Spring cleaning is good for your house and your health, but you don’t need harsh chemicals and potent cleaning solutions to get the job done. That doesn’t mean you should rush out to buy the latest “green” or “natural” cleaners, either. Even products advertised as being eco-friendly can contain ingredients that cause or worsen health problems.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), certain household products can irritate the eyes and throat, contribute to chronic respiratory problems, and cause headaches. Some may even lead to other health issues, including cancer.
Fortunately, mitigating the risk is as easy as replacing dangerous products with healthier alternatives. To keep your household safe, avoid using these 6 common cleaners and chemicals. We’ll also share some of our favorite recipes for homemade cleaning solutions that don’t contain health-harming chemicals.
Air fresheners release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air, which can contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches. Some air fresheners also contain flammable chemicals, and something as small as lighting a cigarette nearby can lead to painful burns.
Because of the risks, the ALA suggests avoiding the use of air fresheners.
Ammonia is a volatile compound that’s found in many household cleaning products and fertilizers. It can irritate the respiratory system and mucous membranes if inhaled, and will cause a chemical burn on exposed skin. If you mix ammonia with chlorinated products like bleach, it will produce a toxic chloramine gas that is potentially deadly.
Antifreeze, aka ethylene glycol, is extremely poisonous if swallowed. Breathing the vapors can also lead to dizziness. Most antifreeze contains a chemical that makes it taste bad, but the sweet smell of ethylene glycol can be attractive to pets and children. Safe storage of antifreeze is vital.
Furniture polish is highly flammable. Some polishes contain nitrobenzene, a chemical used to mask unpleasant odors. It’s extremely toxic and can quickly absorb into skin.
Corrosive chemicals are used to create these cleaners, which can cause severe burns to the eyes and skin if you aren’t careful. When someone ingests one of these products, they can also suffer burns on the throat and esophagus.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature. Exposure happens when you breathe air containing off-gassed formaldehyde, and can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.
Formaldehyde has a strong odor and can be found in a number of household products, including:
Now that you know about some of the most toxic household chemicals to avoid, it’s time to swap them out for natural alternatives. From baking soda to vinegar to essential oils, there’s no shortage of powerful DIY cleaners. Making your own cleaners also cuts down on plastic waste, which is always a good thing.
For DIY household cleaner recipes, take a look at this list of 27 chemical-free cleaning recipes from Greatist. There’s a concoction for every room and appliance in the house, so you never have to buy a toxic household product again.