Environmentally Friendly Cleaning

6 Ingredients to Embrace (and 5 to Avoid)

Now — more than ever — we’re thinking deeply about the bacteria we could be bringing into our homes.

At the same time, as we stock our cleaning cabinets for the next major scrub-down, we might also be wondering if the products we use to clean our kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, dishes, and laundry are actually safe for us and our surrounding environment.

Luckily, there are a number of healthy, environmentally-friendly, and plant-based ingredients that can help you achieve a balance between sustainability and home safety.

Highlighted below are common planet-friendly ingredients that can help you clean your home safely as well as five toxic substances to eliminate from your all-natural regimen.

6 Planet-Friendly Cleaning Ingredients

5 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

  • Chlorine Bleach

    There’s nothing that ruins a well-cleaned home like the migraine-inducing small of bleach. Not only does bleach smell terrible, it’s toxic.

    Bleach is especially dangerous when mixed with ammonia, discussed more in detail below. This mixture creates toxic gases called chloramines, which can cause coughing, nausea, shortness of breath, watery eyes, chest pain, and nose or throat irritation, and even pneumonia.

    Depending on where you shop or live, it might be challenging to find cleaning products without trace amounts of bleach in them. Luckily, there are a number of healthy, natural, and powerful cleaning alternatives that might already be in your own kitchen. While you can start by looking for products with ingredients on the plant-based list above, you can also try implementing vinegar and baking soda into your cleaning regimen.

  • Ammonia

    Among your local grocery store’s bleach-based cleaning products, you’ll also likely find a number of items that include ammonia — a pungent gas that’s often mixed with water to create cleaning solutions.

    Like bleach, this ingredient is toxic. According to the New York Health Department, heavy exposure to it can cause burning of the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract. This exposure can also result in blindness, lung damage, or even death. Meanwhile, inhalation of smaller amounts of ammonia can cause coughing, nose irritation, and throat pain.

  • Parabens

    Since the 1920s, parabens have been used in many products including food, body care items, and cleaning liquids. Despite their popularity, parabens can dangerously impact the human body. Specifically, research has linked them to hormone disruption, infertility, and various cancers.

  • Triclosan (or TCS)

    In 2016, the FDA banned triclosan’s use in hand soap because research could not demonstrate it was safe for skin. However, it has not yet been banned from some cleaning products or toothpaste.

    What researchers do know is that too much exposure to this chemical, also known as TCS, can harm reproduction and the body’s ability to create mitochondria, or healthy cell membranes.

  • 2-Butoxyethanol

    2-butoxyethanol is described by the CDC as a colorless liquid with a mild odor. When exposed to it, the chemical can harm the eyes, skin, kidneys, and blood.

    2-butoxyethanol is a heavy-duty solvent found in paint strippers, thinners, and household cleaners. The CDC notes that employees in many industries, including construction, printing, manufacturing, and cleaning may see higher instances of exposure.

Navigating Natural Cleaning Products

When choosing products for your next cleaning spree, be sure to research brand websites, physical labels, and product reviews to determine if an item and its ingredients are appropriate and safe for your home. Keep in mind that a number of great environmentally-friendly companies offer transparent product labels and ingredient guides directly on their websites.

For more tips on how to research and understand complicated product labels, check out this helpful article.

Sources: 

“2-butoxyethanol,” CDC.gov, 2020

“5 essential oils for spring cleaning”“How to choose your probiotics"; "Omegas by the numbers"; “Prevent kidney stones”; “Summer secrets for great hair," tasteforlife.com

“Banned from soap, is triclosan in your toothpaste?”by Matt McMillen, Radiance by WebMD, WebMD.com, 7/5/18

“Citric acid uses that moms have grown to love” by Lemi Shine, KTEN.com, 4/2/2019

“Cleaning up with glycerin” by Trish Barber, ReadersDigest.com, 12/22/10

“Dangers of mixing bleach with cleaners,” Washington State Department of Health, doh.wa.gov, 2020

“Detergent-compatible bacterial cellulase” by F.N. Nyonzima, Journal of Basic Microbial, 2/19

“The facts about ammonia,” New York Health Department, 2020

“Methyl esters” by Q. Zhai et al., Hormone Metabolism and Signaling in Plants, 2017

“What are parabens, and why they don’t belong in cosmetics products?” by Tasha Stoiber, EWG.org, 4/9/19

 

Contributor

About Pamela Bump

Pamela is the Audience Growth Manager for the HubSpot Blog and holds an M.S. in Media Ventures from Boston University. Before HubSpot, she was Taste for Life’s first Web Editor & Social Media Expert and Harvard Business Review’s first Growth Editor.  In her roles, she’s managed content strategy, social media, and audience growth tactics.

Although her career is focused on digital marketing and editorial innovation, she continues to write for TFL to quench her thirst for food blogging and health journalism.