A home is a safe place, a refuge from the dangers of the outside world. It is also a place where we invite family and friends to share memorable experiences. In preparation for their visit, we mop floors, clean counter tops, wash linens, and spray “air fresheners” all the while spreading toxins throughout our home. Many of the products we continue to clean our home and personal care items (clothing, eating utensils, etc.) with contain ingredients that are linked to illnesses such as various forms of cancer, birth defects, and immune system issues (ex: allergies, asthma).
Generally, the reading of an ingredient label on a conventional cleaner does not provide more clarity into the toxicity of a product. Unlike many food labels which now require disclosure of trans-fat and other ingredients that may not be as healthy and/or nutritious as we would like, companies manufacturing cleaning products that use hazardous ingredients, are not required to fully disclose all ingredients. If they don’t have to disclose ingredients, then be sure they definitely do not disclose the possible health dangers from using their product. As long as a reference of “danger, warning, or caution” (signal words) is listed on the product container, any further detailed information regarding one of those classifications and the health affects is pretty much left up to being discovered by the consumer.
Obviously, cleaning is a necessary daily task. Fortunately, there are ways for us to make safer consumer choices when purchasing the cleaning products we use. Knowing what to look for and how to read product labels makes the task a little easier. When shopping for cleaning products, consider the following:
- Read the label and take the time to learn about the ingredients.
- The addition of an organic or natural ingredient does not make a cleaning product safer.
- Organic and natural products do work. Take the time (and money if necessary) to find a product that works best for you.
- If you need to wear a mask, open windows, or wear goggles, then do not use.
- Try to find a cleaner that serves multiple purposes which reduces the amount of clutter under your sink and provides savings due to not having to purchase multiple products.
- Get rid of all toxic and conventional cleaners in your home. Since they are classified as hazardous waste, remember to dispose of properly.