Nowadays, chemicals are in almost every product around. From the soap you use to wash your dishes to the special solutions that you use to clean your floors, there is a wide range of different chemicals and substances used to create them and give them the power to clean. Because a great deal of household chemicals can be toxic, it’s crucial to ensure that you keep yourself and your family protected by paying attention to labels and buying products that are safe. A multitude of safer alternatives to household chemicals are made available on the market, which can perform the same tasks as products with toxic substances.
The Most Common Dangerous Chemicals in Household Products
From the fragrances added to make your cleaning products smell good to the preservatives added to make them last longer in plastic bottles, you should keep an eye out for when buying a multitude of dangerous household products.
Common Dangerous Chemicals in Household Products include
Here is a description of each of these common dangerous chemicals in household products.
Parabens are substances that are included in anything from shampoos to cleaning products. They are used as a type of preservative to help products last longer and keep things like bacteria from growing. In a recent study done to assess the presence of parabens and antimicrobials in common cleaning and personal care products, it was found that out of over 50 products, 83% of them contained some sort of paraben or antimicrobial — some of which didn’t even have them listed in the ingredients.1
Parabens have been found to cause reactions such as contact dermatitis (a type of rash/skin reaction), endocrine disruption, and toxicity in marine animals.2 In addition to their potentially hazardous effects, parabens are often used in combination with each other and their long-term effects have barely been studied.
While your cleaning products might list all of their ingredients on the label, they don’t always come outright and tell you what they actually are. For example, an increasingly common ingredient known as Triclosan is now being found in a wide range of household products. Triclosan is an antimicrobial pesticide that has already been banned from use in antibacterial soaps in the U.S.3 It was removed from over-the-counter soaps because the manufacturers of the products could not prove the substance was safe for long-term, consistent use.
Fragrance Additives (Phthalates)
Cleaning products are widely known and loved for their strong scents. Unfortunately, a lot of these scents come from chemicals that can be dangerous, especially when inhaled over long periods of time. Phthalates are chemicals that are used in multiple kinds of synthetic fragrances created for household products. They have been found to not only have negative long-term health effects on those who come in contact with them often, but studies have also found that they can negatively affect pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as increase the chances of breast cancer.4
Bleach has been used to clean and sanitize a variety of surfaces for decades now. While it does get the job done, the power of bleach and the chemicals that make it can be dangerous, especially when used incorrectly. Products that contain bleach and bleach itself release fumes that can become toxic at highly concentrated levels. In addition, it has been found that mixing certain chemicals or scents with bleach can create secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), which have been found to have multiple negative health effects.5 Even food containing raw citric acid, like lemons, has been found to create SOAs when met with the chemicals in bleach.
Best Alternatives to Household Chemicals
Luckily, not every household product needs to contain potentially toxic chemicals. In fact, safe and environmentally friendly products are out there for you to use to get the same jobs done. Here are some of the best natural and safe alternative cleaning agents and their uses.
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Vinegar is a well-known natural cleaning agent that has been used for decades. Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar have properties that can help with killing bacteria, deodorizing surfaces, and cleaning in general. White vinegar is commonly used to help polish silver and surfaces like windows because it can combat dirt, grime, and even grease easily. Apple cider vinegar has similar uses and is a great add-in to deodorize laundry naturally and clean drains. Instead of using surface cleaning products with harsh chemicals, next time try a little vinegar diluted with water.
Hydrogen peroxide is a non-toxic substance that has a variety of everyday uses. Not only is it an antibacterial and antifungal agent, but it can take the place of multiple harsh cleaning products. Hydrogen peroxide and hot water are the perfect combination for cleaning floors, scrubbing countertops, and cleaning sinks and toilets. It’s powerful enough to remove stains from things like toilets while also gentle enough to not eat away at your home’s surfaces. You can even use hydrogen peroxide to help combat tough grime, mold, and mildew that grows in showers and sinks.
Baking soda is a widely used natural ingredient throughout households around the country. Commonly known for being a great natural option in toothpastes, baking soda has cleaning and whitening properties that work just as well as harsh chemicals. The uses for baking soda, especially in household cleaning, are abundant. From keeping an open box of it in your fridge to help deodorize it to cleaning floors and countertops, you can use baking soda for almost anything. It even works as an oven and surface cleaner as well as a great scrubber for toilets and bathtubs.
Castile soap is a type of natural soap that is derived from vegetable and plant oils. It’s incredibly versatile in its uses and is a great alternative to any soap that may contain potentially dangerous substances like parabens. Castile soap can be used on almost anything, from your kitchen floors to your own body. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, eco-friendly, and safe for your skin — all on top of being an excellent cleaner. You can use castile soap as an alternative to a carpet cleaner, floor cleaner, surface cleaner, and even toilet cleaner.
Many people are unaware of what borax truly is, and that it is a naturally derived substance from a mineral. Sodium borate, more commonly known as Borax, is a salt of boric acid that comes in a powdery white form. It can be put into water and used in a variety of scenarios for cleaning. Borax can be used as a disinfectant, a surface and bathroom cleaner, a carpet and rug cleaner, and is also tough enough to fight grease and grime on ovens and mold and mildew stains in toilets.
Making Your Own Eco-Friendly, Safe Cleaning Solutions
The best part about using natural ingredients when cleaning your home is that it’s easy to create your own products — and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Next time you go to clean, try making some of these solutions as a safe alternative to the toxic chemicals in cleaning products:
General All-Purpose Cleaner
There are multiple ways to create a basic all-purpose cleaner with natural ingredients. For a vinegar-based cleaner try:
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of Borax
2 gallons of water
2 tablespoons of baking soda
If you’re looking to do without the vinegar smell, you can also try a Castile soap-based all-purpose solution with:
3 tablespoons of castile soap (use a scent like peppermint for a crisp, clean smell)
3 tablespoons of Borax
3 quarts to 1 gallon of water
A squeeze of lemon juice
For an easy toilet cleaner that will leave your porcelain sparkling, try combining:
1 cup of white vinegar
3 tablespoons of baking soda
Window, Mirror, and Glass Cleaner
When making a glass cleaner, it’s important to remember that less is more. For a simple window cleaning solution, combine:
1 part white vinegar
4 parts water
2 tablespoons of Borax
3 cups of warm water
Staying Away From Toxic Substances
Nowadays, there are so many different dangers in everything from our food to the cleaners that we use in our homes. Find safe alternatives to household chemicals that may be negatively affecting you. For those affected, toxin removal treatments deal with symptoms of environmental toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, and more.
Van der Schyff, Veronica., Suchánková, Lenka., Kademoglou, Katerina., Melymuk, Lisa., Klánová, Jana. (2022). Parabens and antimicrobial compounds in conventional and “green” personal care products. Chemosphere, 297, ISSN 0045-6535. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2022.134019.
Chen Wang, Douglas B. Collins, and Jonathan P.D. Abbatt. (2019). Indoor Illumination of Terpenes and Bleach Emissions Leads to Particle Formation and Growth. Environmental Science & Technology. Issue 53 (20), 11792-11800. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b04261
This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.
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