non-toxic, so it won’t harm people or the environment. It’s also inexpensive, so you can use it liberally without worrying about running out of supply too quickly.

Sustainable living

Most people are more aware of the environment these days and want to do their part to make it a better place. Homeowners and renters alike are doing everything from switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, to using sustainable materials for furniture. Here are some tips for living an eco-friendly lifestyle in your home:
    • Clean with white vinegar – You can use this as a natural disinfectant that is also eco-friendly. It is also inexpensive and easy on your pipes because you won’t be putting harsh chemicals down the drain.
    • Avoid aerosol cans – Aerosol cans contain harmful chemicals that will release into the air when sprayed. Try switching to an eco-friendly product or find another way to clean.
    • Use reusable napkins – Napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, even facial tissue all come wrapped in paper (or other packaging). Reusable napkins or dish towels will give you one less thing you need to throw away every day!
    • Put up a clothesline – Even if you live in an apartment or condo where putting up a clothesline isn’t possible, there are many ways you can still dry your clothes without using electricity or gas. For example, hang them outside on a sunny day or turn your oven on low heat and hang them from the top rack.

Living with less waste in your home

One of the best ways to reduce your ecological footprint is by reducing the amount of waste that your household produces. Take a look at what you’re throwing away and try to find alternatives.
For example, instead of buying disposable napkins, use cloth napkins that you can throw into the wash. If you need face wipes for removing makeup, consider making them yourself from reusable materials like cotton rounds. And if you want to stop using plastic bags, use canvas bags or have bags made from recycled material. There are many other ideas for eco-friendly alternatives in your home as well.

Sustainable materials for furniture

Did you know that the average American generates over 4 pounds of waste every day? This means that we are throwing away a lot of furniture and other items in our homes. To stop contributing to this problem, it is best to use sustainable materials for furniture. Sustainable materials are made from recycled materials which can be up-cycled into new products. Not only are these items better for the environment, but they also save money because the items will last longer.
Sustainable materials for furniture include:
      • Recycled plastic
      • MDF
      • Plywood
      • Timber reclaimed from old buildings or driftwood
      • Bamboo
      • Faux leather (made from cotton)
The pursuit of a healthy, green and sustainable home is achievable for anyone. It will require more time and effort, but the payoff will be worth it.
Start with the small things. Make a conscious effort to recycle, turn off appliances and lights when you’re not using them, and check your thermostat. It’s easy to get into a routine of living without giving it much thought, but the more you make an effort, the easier it will be to live sustainably.
After you’ve made changes in your everyday life, look for furniture that is made with sustainable materials. You can also buy an eco-friendly houseplant for your home that requires little care.
    1. Tips for a healthier home:
      • Turn off appliances and lights when you’re not using them
      • Check your thermostat
      • Make a conscious effort to recycle
    2. Green cleaning products:
      • Switching to eco-friendly cleaning products
      • Safer and more environmentally friendly ways to clean
      • Sustainable living:
      • Living with less waste in your home
      • Sustainable materials for furniture
  • Sustainable materials for furniture:
    • Consider buying furniture made with sustainable
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