The whole point of cleaning our homes is to make our homes better places to live in. We clean our windows to let in more sunlight and warmth (and it’s free!). We clean our carpets to get rid of vermin like fleas and to remove the dust that can act as an allergy trigger. We wipe down our kitchens and scrub down our toilets to get rid of the bacteria that make us ill.
It comes as a surprise, then, to find out that some household cleaning products and tools are actually quite dangerous for our health. Well, it comes as a surprise to the average London householder, anyway. If you are a professional cleaner who’s been fully trained, however, you are probably aware of the inherent dangers present in a lot of cleaning chemicals, and know what steps to take and what to avoid to minimise the risks.
Why Are Some Home Cleaners Dangerous?
Toxins are the big problem with many home cleaning products. Over the past 70 or so years, researchers and industrial scientists have been working hard to find products and chemicals that kill germs, blitz dirt and make the insides of our homes smell fantastic. The aim has to make the task of getting the home looking good a lot easier than it once was, especially given how the typical household no longer has a live-in maid as a matter of course. (OK, there was also the aim of making a few pounds, but that’s another story!). However, the reduction of elbow grease has come at a price.
Many of the chemicals used to make domestic cleaning so easy – just spray and wipe! – are pretty dangerous and carcinogenic. Just look at the fine print on your typical container. There’s probably a warning not to take this internally and to keep it out of the reach of children plus the hotline for the nearest poisons centre, and you’ll probably find this somewhere close to the long list of eyewatering chemical names. And then we go and wipe down our food preparation surfaces with this substance and get it all over our hands, breathing it in while we do.
It’s even got to the point where the level of air pollution and air-borne toxins inside our home is higher than the level outside – even if you live near a busy road with cars belching fumes most of the day.
However, there is something we can do to reduce the levels of toxins in our homes and to improve the air quality as well. And the answer isn’t to stop cleaning our homes!
The UK’s Least Wanted List of Home Cleaning Products and Tools
In alphabetical order, the worst offenders in our homes are:1. Air fresheners. Highly scented products usually contain phthalates, which are “endocrine disruptors”, meaning that they interfere with our hormones and even reduce fertility, especially in men. They can also cause headaches, nausea and respiratory problems.
2. Ammonia: This powerful gas, found in window cleaning products, irritates the mucous membranes and causes respiratory problems.
3. Antibacterials: antibacterial products (hand soap, hand sanitizer, etc.) containing either quaternary aluminium compounds or triclosan are bad news. On the one hand, they encourage superbugs (super-resistant bacteria) to breed – in the usual course of things, the bacteria that are killed by antibacterials will stomp out the superbugs. Triclosan is particularly bad: it’s listed as a carcinogen and hormone disruptor.
4. Chlorine bleach. It might be able to kill germs and get whites perfect, but it’s very harsh on the skin and gives off a gas that is very irritating to the nose and throat. It’s particularly lethal if you make the bad mistake of combining it with ammonia.
5. Dry-cleaning solvent: Perchloroethylene the main solvent used in dry cleaning, is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin.
6. Fabric softener: fabric softener containing “quats” (quaternary aluminium compounds) have been linked with asthma, dermatitis and respiratory problems. The whole point of fabric softener is to bond to and alter the clothes we wear next to some of our most sensitive bits of skin (e.g. underpants). Skin is very absorbent and you’ll be absorbing these chemicals, plus all the artificial fragrances that are usually added to the average fabric softener.
7. Insecticides, including fly spray. The whole point of these products is to kill living organisms. What’s toxic to a fly is going to be toxic to you, especially if you use a long-lasting product or if you regularly spray entire rooms. These sprays also kill beneficial insects such as bees.
8. Non-stick frying pans. When these are heated, they release a gas that has been blamed for cancer, infertility, organ failure and more. OK, maybe not all frying pans are bad but there certainly have been some Teflon-covered bad apples.
9. Oven cleaners. These use sodium hydroxide, aka lye or caustic soda. This is a product that has been used for a long time to help with cleaning but it is still very harsh, giving off powerful fumes. It will burn you if you get it on your skin, and the fumes can give you a sore throat and lungs for several days.
Green Home Cleaning Options· Instead of using air freshener, use essential oils, fresh flowers or pot pourri – or just open the window for some fresh air!
· Don’t be afraid of elbow grease. If you stop thinking of home cleaning as a chore and think of it as a workout with benefits, all that effort and sweat seems more positive.
· Learn more about green cleaning products such as baking soda, vinegar, salt and vodka. They work! There are heaps of recipes out there. These products are so safe that you can eat or drink them, although they might not taste the best by themselves.
· Don’t get paranoid about bacteria. Ordinary precautions such as regular handwashing with ordinary soap, food safety and cleaning with plain soap and water will remove most bacteria. If you’re particularly concerned, then vinegar, boiling water and/or alcohol will kill most bacteria around your home.
· If flies are a problem, use an old-fashioned fly swat. Or go the more fun high-tech way and use one of those electrified fly zappers instead.
For those who prefer a more traditional home-like experience when on vacation, a timeshare can make sense. If you’ve gotten many years of good use out of your timeshare and now want to get rid of it, a timeshare cancellation company like Timeshare Freedom Group or Lonestar transfer may be able to help.