Toxic Chemicals Are Hiding in the Most Surprising Household Cleaners

Say What!? 28

cleaningWhy do you clean your house? Go ahead, think about it. It's to keep your family healthy and safe, right? Well, it should be, anyway. But a horrifying new report on household cleaners that are loaded with toxic chemicals is sending us all back to the drawing board to develop a new cleaning routine today. That is, those of us who don't want to make our families SICKER when we clean the house.

The Environmental Working Group, the same non-profit watchdog that helps us keep an eye on the toxins in our fruits and veggies, took a look at the labels of the 2,000-some cleaners we use in our bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms every week. More than half contained chemicals known to harm the lungs, and nearly a quarter had chemicals that cause asthma in otherwise healthy adults. But the fact that they found scary stuff isn't surprising ... it's where they found it that really creeped me out.

You know all those "green" and "earth-friendly" products that we think are better for us?

Maybe not ... it turns out the term "organic" has no legal constraints on it. So anyone can say their product is organic. And terms like "phosphate-free" sound good but are meaningless -- they have been banned in so many states, they're not really used anywhere anyway! Even cleaners with the words "non-toxic" on the label were found to contain toxins -- talk about irony.

More from The Stir: How to Find a Shower Curtain That Isn't Toxic (VIDEO)

Oh, and forget actually trying to suss out good from bad yourself. The EWG report says only 7 percent of all the cleaners studied adequately listed the ingredients. For the rest, the researchers had to scour the web to figure out what the heck was in there.

It's so frustrating I'd like to give up completely anymore. I've always tried to stick to safe cleaners, but it's hard. A lot of the "green" cleaners sound great in theory, but they don't actually work! I finally threw in the towel on green laundry detergent -- literally. I was finding I was throwing out perfectly good clothes because the stuff I was using just wasn't getting the stains out. I try making some stuff myself, but it's time-consuming.

And yet, the EWG study makes me even more committed to trying to find the perfect balance between what's "safe" and what "works." Their hall of shame -- the cleaners that they've deemed scariest -- is a good start. I don't use many on the list anyway, but there are a few that are about to be excised from my cleaning supplies cabinet. 

And if you haven't already, you can cut these options -- there are no safe options out there right now:

  • Air freshener
  • Fabric softener/dryer sheets
  • Drain cleaner (I already use this much-safer option for unclogging drains)
  • Oven cleaner
  • Antibacterial products

How about you? Do you use anything on the "no safe options" list? What are your go-to products for cleaning your house?


Image via Todd Baker </Flickr

going green, home life, kitchen, laundry room


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CPN322 CPN322

I love febreze :(

MayUb... MayUbEhappY

Google "homemade" soap or shampoo and a lot of links will pop up. :)

Kate Murphy

Love homemade cleaners..BUT with the vinegar, everyone PLEASE know the product you are buying. Vinegar is made from corn and 85% of all corn grown in the US is Genetically Modified! This is horrible for you and your familes!! GMO'S are killing us!

Anita Daniels

Dryer balls (btw you only need one, not two) or tennis balls in the dryer replace dryer sheets. Concentrated citrus cleaner (I use Citrasolv) cleans everything- even furniture. Vinegar for glass & mirrors or mixed w/baking soda cleans well too, but for deep cleaning use concentrated orange cleaner diluted to each need.

Jennifer Ives O'Meara

I too make all my own, so this toxic nightmare isnt a threat for us.

Beth3721 Beth3721

I use vinegar and water for my everyday wiping and cleaning.  Using flour on stainless steel sinks works great.  Whoever said they don't have time to make cleaning cant just pour some vinegar and water into a bottle.  That takes like 30 seconds. Much less time than going to a store or putting in an order online.

Tiffany Jolly
Love all of my All Natural Products! :-)

nonmember avatar NoWay

I make my own laundry soap ... and it doesn't take long. It takes all of ten minutes to make a huge batch that lasts for several weeks. I also use vinegar and baking soda to clean. I do use a few commercial cleaners from time to time, but I typically stick to the basics.

corri... corrinacs

I can't stand the smell of vinegar :/.  And unfortunately, my house is older and does grow mildew easily (in bathrooms)....and none of the "homemade" stuff has even touched it.

I try to go "green" when I can though.  Esp. since my kids have asthma.

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