Inside Scoop: Dishing out what ingredients to avoid in your household cleaning products, and the top 8 non toxic household cleaning brands.
You’re eating a healthy, exercising and making every effort to live a healthier lifestyle. Despite it all, that red skin patch and nagging cough won’t seem to go away. What’s going on, what haven’t you thought of? Is it time to consider non-toxic household cleaning products?
While most of us focus on the stuff we directly put inside our body, we sometimes forget what the other bodily systems – mainly skin and lungs – are in touch with on the outside. While we cannot directly control some factors, like the air we breathe, we can definitely focus on the internal ecosystem of our homes, more specifically the household cleaning products we choose.
What we’re exposed to from our external environment can have as much of an impact on our health and well-being as what we’re putting in our body. Think of the cleaning products we use in our homes:
- Laundry detergents
- Window cleaners
- Oven cleaner
- All purpose cleaner
- Bathroom and floor cleaners
- Air fresheners and candles
- Dishwashing detergents
- Disinfecting spray
The products we use to clean and refresh our house can have a tremendous effect on our health. Not only do we inhale these products, but they also come in contact with our largest organ, the skin – which unlike our intestines provides a direct link to our blood. Anything absorbed through your skin can make its way to your blood supply and into your body bypassing your filtration organs.
To make matters worse, most household brands not only affect us but they also end up in our waterways and pose a threat to marine life. And our obsession with cleanliness, shiny mirrors, tidy counters and anti-bacterial products has put more and more toxic products on our store shelves, without the proper education and regulation behind the ingredients that we’re being sold.
What are the main toxic ingredients to avoid?
Have you ever looked under the ingredient list of your Mr. Clean and saw ‘fragrance’ or ‘dye’?
In the US and Canada, manufacturers are not required to disclose all ingredients in their products, meaning there is no way to really know what that ‘fragrance’ or ‘dye’ actually is, or if it’s a hidden trade secret ingredient that isn’t shared with the public. In addition, before a product is put on the market, it is not required to be FDA approved, instead the rules state they must be safe for consumers to use in accordance with the label instructions.
Ingredient safety is a huge grey area, where manufacturers don’t really have to prove that a chemical is safe before using it in their products. Chances are if you see extreme warnings on a simple cleaning product such as avoid contact, wear gloves, ventilate or dangerous then best to bet it’s probably not safe for you!
Here are some of the top toxic chemical ingredients we choose to avoid:
This is what you commonly find in bleach products. This chemical is highly toxic, can cause skin burns, eye irritation, aggravate asthma and lead to respiratory problems. If it’s mixed or in contact with a cleaner that contains an acid, it creates the toxic chlorine gas.
Is typically found in anti-bacterial personal products and may be used as an anti-bacterial in laundry detergents and dishwashing liquid. It poses a great risk to the environment; it’s linked to microbial resistance and can mess with your hormones.
This term alone can mean any of the 3000+ chemicals that may or may not have been proven safe, and it’s linked to allergies so unless it has specified exactly what the fragrance is, then we’d recommend avoiding products that have it on the label.
Not only do these little pretenders mimic your hormones and act as endocrine disruptors, but they also do a pretty good job at being sneaky on the label. You will never really see them listed as an ingredient, but they tend to go hand in hand with fragrance or parfum.
QUATERNARY AMMONIUM COMPOUNDS
These are used as disinfectants in detergents, as well as in fabric softeners. The CDC labels some of those compounds as highly toxic when concentrated, but even though they may be more diluted in household products they are still linked to severe burns, irritation and redness as well as being extremely toxic to the environment. There are many types that can be listed on the label and you can see some examples below which are already making our heads spin.
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) or Benzalkonium chloride
- Stearalkonium chloride
- Centrimonium bromide
- Quaternium 1-29
These are used as antimicrobials and mainly to extend shelf life can be found under many different names. They are mostly used in cosmetics, but can also be added to household cleaning products. They negatively impact your immune system and are linked to skin and respiratory irritation. Plus, formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
SOME OTHER INGREDIENTS TO WATCH FOR
2-butoxyethanol, alkylphenol ethoxylates, dyes (like fragrance can be hiding a more dangerous chemical), ethanolamines, methylisothiazolinone.
