4 Simple Tips for Choosing Safe Cleaning Products

4 Simple Tips for Choosing Safe Cleaning Products

We all need to be using safe cleaners, however not everything on the store shelf is created equally. Many products contain corrosive, toxic chemicals that might “clean” well but they certainly don’t do much to protect the health of your family. These toxic chemicals can leave residues, especially harmful on food surfaces, and contribute to indoor air pollution – or worse.

Choosing safe products is so important but the waters can be hard to navigate at first. Here are some tips to choosing safe products with ease.

1. Start with Ingredients

Start at the ingredient list. If the product you pick up doesn’t tell you what’s in it –stop . right . there . Send that company a message and do not purchase their product. Transparency is huge when looking for safe products in this day and age. While there may be safe products without a disclosed ingredient list, you have no way of knowing that the product you are about to use is safe. The absence of an ingredient list is a big red flag and it’s not worth the risk.

2. Watch Out for These

Though there are more toxins out there, this is a great place to start.

  • Ammonia Toxic when inhaled, swallowed or touched. 
  • Antibacterials & Disinfectants  These include a whole list of ingredients ranging from  Bleach to  Triclosan. The overuse of these types of products are blamed for antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the truth is that extreme disinfectants are rarely needed. There are natural options, just read the labels!
  • Butyl Glycol, Ethylene Glycol, Monobutyl  This is common in most general cleaners and is dangerous to the nervous system, liver & kidneys.
  • Chlorine Bleach  Bleach is very obviously strong, corrosive and irritating to both the eyes and lungs. Avoid this stuff when at all possible – plus you’ll probably save some cash by not accidentally getting bleach spots on clothes and other household fabrics.
  • Petroleum Solvents  Many ingredients are derived from petroleum and are commonly found in many cleaning products as  surfactants  (watch for this term on ingredient lists). Other derivitives, including formaldehyde, can be found in a variety of household cleaners.
  • Phosphates These are harmful to aquatic life and are often found in laundry & dish detergents.
  • Phthalates  Watch for  fragrance on ingredient lists. These are hormone disruptive and are often components of complex synthetic fragrances. Avoid artificial scents at all costs. They are toxic and this goes for everything from cleaners to shampoo to candles. Choose options that say “Phthalate Free” or mention the use of  essential oils for fragrance.

3. Be Aware of these Terms

  • Just because the label says “Natural”, “Non-Toxic” or even “Eco-Friendly” doesn’t mean that it is. It can be a good place to start when you’re looking for products, but verify it! Look at the ingredients and judge for yourself. Greenwashing is everywhere, that's when marketers use the green eco words to catch your attention. ie Biodegradable - Eco- Friendly ( but it just relates to the packaging)
  • If you aren’t sure how your favorite cleaners measure up, look them up on the  EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning where they rate products by their health safety.

4. Good News - the signs are often on the packaging somewhere

  •  Products tell you right on the packaging if they are dangerous. This is good news, though you may have to look at several products before finding one you are satisfied when you first start out. Bottom line – listen to them and stay away! It’s so easy. Avoid products with terms like Caution, Corrosive, Danger, Irritant, Poison, or Warning in their fine print.

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