The Surprising Health Risks of Toxic Cleaning Products

In today's age, there are several ways you can turn to healthy living while keeping the planet clean. However, all the various common household cleaners may not be the best choice as they are not as safe as they claim to be.

Yes! You heard us right! Who knew that being clean could be so dirty? Well, certain cleaning agents do not mention their nasty components on the labels and can also potentially make you sick.

You might not be aware that ordinary goods lying around the house, from your bedroom closet to your kitchen, have hidden health concerns. While saving money is crucial, the cheapest products are not necessarily the safest for your family. 

According to studies, chemicals found in household cleaning products might harm your lungs just as much as cigarettes. However, while living in a clean house is beneficial to your health, cleaning the house with the wrong kind of products might be harmful.  

Some of the known health hazards associated with cleaning products are as follows:

  • Phthalates are harmful

Endocrine disruptors such as phthalates are well-known. As per a 2003 research study conducted by the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health, males with greater quantities of phthalate chemicals within the blood had lower sperm counts. Alicia Stanton, MD, co-author of Hormone Harmony, cautions that when phthalates are inhaled, they can also be absorbed through the skin when we use scented soaps. The epidermis inside our body, unlike the digestive system, has no toxins-repelling mechanisms, and hence, chemicals that are absorbed are sent directly to the organs.

  • It can cause cancer

Preservatives in some cleaning agents release modest levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde, which can lead to cancer. Compared to the women in many other professions, women who clean for even a livelihood have double the risk of developing cancer. This is indeed one of the main reasons as one must avoid such cleaning products at home for the ones who clean every day and are around them. 

  • Disinfectant overkill does exist

Despite many studies warning us about possible negative health repercussions, such as increasing antibiotic resistance, stronger disinfectants and antibacterial agents like quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are routinely found within household cleaners. In many circumstances, disinfectants are not needed; basic soap and water suffice and pose fewer health risks.


  • It can give you headaches

Any task could seem insurmountable when your head hurts. Many cleaning agents release gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which may cause migraine headaches. In a national survey, more than 34 per cent of respondents in the United States claimed health concerns as a result of exposure to scented items, like migraine headaches and respiratory issues. 

  • Ammonia content is harmful

Ammonia is another prominent element in commercial window cleaners. It is useful since it dissipates quickly and leaves zero streaks. However, that gleam has a cost. As per research, ammonia is a potent irritant that can have an immediate effect on you. Asthma patients and the elderly with lung disorders and breathing difficulties would be most affected. People who are exposed to a lot of ammonia, such as housekeepers, are more likely to develop chronic bronchitis and asthma. When ammonia is combined with bleach, it can produce toxic gas.

  • Reproductive problems

Several chemicals often found in cleaning products have been related to reproductive harm, including decreased fertility, birth abnormalities, early birth, rapid puberty, low sperm counts, or other issues. Many of these chemicals were considered safe at the amounts we are exposed to; however, the study and other researchers have discovered that a set of chemicals known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or EDCs, can influence the quality of sperm, eggs, and embryos, and hence a person’s probability of having a baby. They might also have an impact on the child's long-term health.

  • Triclosan is harmful

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that could stimulate the growth of microorganisms that are resistant to antibiotics. According to Sutton, the American Medical Association has presented no proof that such antimicrobials start making us healthier or safer. However, they are especially concerned since they don’t want everyone overusing antibacterial chemicals as it is how microbes acquire antibodies. Other research has discovered hazardous levels of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is poisonous to algae. The Environmental Protection Agency is actively looking into whether triclosan can affect endocrine (hormonal) function. It has the potential to cause cancer. The government was looking into the safety of triclosan in consumer products at the time of publication.

  • Burns

The most prevalent hazards are from cleaning materials coming into touch with the skin and eyes, breathing them in, or eating them. Several cleaning products are dangerous since they are toxic and can cause skin and eye burns if they come into contact with the body. Some might cause dermatitis (dry, painful, flaky skin), skin irritations, asthma, and breathing problems if not well-controlled. Toxic compounds in cleaning products, such as lye, sulfuric acid, or bleach, could cause burns to the skin, nose, and eyes. 

How can you protect yourself from the dangers of cleaning and housekeeping products?

When you buy cleaning supplies or other household items, read all the labels carefully. VOCs, perfumes, irritants, and combustible chemicals should be avoided or decreased in products. Avoid using air fresheners.

The word ‘green’ in the product description does not always imply that a product is safe. Conduct some product testing from a reputable source.

Warm water and soap, especially at home, can often be used as a safer cleaning solution. Scrub with baking soda. Glassware can be easily cleaned with a vinegar-water mixture. Keep your homes well ventilated while cleaning and using home goods. Windows and doors should be open. Avoid using cleaning agents in a closed space.

These can be great alternatives to keeping it clean without any harmful additives. So, take a deep breath, and let go of your traditional ways of cleaning once and for all!