A LESSON IN CHEMISTRY
While some ingredients may be safe on their own, they can become toxic when mixed with others. For example, you should never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar or any other acids as these combinations can produce toxic and even deadly gases.
Yeah, we’re not all chemists so if you’re not sure or reading labels isn’t your thing, then check out the Environmental Working Group’s fantastic Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning to help you decode the labels and find the safest cleaning products for your home.
Now that we’ve covered all the no-no’s, the good news is that we still have a lot of great options to keep your household clean and toxic free (or at least reduce that exposure). Although there are many toxin free homemade options like good ol’ vinegar, we get it – you don’t want your house to smell like a fish and chip parlour…so here are some brands we have used and loved.
Top 8 Non-toxic household cleaning brands to consider:
Yes, we know they are owned by Clorox – a brand we don’t overall recommend, but they are avoiding some of the nasty ingredients listed above, so they made their way onto our list. But they still sneak fragrance into their bottles, and in our opinion could put a lot more effort into being green, therefore we consider them the least green out of our top 8. Their Natural All Purpose Cleaner is one of the better options you can find.
They’ve done really well with their dishwasher, laundry and oxygen bleach; however, they are still disguising some ingredients under the term ‘cleaning agents’ and ‘fragrance’; and can improve the formulations of their glass and all-purpose cleaners that have a high concern for skin allergies and irritation as well as the environment.
This is one of the world’s best known environmentally friendly brands and we wish they truly lived up to the title, but they still use some preservatives in their laundry detergents such as Benzisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone that are linked to immune system toxicity, allergies and irritation on skin contact. Nevertheless, they are a much better option and their cream scrub, non-chlorine bleach, zero dish soap, fabric softener and all-purpose cleaner all scored really well on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning database.
Here are the best non-toxic household cleaning brands that really put a squeaky-clean smile on our face…
This is perhaps one of the funkiest cleaner brands out there (they’re owned by Ecover above); their packaging and colors draw you in. Many of their products are much safer than the readily available commercial ones, however in some products they still use ingredients that may cause eye and skin irritation as well as pose a threat to aquatic life. On their website, they have stated that the fragrance used in their products is free of phthalates, NPEs + other dirty ingredients; non-toxic in use, free of carcinogens + tested for skin irritation + allergies. We find that this is the perfect in between brand to switch to and we happily use some of their products such as the stainless steel cleaner ourselves.
Perfect attitude from these guys as most of their products scored an A or B and they are all EWG verified. We’re a fan of their dishwashing liquid and all purpose eco cleaner. They also have a heavenly lavender & eucalyptus natural air purifier as well as a full line of personal care products.
Kudos to those guys, while they don’t have too many products (why do we need so many anyways?) they have scored perfect A’s on everything and are also cruelty free, vegan and EcoCert certified.
EcoLogo certified Canadian based brand is one of our favourites and their products are scented with essential oils. Their lavender laundry detergent is just heavenly, their dish wash detergent has aloe vera extract for soft and silky hands and the natural spearmint bathroom cleaner is just perfect…not to mention that they are environmentally friendly.
Some Brands to Avoid:
We’ll be completely honest here, during a hardcore cleaning once or twice a year we may use some stronger products, but while some of those products may be slightly less toxic than others, overall the below brands scored mostly D’s and F’s on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. As you now have so many options to choose from, why not just avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
- Airwick Air Freshener’s
- Arm & Hammer (their baking soda products are clean)
Once you get used to the idea of non-toxic cleaning and find brands that suit you and your family the switch becomes almost effortless. It’s something you’ll feel much better about in the long run, and a switch that is much healthier in the long run.
Drop a comment below, how many of these non-toxic household cleaning brands have you tried, and did you like them?