When it comes to keeping our homes clean, many of us use common brand-name cleaning products; we know they’re effective, they promise a germ-free clean, and they’ve been trusted for generations. We’re also familiar with the warning labels that come with these cleaning products, and we assume that we’re safe from any chemicals they may contain as long as we carefully follow their instructions--but what if we're wrong?The truth is, a majority of the scrubs, detergents, and sprays we use to keep our homes clean are actually an invisible threat to our health. This is because most cleaning products fail to protect us from a dangerous flaw that lies within their ingredients--while we are warned that direct contact with cleaning products is unsafe, we aren’t told about the lasting effect the chemicals in cleaning products have on the air quality in our homes.
Many people take their indoor air quality for granted because it is literally out of sight, out of mind--but our air quality is a very key determinant of our allergies, sleep quality, and even productivity.
Most cleaning products contain chemicals that are classified as VOCs--volatile organic compounds--which evaporate into the air and make their way into our lungs and bodies. When we breathe air that is high in VOCs, we put ourselves at risk for migraines, nausea, fatigue, congestion, irritation, allergies, asthma--and, in long term--cancer and disease.
Since many VOCs are colorless and odorless, we may not be aware that we are at risk at all, but environmental experts say that each household can have over 50 toxins.
You could be infecting your house with VOCs every time you...
1. Clean Your Carpet
Popular carpet cleaners are filled with a toxin known as perchloroethylene, which has been considered a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. Fumes from perchloroethylene can cause dizziness, loss of coordination, and other symptoms. Perchloroethylene is also commonly used in dry cleaners.
Look into alternatives to dry cleaning and carpet spot removers--some dry cleaners offer liquid carbon dioxide as a safe cleaning alternative. Pure castile soap is an effective spot remover, too.
2. Get Rid of Odors
Air fresheners and soap usually list “fragrance” in their ingredients--and this should be taken as a red flag. “Fragrance” typically refers to the presence of phthalates, a chemical that is notorious for disrupting the endocrine system and causing reproductive complications. Aerosol air fresheners are also known to trigger migraines.
Try to avoid products that list “fragrance” in their ingredients. If you want to freshen up your home, opt for essential oils or opening windows.
3. Clean Your Bathroom
Ammonia and chlorine are popular ingredients in toilet bowl and bathroom cleaners. Both can instantly irritate your lungs, and long-term exposure can lead to bronchitis, asthma, and thyroid issues.
Baking soda and vinegar are highly effective at disinfecting surfaces while leaving shine. Vodka has also been recommended for polishing metals and mirrors.
4. Unclog Your Drain
Sodium hydroxide is very effective for unclogging drains, but it comes at a price--fumes have been known to cause sore throats that last for days.
A mixture of baking soda and vinegar can effectively unclog a drain. After the bubbles disappear, run hot water through the drain.
5. Clean Your Windows
Window cleaners often use 2-butoxyethanol, which can cause sore throats and liver and kidney damage when inhaled. Unfortunately, 2-butoxyethanol is not legally required to be listed on ingredients lists.
Create your own safe cleaner using:
- ½ cup vinegar
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of Castile soap
- A few drops of essential oil for a fresh scent!
If you still choose to use cleaning products, you can help lessen the side effects with a generous amount of ventilation.
Test the Safety of Your Cleaning Habits With Awair
Awair monitors chemicals and toxins in your indoor air and gives you the insight you need to make healthier choices.
Unsure if your favorite products and cleaning techniques are affecting your air quality? Check air quality readings in the Awair app before and after you clean to help find the best solutions for your home and your air quality.