Protecting your health and your family is a priority for every good parent (or single). Cleanliness should also be a priority as an adult and so should keeping harmful products away from your family too, right? So why is it that on a daily basis, we are constantly putting ourselves, and our loved ones in harm’s way, for the sake of a clean home?
A fine line
I know, there is a fine line of contradiction between what I just said, but there is truth to it also. Cleaning products are both good for you, and bad for you. How so? You might ask. Well, I’m about to explain that.
When you buy cleaning products for your home, you know the purpose they are intended and you know why you are buying them, but did you know that a lot of them can be very harmful to both the environment and to your health, and the health of your family? There’s a fine line between what kills germs and disinfects, and harsh chemicals that can harm you through different means like inhaling of their fumes, and in my experience combining the wrong cleaning products can have a really bad result.
When we’re cleaning, there’s a huge range of detergents, bleaches, softeners, polishes, scented sprays and liquids to choose from. There are specialised cleaning products for removing mould and germs from the bathroom, grime from windows and mirrors, and especially cleaning hard to eliminate gunk from places like the oven and drains.
The problem is, and it’s something not everyone is actively aware of – although chemicals in the cleaning products we use do work well, they also add to the amount of indoor air pollution we have in our home, are toxic if swallowed, and they can actually be very dangerous if we breathe them in.
Household cleaners are some the most poisonous products we all seem to have and while some of those products can lead to immediate reactions like respiratory problems or skin irritation, chemical burns and more, others are more connected with chronic effects, including links to cancers.
The most dangerous cleaners
The most dangerous cleaners are those we use to clean our drains, ovens and toilets. These are corrosive and not only cause burning in the eyes and skin, but also in the throat and oesophagus if they are consumed.
Toxic ingredients to be wary of include sodium hydroxide (or Lye), hydrochloric acid (when mixed accidentally with bleach, it will create a highly dangerous toxic gas), and ammonia. When handling products that contain any of these three ingredients, always wear gloves, and even go to the lengths of a face mask, in case you accidentally mix the wrong chemicals together. If you or anyone in your family is asthmatic, it is safer to not use these products at all.
Next down the list, although not quite as toxic as the first three, are still very high on the danger list. Any products that contain chlorine bleach or chlorine shouldn’t be used by anyone with asthma, heart problems or breathing difficulties. These chemicals particularly pose the threat that when mixed with other chemicals or each other, can form gases that damage our lungs.
Poisonous gases are also accumulated when we mix products. If we were to mix ammonia with chlorine, or ammonia with sodium hydroxide – it produces what’s known as chloramine gases; while chlorine also has a detrimental gas effect when mixed with acids.
Common cleaners are dangers too
Further down into the danger zone are some of the most commonly used chemicals, and although most of them are advertised as “natural scents” or “essence of” fragrances, mixing these with fabric softeners or even simple laundry detergents can cause severe respiratory irritation, headaches, sneezing, and hayfever allergy symptoms in people who suffer from allergies or and asthma.
Even though a deodorant or air freshener might smell great and make your home feel fresh and clean, chances are that it’s not going to be good for you. The reason air fresheners are so effective is that they work by physically changing or numbing your senses. The two most common ways they will do this are by:
1. It coats your nose cavities with an oily scented film.
2. They contain nerve deadening agents.
Here’s a fun fact: Air Fresheners contain formaldehyde particles. If you don’t know what that is – it’s the carcinogenic element of cigarettes and plastic…Yeah, breathe it in…doesn’t it smell nice?
Even the trusted dishwashing chore in the household isn’t missed on the indoor air pollution side of things. Most dishwashing detergents contain a powdered concentrated form of chlorine; and those little brightly coloured dishwasher tablets or powders (that are quite often mistaken as candy by children, and therefore one of the highest child killers on the planet) contain a large trace of sudsing agents called diethanolamine or triethanolamine.
When diethanolamine or triethanolamine mix with nitrites, they have a chemical reaction that forms nitrosamines – these are carcinogens that can get into our skin. Butyl cello solve (or ether) is also common in some detergents.
It’s really difficult to find cleaning products that actually list the ingredients in the product, because they all want to keep their information private so their competitors don’t steal their recipes. Unfortunately as consumers, because of this you don’t actually really know what you are buying, how dangerous it really is, and what it can do to your family. Your best options are to research home made products that perform the same jobs as specific chemical based products, and make your own. It’s amazing what a bottle of apple cider vinegar or a box of baking soda can do around your home that you thought only harsh chemicals could do.
Here’s a tip: If something reads the words “CAUTION” “DANGER” “POISON” “TOXIC” “HAZARDOUS”, chances are they will contain some of the above chemicals that can and will harm you and your family; so maybe it’s a good idea to avoid them altogether.