How Toxic Is Your Home Inside?

I thought I knew what cleaning products to use as the owner of a cleaning company, but over time, I noticed they cost a lot, don’t do that great of a job and, worst of all, have a scary looking warning labels.

Labels on conventional store-bought cleaning products list warning signs of toxicity and instructions to call Poison Control if they’re ingested or touch the skin. Having one of those products might be a slight concern, but the typical household has many in the bathroom and under the kitchen sink that pose a threat to health.

What’s worse is that the chemicals from those products can linger inside the home. Modern homes are constructed to be more energy efficient, but this requires tighter seals to reduce energy waste. Outdoor pollutants can seep inside and indoor pollutants can remain—one of those pollutants is cleaning products, alongside mold, dust, pollen, radon, lead and anything containing volatile organic compounds, such as paints, varnishes, furniture and carpeting. 

Cleaning products can cause a long list of concerning health problems. They can cause skin or respiratory problems, irritate eyes, cause asthma and result in chemical burns, and some even have known carcinogens. The most dangerous are acid-based drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners—the labels are pretty scary looking, stating “Danger” or “Corrosive,” since they can burn the skin or eyes. Bleach is another dangerous substance known to cause asthma and pneumonia from high exposure, as well as irritate eyes and burn skin. 

Even something as benign as window cleaners can be toxic from the ammonia that triggers asthma and affects the brain. Asthma, allergies and lung irritation also can be caused by other household supplies, like fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Toxicity doesn’t stop with the direct use of the chemicals but can continue when the product is left on surfaces. Some floor cleaners can soak into feet, and pets and babies touching their faces on windows can absorb glass cleaner and irritate their mucous membranes. Cleaning products with ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine and formaldehyde also can cause cancer and liver and kidney damage to pets.

Buying an all-natural cleaner from grocery and health food stores isn’t the answer either since they, too, can contain harmful chemicals. Plus, they often cost twice as much as conventional cleaners.

The alternative is to use vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and essential oils to clean, scouring with a grainy sponge. Or make your own homemade cleaning product like I did with my PÜR Evergreen all-in-one natural cleaner that uses all natural products to clean everything in the house from sinks to countertops, glass and floors. I combine hydrogen peroxide with natural plant-based soaps and natural organic essential oils in natural scents like Sassy Spearmint and Eucalyptus Mint.

I wanted something simple for people to use that also is safe and cost-effective, while also having a great scent.