Let’s start with a challenge…I challenge you to name three big brand household cleaning products.

Easy?

I’m sure more than three came to mind as soon as you read the question.

Now, name all of the ingredients that you know are in those products.

Not so easy right?

How well do you know these ingredients and their safety in our homes and natural environment? Can the companies making these products be trusted?

Without dropping any names of the biggest brands in household cleaning products, I’m sure you grew up with some of them in your home. You’ve seen their commercials on TV, in magazines, and by now you’ve probably seen them advertised on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. You’re surrounded by them stacked high in the aisles of department and grocery stores, and likely even feel a touch nostalgic towards some of their scents. (Think of clean laundry, air fresheners, or that piney smell associated with a spotlessly cleaned floor).

Many of these products and the companies that make them are very harmful to the natural world, and the health of you, your family, and your pets. As people who care about the natural world and it’s future health and the health of our planet and families, it’s important to know that if you’re still using these products, you could be unknowingly hurting the environment and your family.

You might be thinking, how can these companies be allowed to make harmful products. Surely they can’t. No one would allow that…would they? Well, I don’t have the answers to that, but the facts are the facts.

Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that are known to cause significant environmental damage and harm to our health, and the companies selling them are getting away with it, all in the name of cleanliness…and profit.

They aren’t only using toxic chemicals in their products, but many of these companies are conducting animal testing. Horrible, right?

Here’s an example of only a few of the myriad of toxic chemicals that are commonly found in conventional cleaning products:

Phthalates

Found in many fragranced household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper.

Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.

Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Men with higher phthalate compounds in their blood had correspondingly reduced sperm counts, according to a 2003 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health. Although exposure to phthalates mainly occurs through inhalation, it can also happen through skin contact with scented soaps. Unlike the digestive system, the skin has no safeguards against toxins. Absorbed chemicals go straight to organs.

That nostalgic smell of fresh laundry I was talking about earlier doesn’t seem so great after all.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

Found in dish soap, liquid laundry detergents, cleaning towelettes, and toilet bowl cleaners as well as sudsing personal cosmetics (like toothpaste).

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a skin irritant and Environment Canada’s preliminary categorization of this chemical indicates that it may be toxic to the environment. Sodium laureth sulfate is the “ethoxylated” form of this chemical, which is less harsh. However, the process of ethoxylation can leave behind traces of 1,4-dioxane, a possible human carcinogen that is persistent in the environment (see also DEA, MEA, TEA).

2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE)

Found in glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers.

2-BE is a skin and eye irritant also associated with blood disorders. In laboratory experiments, exposure to high doses of 2-BE has been shown to cause reproductive problems. This chemical is listed as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act on the basis that it is harmful to human health.

MEA (monoethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

Found in liquid laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, car wash products, degreasers, dishes soap, oven cleaners, and glass and surface cleaners.

These chemicals react with nitrites to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. Nitrites may be present as preservatives or contaminants in other products, or in some water sources. DEA is a mild skin and severe eye irritant. MEA is known to induce asthma in workplace settings.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs)

Found in liquid laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, degreasers, and car wash products.

NPEs degrade into nonylphenols (NPs), which can mimic the hormone estrogen. In laboratory experiments, NP has been shown to stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells and cause adverse reproductive effects in fish and other aquatic organisms.

Phosphates

Found in dishwasher detergents, laundry detergents, and bathroom cleaners.

Function as a fertilizer in water. High concentrations of phosphates in bodies of water can promote harmful algal blooms and increase weed growth. This can cause oxygen levels in the water to decline, potentially killing fish. Certain algae blooms produce chemicals that are toxic to animals and people who drink the water.

Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate Dihydrate

Found in toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, surface cleaners, and disinfectants

It is corrosive and a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It can also form chlorine gas, which will burn the eyes, nose, and mouth. Studies have found that high doses of this chemical cause kidney damage. In its concentrated form, this chemical is very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term effects in aquatic ecosystems.

Sodium Hydroxide (also known as lye and caustic soda)

Found in oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, disinfectants, drain openers, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Lye is highly corrosive; can burn the eyes, skin and lungs and is a respiratory irritant. Long-term exposure in the air may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation. If discharged in large quantities, sodium hydroxide can alter the pH of water. In 2005, a large spill of concentrated sodium hydroxide in the Cheakamus River canyon, north of Squamish, B.C. Canada, killed virtually all the fish in the river.

Triclosan

Found in dish soaps and disinfectants, as well as a wide range of other household products. Look for it listed as an “active ingredient” in antibacterial products.

