For those new to sustainability, switching to greener cleaning products is an easy way to get started. Conventional cleaning products can be a big source of indoor air pollutants, which are incredibly harmful for those with asthma. Even for less sensitive populations, there are still major environmental and health risks including respiratory illness in humans with prolonged contact and contributing toxins to waterways. Developing a safer cleaning routine can help you feel confident that you are making healthy choices for yourself and the planet.

Ingredients to avoid and why

Here are a few common chemicals found in cleaning products that have the potential to cause harm. Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a wonderful resource which makes it easy to look up how environmentally friendly your cleaning products are and even has a healthy cleaning guide. More information and tips for switching to non-toxic products can be found here.

  • Phthalates (also called fragrance or parfum) – These are used to soften and increase flexibility in plastics and can also be found in fragrances. The full effects of phthalates are not yet known but there is growing evidence that some phthalates may affect human reproduction and development. FDA laws do not mandate that manufacturers specifically identify phthalates, so consumers should also avoid products with “fragrance” or “parfum” listed in the ingredients . For alternatives to synthetic fragrances, look for plant-derived fragrant ingredients such as essential oils.
  • Perchloroethylene This is used as a solvent, specifically for dry cleaning products in addition to being used as a degreaser and a paint remover. According to lab studies, it is most likely carcinogenic to humans and animals. For dry cleaning services, try switching to companies that use either wet cleaning or carbon dioxide methods which do not cause pollution or human health risks. Blue Sky Cleaners has several Seattle locations which offer these services.
  • Triclosan This is a strong antibacterial agent that contributes to antibacterial resistance, a growing problem where bacteria are becoming resistant to increasingly stronger antibiotics thereby making it more difficult to treat bacterial infections. Simple solutions such as washing hands with soap and water have proven very effective in preventing the spread of illnesses without the accompanying fears of antibacterial resistance. If you must use hand sanitizer, choose alcohol-based products.

Examples of harmful cleaning products

Going non-toxic

One solution to avoid toxic ingredients in your cleaning products is to use simple DIY recipes, so you know exactly what’s going in to your cleaning products. This can also save you money and reduce packaging waste from store-bought products. I put together a guide for nine simple DIY cleaning recipes here

If DIY isn’t where you want to begin, there are some great non-toxic cleaning products out there – a few of my favorites below!

Recommended brands

Clearly, there are problems with many common cleaners, but there is good news. The brand Seventh Generation is found in many stores including Target, Bartell Drugs, Safeway and online on Amazon. This brand is relatively easy to find, comparable in price to traditional options and almost all of their products have received an “A” rating from the EWG. I personally use their detergents, dish soaps and multi surface cleaners and have found that they work just as well as common cleaners. Another good but slightly harder to find brand is CitraSolv. It can be found in PCC Markets, Whole Foods Markets and Vegan Haven (in the University District). I use their Concentrated Cleaner and really enjoy the citrus scent.

Photo by Seventh Generation

Recommended products

Here are some green alternatives for the most potentially harmful products, all rated well by the EWG, and where to find them:

CitraDrain Natural Build-Up Remover on Amazon
Seventh Generation Free & Clear Liquid Dish Soap at Target and Amazon
Better Life Natural Streak Free Glass Cleaner on Amazon

Featured photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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