Using common cleaning products in our homes is not always the safest thing. Many of these popular detergents are actually made by very harmful chemicals that can pose a danger both to yours and your family’s health. To help you have a safe home environment, we created this three-part series. In it, we share with you what to avoid when shopping for cleaning solutions and which are the best eco-friendly and chemical-free options.
Health Hazards You Didn’t Know Existed in Your London Home
You hear from all sorts of places that cleaning detergents can be dangerous for your well-being but do you know why that is. Let’s check a couple of interesting facts:
- The more resilient the stain the stronger the detergent. This means that all those oven, corrosive drain and acidic toilet bowl cleaners are the ones you really don’t want touching your skin. Think about it, if it can remove rust, do you believe your skin will react well to it.
- A lot of the cases of incidental house poisonings happen when consumers mix the wrong cleaning solvents. Combining detergents containing chlorine and ammonia or ammonia and lye (in most oven cleaners) forms chloramine gases, while chlorine mixed with acids (used in toilet bowl cleaners) produces toxic chlorine gas. Both are not something your lungs should be in contact with.
- You need to carefully pick your laundry detergents and fabric softeners, as some of the fragrances added to them are quite aggressive and can easily irritate your skin and eyes. A recent study of the US’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has concluded that almost one-third of the substances containing in those cleaning products are toxic.
- Most brands classify their ingredients as company secrets and don’t disclose them on their labels. You will find a simple statement like “fragrance” for example, but nothing more. Do not trust these brands.
- The hazardous chemicals in some detergents have such low toxicity that they don’t pose immediate trait to your well-being. However, over time there are a couple of serious long-term effects like cancer or hormone disruption.
Here are some scary scientific discoveries connected with seemingly harmless cleaning detergents:
- The alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) a common ingredient in cleaners have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen. One APE, p-nonylphenol, has caused estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells to multiply in a test tube study.
- Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) are sudsing agents containing in some multipurpose cleaners. When these chemicals come in contact with nitrites (usually used as undisclosed preservatives or contaminants) they react to create nitrosamines – carcinogens that can easily penetrate the skin.
- Another dangerous ingredient that can be found in common household cleaners is butyl cellosolve also known as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether. It may be neurotoxic or cause severe damage to the brain and the nervous system.
Cleaning Detergents Can Pose a Threat to the Environment
We have established what can happen to your health if you are not careful with the detergents you buy, but that is not all. Like many professional cleaning companies in London, you also need to think about the environment and the imprint you are leaving behind. One way or another all cleaners end up in the drain and from there, things can go in many directions:
- The contaminated water can end up in treatment plants and from there – into nearby waterways.
- After making it to the plant the water can be used to irrigate crops or other plants used for food production.
- In some cases, the water infected with hundreds of different chemicals ends up straight in the nearby water source, skipping the treatment plants.
- Depending on the city and terrain the water can directly contaminate the underground rivers and ponds.
You may ask, but what is so hazardous in these chemicals, what is the actual danger? Most ingredients in chemical cleaners dissolve into harmless substances during treatment or soon after, the problem comes with the small percentage that doesn’t.
- Remember the APEs (the alkylphenol ethoxylates), as we said they can be found in some laundry detergents, disinfectants, stain removers, and citrus cleaner/degreasers. After undergoing a “water cleaning” procedure in the plant these chemicals break down to even more toxic ingredients. The fact that they mimic the hormone estrogen means that that they can easily affect the reproduction abilities of fish and other water animals. In the UK, researcher John Sumpter determined that male fish exposed to APEs in rivers and ponds were producing female egg-yolk proteins.
- A harmful ingredient you may have heard about, that was once widely used in laundry detergent, phosphates still pose a serious environmental hazard. Once in the water, these chemicals start to act as fertilisers for the local aquatic plants and algae. This may sound harmless but it’s not. The flora overpopulation leads to oxygen deficiency in the water, killing the other aquatic organisms. Most mass deaths of fish in ponds and swamps are caused by the suddenly fallen oxygen levels in the water.
- Unfortunately even now cleaning products containing the toxic and non-degradable petroleum-based chemicals are still being used.
- The packaging of cleaning detergents represents a whole new environmental problem. Made from non-degradable plastic, the planet is practically overwhelmed with waste.
The Best Cleaning Solutions for Your London Home
Altho things may seem gloomy there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the past couple of years, many cleaning companies have started to change their production policies. Nowadays you can find products both safe for you and the planet. Our London experts have a couple of suggestions based on the products used while performing their regular cleaning services:
- Always read the labels and search for the hidden meanings. Words like “Danger” or “Warning” are easy to spot. Look for phrases like “ avoid skin contact”, “flammable”, “seek immediate medical attention.” Avoid these cleaners, as their ingredients are highly toxic.
- Do not let yourself get fooled. If a cleaner is advertised as biodegradable but nowhere is mentioned in what period this happens, things are not what they seem. Look for detergents that are “plant-based” or contain “no solvents”/”no phosphates.” These are claims that actually carry important information as oppose to the hollow in meaning “eco-friendly” or “natural.”
- It goes without saying you never want to purchase a petroleum-based cleaning detergent.
- To reduce the secondary waste created by the packaging try to always purchase the largest containers as opposed to a couple of the smaller ones. Search for the ones labelled “Recyclable” or “Biodegradable.”
Now you are familiar with the dangers cleaning solvents pose not only for you but for the planet as well. Our London cleaners have taught you what to look when shopping for detergents and what to be careful with. In the next part of the series, we will teach you how to spot the solvents you must avoid at all cost. You will also learn how to distinguish the good product, from the harmful ones. You can find out all of this and much more in part 2 and part 3 of this series.