Triclosan is a suspected endocrine disruptor that can mimic or interfere with the function of hormones. The European Union classifies triclosan as irritating to the skin and eyes, and as very toxic to aquatic organisms, noting that it may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. Triclosan can also react in the environment to form dioxins, which bioaccumulate and are toxic. Triclosan is an anti-microbial agent and there is concern that its extensive use in consumer products is contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, thus limiting treatment options for microbial infections.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats)

Found in bathroom cleaning products, all-purpose cleaners, fabric softeners, and degreasers.

Quats are irritants and sensitizers that can induce an allergic response following contact with the skin. Quats are also known to cause occupational asthma in cleaning workers and preliminary evidence indicates they may cause adverse genetic and reproductive effects. Chemicals in this class are persistent in the environment and toxic to aquatic organisms. Like triclosan, quats are anti-microbial agents and there is concern that their widespread use in household disinfectants and cosmetics is contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, thus limiting treatment options for microbial infections.

Trisodium nitrilotriacetate

Found in bathroom cleaners and possibly some laundry detergents (more common in industrial formulations).

Rated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen. In aquatic ecosystems, trisodium nitrilotriacetate can also cause heavy metals in sediment to redissolve and many of these metals are toxic to fish and other wildlife.


As I mentioned, these are only some of the many thousands of chemicals in cleaning products that make their way into our homes and eventually into the ecosystem.

I encourage you to go check your household cleaners and other household products for any of these ingredients. Keep in mind that labeling laws in your country/state etc. may not require companies to list some or any of the ingredients.

Though the best solution for the health of our entire planet is to stop producing these chemicals and releasing them into the environment, you can start by removing them from your home and properly disposing of them, and no longer support companies that formulate harmful products, turning to natural cleaning products instead.

If you’ve never used natural cleaning products, fear not! Your home will not end up a dirty, stinky, unsanitary place just because you switched to natural alternatives (though maybe for other reasons like oh say your dog running through your house with wet muddy paws after a hike)…

Luckily, when it comes to cleaning products, you don’t need to sacrifice effectiveness in order to do better on Mother Nature.

Companies like AspenClean are leading the way by offering effective, safe, and environmentally friendly cleaning products that work just as well or even better than conventional cleaners, without all of the harmful effects.

AspenClean is an award-winning healthy cleaning company that produces a range of all-natural cleaning products, which are infused with organic essential oils and completely free of toxic chemicals and fragrances. All of their products are EcoCert certified organic and rated Straight A’s by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their product line is certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, is fully vegan and involves no testing on animals.

In February of 2017 we moved the We Are Wildness office (and our home) and Alissa and I had the opportunity to try out several of AspenClean’s products during our move-out and move-in cleaning process. We were very impressed with their products. No residues, harsh odours, and best of all, not harmful to the environment or our own health. Made using essential oils from safe herbal plants that have been used by humans for thousands of years. They leave your home smelling nature fresh.

aspen clean bathroom cleaner 1

We already use essential oils for their medicinal and aromatherapy benefits, so we really enjoy that AspenClean uses these certified organic essential oils in their household products (Note: These oils have many uses but this info is a brief touch on how they apply to cleaning only. I encourage you to research them further for medicinal use, aromatherapy and other uses around the home):

Lime – Fresh smell, removes grease and residue

Lavender – Antibacterial, smells amazing

Tea Tree – Fights bacteria and viruses

Orange – Cuts grease

Geranium – Deodorizer, antibacterial and antifungal 

Bergamot – Strong antibacterial

Grapefruit – Air freshener, deodorizer, strong antimicrobial

If you strive to live a more nature-connected life and enjoy the natural world in its pristine state, then it only makes sense to switch to using products that don’t have a negative impact on the environment, made by companies that strive to do better by providing better options and better overall business practices.

If you haven’t already made the switch to natural cleaners then I encourage you to try replacing at least one product ie. Glass cleaner, with a natural alternative like the one made by AspenClean.

Better yet, switch everything out at once, properly dispose of the cleaning products (research your local center for chemical disposal), and the impact around your home and on you and your families health will be even more noticeable.

There’s nothing to lose and you will be living that much lighter on the natural world we all love and count upon.

Author Kevin Park

Kevin is the Co-Visionary of We Are Wildness with his partner Alissa Wild. He is also Co-Director of We Are Wildness University and the Nature Based Business Network. He's a certified personal trainer and is passionate about teaching natural fitness, natural nutrition, helping other nature-based businesses and living a more nature-connected lifestyle.

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