Household products, Non-toxic living

Cleaning supplies detox

Have you ever wondered what is in your cleaning products? I started out wanting to de-plastic my cleaning supplies, and it turned out that there are problems WAY bigger than just the plastic bottles my cleaning chemicals came in. 

I was curious about what, if any, research there was on the safety of the ingredients in my commercial cleaners. What I found was quite shocking! From carcinogens to harming an unborn child, the ingredients had one problem after another. This is a really long post, but I just couldn’t justify leaving any of it out.

I used the Environmental Working Group database on household products to look up the products on my shelves. They use a database that has all research ever published on the safety of chemicals to give common household products a safety grade. The grade also takes into consideration how transparent a company is in what chemicals are used in the product. Their safety grades are from A-F. You can read more about how they grade their products here, but basically, A and B are pretty good, C usually means that there is some transparency in what chemicals are used, but those chemicals need more research, D and F mean you should not be using them. They have chemicals with enough evidence of harm that the risks aren’t worth it. 

Here is what was in my cupboard:


Recognize any from your cupboards? Here is the research on each of them, you can click on the link to see the full EWG report, but I also summarized the info on each one:

Cascade rinse aid:  D

Mostly for aquatic toxicity. Also had poor disclosure of ingredients (one chemical is particularly vague and includes substances concerning for nervous system effects)

Moderate concerns contributing to asthma and other respiratory problems. Some concern about contributing to cancer and aquatic toxicity.
Poor disclosure of ingredients. Some ingredients contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems. Aquatic toxicity.
Literally one of the disclosed ingredients is “cleaning agent.” Substances allowed to be labeled with this wording include chemicals known to cause genetic defects in babies, reproductive toxicity, and cancer. So these may or may not be in your Pine-Sol. You can choose if you want to gamble your health on that!
More than one ingredient with high concern for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects–meaning it is suspected to cause infertility or harm the unborn child. Also causes aquatic toxicity. 

Contains “Preservatives,” a nonspecific substance that has moderate concern for causing cancer. Also moderate concern for causing asthma/respiratory effects.  

Kleen guard furniture polish:

No info on my particular off-brand name, but most mainstream furniture polish commercial products were C-F. 

Dollar Store Carpet Cleaner:

No info on my off-brand version, but the Resolve and CVS brands that seemed most equivalent were all F’s.

My brand not listed, but the Windex version is an F. 
It includes a chemical, sodium borate, that has a “high level of concern” for “harming an unborn child” and “damaging fertility”. Also, “clear evidence of endocrine disruption in at least one animal study”. 
Seriously, removing fingerprints from glass just isn’t worth that price. It even boasts that it “clings to glass and windows,” meaning it sticks around even after you are done using it. Great.
Note that Sodium Borate–also called “Borox”–is also used in many DIY and “natural products, such by the Honest Company. I personally do not use it in my home. 
I had off brands, so this is from Windex. It has concerns for aquatic toxicity, moderate concerns for asthma and respiratory problems as well as negative nervous system effects. 
Concerns about causing asthma. Here is the data on one of its ingredients: “EPA’s review of industry submitted toxicity data and the potential for human exposure concludes that this substance poses a high risk for human health.” There are 2 peer-reviewed studies that also showed reproductive toxicity in animals. But it is still used in Lysol wipes!
Deodorizing toilet bowl cleaner:
Didn’t have my off-brand, but Clorox and Lysol brands were F and D, respectively.

Some concerns for cancer, endocrine toxicity, and aquatic toxicity. Includes “fragrance” as an ingredient, which can mean almost anything. 

SOS clean and toss: C

Moderate concern that it contributes to cancer and respiratory problems. Not to mention the name literally includes the word “toss”. . . as if causing cancer wasn’t bad enough, it is designed to rapidly contribute to your trash-footprint. 
Concerns for aquatic toxicity, respiratory and nervous system health concerns.
Yes, a score of D for the “naturally derived” brand. Shows how companies are often more interested in your money than your health.
The Works Shower and Tub scrub:

Not in the database, but at this point I didn’t have any faith that it might be fully tested and considered safe. It did list Phosphoric acid as its active ingredient, which I looked up and found that it is a known pollutant in bodies of water. 

NOTHING in my supply had an A or B!

I was a little overwhelmed at this point! How am I supposed to clean my home?!?!?

Fortunately, I found some really simple solutions and I will gladly share them with you. But first, let’s talk about a few other things that should affect what chemicals you use to clean:

First of all, killing 99.9% of germs might not be the best for your health. In medicine, we are learning more and more about the importance of good bacteria in your gut. You need a solid living community of healthy bacteria to keep the bad bacteria away. That’s why we avoid taking antibiotics as much as possible. I wonder what impact it has on our health to kill all bacteria on the surfaces in our house, good and bad alike. 

Next, there is the financial part. The price of all of my cleaners together if I had to buy them again is about $76, going on current Walmart and Dollar Store prices. The price of my low-waste cleaning products is about $12. People often tell me that being healthy is too expensive. This just isn’t true!

AND (just to let me rant a little…) there is the part about listening to companies tell us we need a different product for every job just so they will make more money. Do we really need a different product for our bathroom counter, kitchen counter, tub, sink, floor, toilet, windows, and then an “all-purpose” one on top of that? Stop letting commercials tell you what to do and be your own person. (thanks for letting me rant).

At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself the why question. Why do you clean? What is your goal?

Is your goal to be healthy?

Then you probably don’t want to use chemicals that cause cancer, respiratory problems, neurological effects, reproductive problems, and genetic defects in babies–and top it off with being toxic to aquatic life. (Not to mention that they all come in plastic bottles–remember, plastic is never truly recycled).

Is your goal to get rid of dirt, stains, bad smells and feel good about your home?

Then never fear, there are great non-toxic options that you can also get in plastic-free containers.

My current stash

I sprinkle baking soda on countertops, sinks, the tub or shower, and inside the toilet bowl. Wipe well with a soft cloth (or the toilet brush inside the toilet bowl), then rinse off with water. It is a great deodorizer too. Pairing it with an old toothbrush goes a long way in getting grime off.

For disinfecting, I use this lemon-infused vinegar that I make myself. It doesn’t have a bad vinegar smell, I promise! I use it on the toilet and anywhere else I think needs disinfecting.  I use it to clean up after vomit or poop. It can even kill influenza virus.  I occasionally use it to wash the outsides of my kitchen cabinets. It’s great at getting off spaghetti sauce fingerprints 🙂

The washing soda is a good laundry soak to get stains out–and it has a safety grade of A. I also use it as a dishwasher soap along with a few drops of liquid castile soap (you can buy this in your own container at EarthFare). 

For a rinse aid in the dishwasher, plain vinegar works great. It is a great laundry softener too.

To wash mirrors and windows, sprinkle with plain water and then wipe off with a newspaper. Or, wipe off with a dry towel (at first you will think you are only smearing fuzzies from the towel around, but keep going and turn to dry spots on the towel. It magically all comes off after about 30 seconds of wiping). 

Alright, I challenge you to take a peek at your cleaning cupboard.

Take everything out and look at it in one big pile. Anything there worth keeping?


5 thoughts on “Cleaning supplies detox”

  1. I use baking soda and vinegar to clean practically everything, too! I always grind up lemon rinds in my garbage disposal so the kitchen smells clean 🙂 I freaked out and went all-natural when I got pregnant; all these cleaning products are so unnecessarily harmful and scary! Great post, thank you for doing so much leg work!


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