I’ve used non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products on and off, but having recently moved into my own place in London, I decided to go all-out and use ‘clean’ cleaning products across the board in an attempt to make my little home healthier.
An alarmingly high number of people don’t realise that cleaning products are ‘dirty’ and that we are ironically using poisons (no exaggeration here) to make our homes ‘healthier’.
Clean eating has caught on. Clean, natural skincare has caught on. Finally, ‘clean’ cleaning is becoming more mainstream too - and without you having to cover your bathroom in vinegar and baking soda to make it shine.
The Impact of Dirty Cleaning Products
Typically, natural and organic cleaning products have been promoted as alternatives that will save the environment. This is definitely the case - some cleaners have terrifying effects on the environment and animals within it. But, have you ever thought about the impact that they have on you, too?
The effects of different ingredients on your body (and the environment) vary from one to the other.
To give a brief overview, some ‘dirty’ ingredients can cause mild skin irritation, while others have been linked to antibiotic resistance concerns and hormone disruption.
Research by the US Environmental Protection Agency puts this into perspective:
“EPA studies have found that the concentration of organic pollutants is 2–5 times higher inside homes than outdoors in cities. Many of these organic pollutants can come from conventional cleaning products, spread in thin layers around the surfaces of the home.”
Dirty Ingredients to Avoid
There are a large number of ingredients that have a variety of proven or suspected links to health problems. Here are just a few that really stood out to me:
This ingredient is used in products such as toothpaste, hand wash and body wash. It has suspected links with antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption and, as it accumulates in the body, it can even be present in breast milk.
This ingredient goes by many other names. It is used in many cleaning products (as a degreaser) and can also appear in liquid soaps and cosmetics. It is an irritant, harmful by inhalation and linked to organ toxicity.
Often abbreviated at ETA or MEA, this ingredient is typically found in laundry detergents, floor cleaners and other degreasers. It is an irritant, asthmagen (links to asthma risk) and may damage the respiratory tract.
Phthalates have been linked to abnormal development, low birth weight and asthma, and are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors. They are widely used in ‘fragrance’ in cleaning and cosmetic products.
Brands to Try
There are lots of traditional natural cleaning methods that involve using ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar as healthier cleaning products. However, I struggle to make time to experiment with messy concoctions like this, and would rather invest in something that will do the job conveniently.
Probably, you are in the same boat. So here are my favourite brands that avoid these harmful ingredients:
I love the method brand. When I first saw their product packaging in the aisles of Waitrose, I was infatuated. Since then, I’ve spent hours learning about the brand on their super sleek website and have even got my hands on their book - the method method.
They also have a downloadable toolkit which outlines a little more about the brand’s healthy business practices as well as clear overviews of the ingredientss that they do and don’t use in their products.
Not only are they making clean cleaning possible, they’re doing it stylishly, always keeping product design in mind. They realise that products traditionally positioned as dull commodities doomed to a life under the sink are actually a really important part of a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Since I’ve been using these products, I’m no longer paranoid that I’ll die from neurotoxin exposure when cleaning the shower (slight exaggeration, but I actually do know of people who have been quite ill from this). Plus, they look so cool that your boyfriend will actually want to clean the kitchen. Need I say more?
My favourite method products are the air freshener* and multi-surface sprays. The scents are so fresh and crisp - especially french lavender and clementine.
Ecover is the parent company of method. However, the companies differ in that, where method seek to make sustainability desirable, Ecover have a vision to make sustainable natural.
I’m a long-time user of their washing up liquid and I also love their laundry detergent gel. I assumed that the laundry detergent wouldn’t have a fragrance, but surprisingly my clothes fill the flat with a gorgeous smell when they’re drying!
I also really like that refills are available for this brand at stores such as Planet Organic and even my local greengrocers!
I hate using products knowing that they’re bad for me.
For as long as I can remember I have loathed aerosol sprays of any kind. For starters, did you know that some aerosol sprays use chemical propellants to diffuse the contents of the can? Sprays using air propellants are a better alternative.
I think people really just need to be educated on how toxic and damaging apparent ‘hygiene’ products can be, and know that there is a really appealing alternative available.
I’m buying eco-friendly (and me-friendly!) home products wherever possible. As well as giving me peace of mind, they’re so much more pleasant to use and to see around my house every day.
Were you aware of the dangers of cleaning products? What steps do you take to ensure a healthy home?