Home Cleaning Tips: Eliminating Harmful Chemicals From the Home

More and more people are becoming aware that many of the traditional products used for home cleaning can in fact be harmful to us and our families and the environment. Household cleaners contain a multitude of different chemicals and most homes now have many different bottles to deal with a wide variety of jobs such as the laundry, toilet cleaning, oven cleaning, window cleaning, floor cleaning, kitchen cleaning, bathroom cleaning, washing up etc.

The average household has around 28 different bottles of home cleaning chemicals when they are all counted up. This number is on the increase as chemical companies produce more and more products for more and more specific jobs, eg. stainless steel cleaning or lime scale removal.

Historically, soaps containing a fat/oil and an alkali were used for cleaning. Soaps attract both water and grease molecules therefore adding the necessary power to the water to remove normally insoluble grease and grime.

Over the years, however, the chemical companies have developed a wide range of detergents which include numerous amounts of petrochemicals and natural ingredients. A detergent adds cleaning power to water with the use of a surfactant which lowers the surface tension of the water, enabling it to interact with the other chemical cleaners in the product.

There is actually a common misconception that we need chemicals to be able to clean or kill bacteria effectively so the majority of people continue to use these harmful products. In addition to actual cleaning products we are also exposed to chemicals in other ways in our homes. One of these is via air fresheners.


The very name is misleading as they do not freshen the air at all. They merely mask the smells produced by the dirt and bacteria with stronger smelling synthetic chemical fragrances. Some air fresheners actually interfere with the ability to smell by releasing nerve-deadening agents or coating nasal passages with an oil film, usually methoxychlor, which is a pesticide that accumulates in fat cells.

As well as air fresheners many other cleaning products come with artificial fragrances added, as a way of marketing them to the public. Smell marketing is used by the chemical companies to convince us that clean really smells of artificial lemon or pine fresh for example. In actual fact, clean smells of nothing because there is no dirt or bacteria left to create a smell.

Fragrances are also added to mask the smell of the other chemicals in the products as many of these do not smell at all pleasant. These underlying chemicals together with the fragrances are what hang around in the air after use meaning we are constantly breathing them in. Add to this the air fresheners that are often in use constantly in a house and its no wonder that the air inside our houses is often between 2 and 5 times more polluted than outdoors.

Finally, when it comes to cleaning our clothes we may be doing more harm than good by using certain products.

Fabric softeners (and dryer sheets) are some of the most toxic products made for daily household use. They contain chemicals such as chloroform, benzyl acetate and pentane, which are known to cause cancer and/or damage to the lungs, brain, and nervous system. When clothes are heated in a tumble dryer or during ironing, the chemicals are even more dangerous as the toxic fumes fill our homes.

Fabric softener chemicals are designed to stay in clothes and to slowly release over a long period of time. This slow release into the air affects the health of those wearing the clothes and of the people around them.

Babies, children, older people and people who are already health compromised are especially sensitive to these chemicals.

As well as breathing these softening chemicals in we also absorb them through our skin when we wear clothes which have been washed with them.

Tags: cleaning supplies, home cleaning tips

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