Cleaning Products: Ingredients to Avoid and Natural Alternatives to Choose Instead

Cleaning Products: Ingredients to Avoid and Natural Alternatives to Choose Instead

A simple switch from conventional cleaning products to green alternatives can benefit both the environment and your well-being. Companies don’t make a point to advertise this fact, but the traditional cleaning solutions we use every day contain toxins with the potential to irritate and even harm our bodies.

Phthalates in dish soap, triclosan in detergents and ammonia in household glass cleaners all adversely affect the health of users unaware of the contents of their most trusted brands. The chemicals we absorb through our skin or by inhalation cause both short- and long-term issues.

Naturally, awareness of the problem is the first step toward amending it. With a grasp on the dangers of your current stable of cleaning products, you can start replacing them with non-toxic, eco-friendly substitutes. It might be the beginning of an even more significant change!

In this article, we’ll walk you through what you need to know, what to avoid and what to look for in your cleaning products.

Ingredients to avoid 

Companies concocted most cleaning products with their efficacy in mind, often without consideration for their effect on the user — and the long list of harmful ingredients doesn’t end with phthalates, triclosan and ammonia. You need to check for additional toxins when browsing your local supermarket, too.


According to Judith Schreiber, Ph.D., the chief scientist of environmental protection for the New York Attorney General’s Office, perchloroethylene, or “perc,” is a neurotoxin. “You’re at risk for neurological effects, liver and kidney illness, and increased cancer risk,” she tells CBS News.

This news is unsettling, as it’s a component of spot removers, carpet cleaners and dry-cleaning solutions. With its classification of a “possible carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s best to avoid any products with perchloroethylene.

Quarternary ammonium compounds — otherwise known as “quats” — are a standard element of most antibacterial solutions. They’re also common in fabric softener liquids, and evidence shows quats can cause respiratory problems like asthma in users who handle the dangerous compound on a regular basis.

Related Post: Eco Product Review: Organic Choice

One of the most common toxins is found not only in cleaning products but also in our tap water. A challenge to avoid, chlorine is an ingredient in laundry whiteners, scouring powders and dishwashing detergents that can cause thyroid problems — resulting in weight gain and fatigue, among other symptoms.

Eco-friendly alternatives to consider

Castile soap is a popular green alternative with wide availability, easily purchased at your local supermarket. Unlike common soaps manufactured from synthetic materials and animal byproducts like tallow, lard and other fats, castile soap is made exclusively from vegetable oils. It’s also a multipurpose substance, ideal for use in the shower as well as your laundry.

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap is a popular fair-trade organic soap
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap is a popular fair-trade organic soap

Apple cider vinegar is as another harmless cleaning ingredient. Beyond its numerous health benefits — improving heart health, reducing cholesterol and aiding in weight loss — apple cider vinegar is a safe substitute for standard household solutions. Suitable for use on countertops, toilets, showers, sinks and glass, a little ACV will take on the toughest of stains.

Related Post: Unusual Apple Cider Vinegar Uses: 5 Ways It Can Improve Your Life

Borax sounds like a menacing chemical, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s a natural cleaner that’s less harmful than most conventional products on the market today, perfect for washing laundry and general use around the house — effective even as a pest repellent, for those with an irksome ant problem. It’s dangerous to ingest, however, and parents with children should take precautions.

In addition to green products you purchase from a store, you likely already own many eco-friendly cleaning solutions. Baking soda, cornstarch, olive oil and alcohol all serve a secondary function as household cleaners. It may come as a surprise, but vodka has a secondary use as a powerful odor remover if applied in the proper context, so take a look through your cabinets to see what you can scrounge up!

And here’s an extra tip for green cleaning: Instead of wasting an excessive amount of paper towels to scrub down surfaces, purchase two or three cloth towels (preferably made of organic cotton or natural fibres) to use in rotation. It’ll reduce your impact while saving you money and space on bulky paper towel packages you can afford to do without.

Sustainability starts with you, and that includes your household cleaning products. Replacing your toxic cleaning solutions with green alternatives will benefit your body, your home, your wallet and the environment all at the same time. An investment in an eco-friendly lifestyle is an investment in your future.

Make the change today!

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