Non-Toxic Product Guides:
How to Choose Cleaning Products Safe Enough to Use Around Your Kids
Having a baby means lots of baby stuff–stuff you need to clean! Over and over and over again. High chair trays, pacifiers, breast pumps, tub toys, changing pads and the godforsaken diaper genie. The list goes on. You’ve probably often found yourself wiping down the crib itself–even the wall at one time or another. And those cabinet safety latches? Those are fun too, right? So how do you ensure the cleaning products you use are not only effective, but also safe to use around your Littles? Like many parents, you probably avoid the obviously dangerous products that contain bleach and ammonia. But even so-called “natural” cleaners are not as safe as you think they are. In fact, we think you might be very surprised to learn how many toxic chemicals even “natural cleaners” often contain. Here’s why:
- Out of some 62,000 chemicals approved for use in the US, only about 300 have actually been tested for safety.
- Cleaning product manufacturers aren’t required to show their full ingredient lists on their labels.
- There are no federal standards dictating criteria for what cleaning products can be labeled as “natural.” This means even “natural” cleaning products can and do contain toxic chemicals linked to hormone disruption, organ and neurotoxicity, respiratory & skin irritation.
These facts make it really hard to make sure the cleaning products you’re buying are safe to use around your baby. To help, we’ve done the research and given you the top 5 toxic ingredients to avoid when you’re looking for a cleaner that’s safe enough to use on the surfaces your baby touches. We’re skipping over ammonia and bleach 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 potentially significant health risks. And yes, we mean even in so-called “natural” cleaners. 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 ingredients don’t require reviews by regulatory agencies.
- Fragrances are considered “trade secrets,” so manufacturers can hide a cocktail of over 100 ingredients behind the one word “fragrance” on a label.
- 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.
Bottom line: Don’t buy a cleaning product if you see the word “fragrance” on the label. This goes for air fresheners too! And don’t be tricked by the phrase “fragrance-free” or “unscented.” You also have to check the ingredient list, because sometimes companies use masking fragrances to cover the chemical smell of their products. Also watch out for products labeled as having “natural fragrance” because there is no standard criteria for what these words mean. Beware of any ingredient that ends in “oil” or “extract”; common fragrance allergens are limonene, hexyl cinnamon, citrus and lavender oil extracts.
- 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. Our advice is to look for cleaning products that say they are preservative-free, MIT free or CMIT free.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): These are surfactants that give cleaning products their sudsing action. Reasons to keep away from your baby? 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dyes that make a product look innocently blue, yellow, orange, green aren’t doing anything other than attempting to give you the perception that the product is effective. They don’t actually make the performance of the product any better, and in fact introduce significant health risks. It takes up to 25 synthetic chemicals to make 1 artificial dye. Many are made from coal tar and can contain arsenic and lead. If it’s not colorless, it’s likely not your safest option, so skip it.
Given that “natural” cleaners often contain toxic chemicals, it’s tough to find cleaning products that are safe enough to use where your baby eats, bathes, crawls & plays. That’s why we developed Force of Nature, a cleaning product that has zero harmful chemicals, fragrances, dyes, preservatives, surfactants, allergens or irritants. It uses electricity to turn just three ingredients – salt, water and vinegar – into a non-toxic cleaner that powers through grease, grime, soap scum & odors as effectively as top conventional brands but without all the nasty chemicals so it’s safe to use around your baby. And it’s so gentle, you don’t have to rinse it off after cleaning. You can even use Force of Nature to clean your breast pump, pacifiers, teethers & infant bathtubs without worrying about toxic residues being left behind. The active ingredient in Force of Nature is so safe it’s actually used in wound healing and eye care products. We’ve brought this technology from the industrial space to at-home use so that families no longer have to compromise on safety to get powerful cleaning results. This one product also replaces bleach, deodorizers, kitchen, bathroom and glass cleaners. Even better, it only costs 7¢ an ounce.