Non-Toxic Product Guides:
6 Toxic Ingredients Hiding in Your “Natural” Cleaner
Keeping your children safe from the harmful chemicals in cleaning products is probably a top priority for you. For good reason! As you know, cleaning products are full of dangerous toxic chemicals like bleach and ammonia, as well as lots of other baddies like phthalates. But you might be surprised to learn that even so-called “natural” cleaners are not actually non-toxic. Mic drop. We’re sorry to tell you that it’s true – just because a product says it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. We’ve debunked the top three myths when it comes to cleaning product safety to arm you with the info you need to make safer choices for your family.
Myth: Government regulations ensure the chemicals you use in your home are safe.
Fact: Out of some 62,000 chemicals approved for use in the US, only about 300 have actually been tested for safety.
Myth: Ingredient lists have to disclose what’s in the product.
Fact: Cleaning product manufacturers aren’t required to show their full ingredient lists on their labels.
Myth: If a product is labeled “natural” it’s safer.
Fact: There are no federal standards dictating criteria for what cleaning products can be labeled as “natural”. Even “natural” cleaning products frequently contain toxic chemicals that are linked to hormone disruption, organ and neurotoxicity, respiratory irritation and skin allergies.
These facts make it very hard to ensure the cleaning products you’re buying are safe. So to help, we’ve done the research and given you the top six toxic ingredients to avoid. We’re skipping over ammonia and bleach (sodium hypochlorite) since you probably already know to steer clear of those.
The Top 6 Ingredients to Avoid
- Fragrances: Manufacturers have tried to train us that clean has a smell. Maybe that smell is lavender, lemon, pink grapefruit, white grapefruit or any other color of innocent sounding fruit, but trust us, you should avoid it. Fragrances don’t add anything to the efficacy of a cleaning product, and instead introduce significant health risks. The fact is, fragrances are not nearly as safe as most people think they are, which is why they earn the #1 spot on our list. Here’s why:
- Fragrance chemicals can pass through the skin and enter the blood stream. They are classified as carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, skin and respiratory irritants.
- The fragrance industry is self-regulated. Safety testing does not have to precede product sales, and fragrance “cocktails” don’t require reviews by regulatory agencies.
- Fragrances are considered “trade secrets,” so manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the potentially hundreds of ingredients hiding behind the one word “fragrance.”
Bottom line: Don’t buy a cleaning product if you see the word “fragrance” on the label. This goes for air fresheners too! They just attempt to pollute away odors with toxic chemicals. And don’t be tricked by the phrase “fragrance-free” or “unscented.” You also have to check the ingredient list, because sometimes companies use a masking fragrance to cover the chemical smell of their product. Also watch out for products labeled as “natural” or “natural fragrance,” because there is no standard criteria for what these words mean.
- Phthalates: Studies have shown that more than 75% of products with fragrances contain these nasty endocrine disruptors, but you won’t find them listed on labels. One glance at the health risks of phthalates will probably cause you to go fragrance-free right away. The Centers for Disease Control reported that phthalates can be found in the blood of most Americans, and the greatest quantities are in women.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): These are surfactants, which give cleaners their sudsing qualities. Sodium lauryl sulfate has been linked to skin & eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption & ecotoxicology. Sodium laureate sulfate is linked with skin & eye irritation. A big concern with both of these is their contamination with the carcinogenic by-product called 1,4 dioxane. Nixing the SLS & SLES can go a long way in your quest to find safer cleaning products.
- Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, TEA): These toxic chemicals are commonly used emulsifiers, fragrance additives & pH adjusters. They are associated with hormone disruption, cancer and organ toxicity.
- Methylsothiazolinone (MIT) & Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT): These preservatives are extremely common in cleaning products labeled as “natural” even though they are linked with inhalation toxicity, dangerous allergic reactions and possible neuro toxicity. Again, because cleaning product manufacturers aren’t required to list all their ingredients, it’s hard to know what products they’re in. Our advice is to look for cleaning products that say they are preservative-free or MIT free or CMIT free.
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATs): QUATs are very common in cleaners labeled as disinfectants, and they are associated with allergies, asthma, fertility issues & birth defects. They may not be listed on ingredient labels at all, or if they are, they could be listed under multiple different names. For a list of those check here.
Given that “natural” cleaners can still be full of toxic chemicals and ingredient labels are often incomplete, it’s a tough challenge to find cleaning products that are truly free of toxic chemicals. That’s why we developed Force of Nature. It’s a tiny appliance that uses electricity to turn salt, water & vinegar into a multi-tasking cleaner that powers through grease, grime, soap scum & odors as effectively as Clorox, Windex, Formula 409, Scrubbing Bubbles & Febreze but without the toxic chemicals. It’s the worry-free cleaner you can use around your kids–so gentle you can even recruit them to help you clean! You can even use it on sippy cups, baby toys and highchair trays without rinsing. And this one product replaces bleach, deodorizers, kitchen, bathroom and glass cleaners all for just 7¢ an ounce. Happy cleaning!