It is safe to say most people would struggle to pronounce the long list of chemical ingredients found in everyday cleaning products, let alone understand what they are, why they are there and what they do. However with an increasingly greater interest in understanding what we put into our bodies, it is vital to be aware of what we are ingesting each and every day within the safety of our own homes.
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Chemical cleaning products can easily be viewed as completely harmless; after all, they often smell nice, they make our houses fresh and clean – and of course, rid the home of bacteria. But how much do you know about the impact these chemicals could be having on your health?
It’s important to understand what chemicals are best avoided and why. With this knowledge we can then consider other possible alternatives and plant-based options.
Petroleum derived surfactants; these will commonly be found in laundry detergents, washing-up liquids and multi-surface cleaners and are undesirable as they are suspected carcinogenic pollutants (carcinogens are agents directly involved in causing Cancer). Furthermore, they won’t biodegrade and aren’t renewable.
Look out for 1,4-Dioxane – a heterocyclic compound, classified as an ether. It is a colourless liquid with a faint sweet odour and is a by-product of SLES (sodium laureth sulphate). 1,4-Dioxane is a known carcinogen and is commonly found in products that foam or create suds. Legally 1,4-Dioxane does not have to be listed as an ingredient on product labels because the chemical is a contaminant produced during manufacturing. Without labelling, there is no way to know for certain whether a product contains it, making it difficult for consumers to avoid it. However you can look out for SLES (sometimes also listed as SLS).
Formaldehyde is a preservative and carcinogen that can be found in air fresheners and plug-in fragrances, as well as some cleaning products. Furthermore, short-term exposure to formaldehyde vapours can also produce a variety of symptoms such as headaches, asthma, respiratory difficulties, itchy and/or burning eyes and nose, epistaxis (nose bleed), laryngitis/hoarseness, rashes, joint pains, disorientation, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
Lastly, aim to ditch any household products that contain chlorine bleach, phosphates, phthalates and ammonia. These chemicals have a negative impact on both our health and the environment.
Many people will use chemically laden products simply because they don’t know the alternatives – but the good news is, there’s plenty of choice. So, what are the best ways to clean up your household cleaning regime?
Citric acid is an excellent cleaning ingredient as it biodegrades quickly, while bicarbonate of soda is a powerful brightener, which can also work well as an air freshener.
By choosing an environmentally friendly cleaning brand, you can be confident that they are biodegradable. This is hugely important as this saves unnecessary chemicals ending up in our rivers and landfill.
LOOK FOR A LOGO
To offer assurances your cleaning products are better for you and the environment, you could look out for certain certifications. Soil associations, BUAV, PETA, Vegan Society and Ethical Consumer are just some of them.
We use a whole host of cleaning products in the home, and it may be a little overwhelming or expensive to switch all of them all at once. Start small – perhaps try out a ‘greener cleaner’ surface spray or laundry detergent, see how you find it and continue from there.
WHERE TO SHOP
A great place to start is your local health food shop, which will stock a wide variety of greener and less chemically heavy products. Many of which are also available online, and these days many supermarkets are getting on board with such brands in their stores.