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Keep a Clean House With Nontoxic Cleaners

A clean, decluttered home provides a much-needed sanctuary from the daily grind. It’s hard to fully decompress if your home is dirty or untidy, and the average American worker spends nearly one hour on housework daily in an attempt to keep a clean house.1 But there’s a misconception that in order to truly clean your home, you’ve got to don rubber gloves and spray harsh chemicals to do it.

In fact, one of the primary reasons for cleaning your home regularly is to clear out the many toxic chemicals that have accumulated in your household dust. Flame-retardant chemicals and phthalates are among them (along with thousands of species of bacteria and fungi).2

However, if you clean your home with commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes, you’re putting toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. The same goes for most laundry detergents, dryer sheets and air fresheners. Even those strong-smelling lemon and pine scents — the ones many people believe are the epitome of a clean home — are created by toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

You needn’t expose yourself or your family to these toxins any longer, as it’s simple to clean your home with nontoxic cleaners. You can even recreate the same “clean” scents you love using essential oils, and your home will smell much better for it while offering you therapeutic benefits at the same time. As an added bonus, by creating your own nontoxic cleaners, you’ll probably save money too, compared to buying commercial cleaning products.

Scented Products Emit an Average of 17 VOCs

Have you ever felt nauseous, dizzy or gotten a headache after cleaning your home with typical cleaning supplies or using an air freshener? It’s probably because of the VOCs. Eye, nose and throat irritation is also common at the time of use and over the longer term these chemicals can damage your liver, kidneys and central nervous system and even cause cancer.3

Research by Anne Steinemann, formerly with the University of Washington and currently a professor of civil engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues tested 25 household products, including air fresheners and all-purpose cleaners, many of them “top sellers” in their category. The team found the average number of VOCs emitted was 17. They wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:4

“A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals, some of which (e.g., limonene, a citrus scent) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde. The researchers detected 133 different VOCs. Most commonly detected were limonene, α- and β-pinene (pine scents), and ethanol and acetone (often used as carriers for fragrance chemicals).

Each product emitted 1–8 toxic or hazardous chemicals, and close to half (44 percent) generated at least 1 of 24 carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, such as acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde or methylene chloride. These hazardous air pollutants have no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

You can’t tell what types of toxic chemicals might be lurking in your favorite cleaning supplies because such labeling is not required. Steinemann’s research even found that products labeled green, natural and organic emitted hazardous air pollutants.5

Fragranced products (which most commercial cleaning products could be classified as) are particularly problematic, with another of Steinemann’s studies revealing that nearly 35 percent of Americans reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to them.6

That being said, a typical professional cleaning product contains more than 132 different chemicals, fragrances among them, but also glycol ethers, surfactants, solvents, phosphates, detergents and more. “Cleaning products potentially give rise to simultaneous exposures to different chemical substances,” researchers wrote in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health,7 which is why you’re far better off cleaning the truly natural way.

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