35 Dangerous Household Cleaning Products You Need to Avoid

We recently wrote about 5 household chemical ingredients to avoid for home cleaning, and in this post we’ll share the Environmental Working Group’s list of 35 dangerous household cleaners. This list might surprise you, as it features everyday cleaning items like surface cleaners, oven spray, air fresheners, laundry soap and more, and you’re probably familiar with the brands on the list– maybe you even have some at home right now.

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We’ve written a lot here on Green Living Ideas about why it’s important to make your own homemade cleaners and how toxic our indoor environment can be, because it’s something that we’re passionate about in our own homes. But more importantly, we want to share this because we feel that most consumers have been misled by chemical companies into thinking that the home needs to be constantly sanitized, scrubbed, and cleaned, and that only these dangerous household chemicals can do it.

In our previous post we detailed the individual household chemical ingredients that present a danger to our bodies and our planet, as explained by Women’s Voices for the Earth. Here’s a recap:

1. Chlorine bleach is commonly used to treat drinking water, sanitize swimming pools and to whiten laundry, and is a strong eye, skin, and respiratory irritant. Mixing chlorine bleach with other cleaners like ammonia can release dangerous chlorine gas. Exposure to chlorine gas can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, or other symptoms.

2. Ammonia is often included in glass cleaners and other hard-surface cleaners, and can be irritating to the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. Ammonia can burn your skin, and can damage your eyes (including blindness) upon contact.

3. Triclosan and Triclocarban are commonly added to household cleaning products such as hand soap and dish soap as well as a broad range of other products from toothpaste to socks. These chemicals are persistent in the environment, and are linked to hormone imbalance, and potential increased risk of breast cancer.

4. Ammonium quaternary compounds (“quats”) are found in household cleaning products like disinfectant sprays and toilet cleaners, and some have been identified as a known inducer of occupational asthma. Certain quats have also been linked to decreased fertility and birth defects in mice.

5. Nano-silver can be incorporated into textiles, plastics, soaps, packaging, and other materials, giving each the natural antibacterial property of silver metal. Nano-silver particles can penetrate deep into your body and have been shown to be toxic to the liver and brain.

So, maybe you don’t have straight ammonia or bleach sitting under your kitchen cabinet, but what about all the other cleaners that you have at home? As you can see in this detailed report, some of the everyday cleaning products (including some that are supposed to be eco-friendly) are more dangerous than you might expect.

35 Dangerous Household Cleaning Products You Need to Avoid

This information comes from a 2012 report by the Environmental Working Group called the “Hall of Shame.” In the report, they detail dozens of dangerous cleaning products that have clear and present danger for our bodies and our environment.

Most of the the products on the market are too strong for regular household cleaning. Women’s Voices for the Earth likens using these cleaners in our home to killing a fly with a sledgehammer. They acknowledge that many of these chemicals are effective germ killers, but warns consumers to use them with caution and only when truly needed. Most of the time, vinegar, borax and some simple elbow grease goes a long way to keeping our homes dirt and germ free.

The following images are taken from the report. Download the full report: EWG Hall of Shame Report 2012 (PDF).

Also be sure to check out EWG’s comprehensive consumer guides for more information about household cleaning, cosmetics, bug repellents, sunscreen, food and so much more!

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Here are some other ways to keep chemicals out of your home:

Learn how to make your own homemade cleaners with our cool infographic
Homemade drain cleaner (our most popular post ever here on GLI)
Learn more about non-toxic pest control
Learn to make your own body care products: lip balm, foot spray and body scrub.
How vinegar is going to save the world
Homemade Laundry Soap

Get chemicals out of your beauty routine too!

Image credits: woman cleaning image and cleaning products image from Shutterstock

About the Author

A vegan chef, cookbook author, educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in San Francisco, Andrea is also the Accounts Manager for Important Media. Follow her foodie adventures at AndreaBertoli.com, Vibrant Wellness Journal, Green Living Ideas and Eat Drink Better. Find more from Andrea on Facebook and Instagram
  • Mike Dill

    I felt the article needed more balance. I wanted to see the alternatives, including vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and salt scrubs as examples, if they are useful.
    While chlorine bleach and ammonia are bad for you to drink. they are much better for the environment than most of the other items on your list. Nano silver is an anti-bacterial, and needs to be treated as such.

  • neroden

    You know, ammonia and chlorine bleach are really quite safe if handled properly. There really aren’t better alternatives for some applications. Pretty safe environmentally. We have decades of experience with them and understand them quite well. Just don’t mix ’em, ever.

    I’d rather stay away from those other newfangled, poorly tested chemicals on the list.