When it comes to our homes, we are probably all the same: we would like a clean and safe environment for us and our families to enjoy life in. Nowadays the focus seems to be on clinically clean, rather than a healthy clean and to achieve this we trust cleaning agents that promise an almost sterile and bacteria-free result. In some cases and situations, this is desirable, however, under normal circumstances a certain amount of bacteria in our daily lives is healthy. The problem with modern-day cleaning though is not just the sterile environment, which might encourage the development of super-resistant organisms, but also the cleaning agents themselves. Synthetic cleaners often consist of a variety of chemicals that don’t just eliminate bacteria, dirt and odours but can also cause harm to humans, animals and nature.
Problems with Synthetic Cleaners
When it comes to cleaning, we, as a society, have been gradually removed from soap and water. As a matter of fact, advertising has us convinced that in order to have a clean home, we ought to use a super hygienic synthetic cleaner. While those cleaners certainly have a place in the world, it is important to understand that they can cause problems.
1. Health Problems
- This is probably the most contradictory problem of modern-day cleaners. They are marketed to remove germs and bacteria and are therefore commonly accepted as something that is healthy. However, many ingredients in conventional cleaning products are known for some serious risks. Besides allergic reactions, skin irritation and respiratory problems mainly caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs); some common cleaners are known to contain endocrine disruptors.
These disruptors can have a negative effect on your hormones and cause issues with your digestion, your nervous system and your reproductive system. There is also a concern about certain ingredients in cleaning products that react with other gases in the air and create formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. These problems are not just affecting us humans, but also animals in and around our homes.
2. Environmental ImpactsWhenever you are using cleaning products at home, it usually always has a knock-on effect on the environment. If you are using products that contain VOCs, the air quality in your home might seriously suffer. Outside of your home, those substances will add to the global problem of air pollution. This is especially true for aerosol sprays, even if they are labelled as ozone-friendly.
Undisclosed List of Ingredients
Avoiding these harmful ingredients, once they are known, should be easy. Just turn the bottle around, scan the ingredients list and put it back on the shelf if you find one of the hazardous substances on it. Sounds simple, but unfortunately isn’t realistic. Manufacturers of synthetic cleaning products are legally not required to label their bottles with a full list of ingredients. Some of them do, which is great, but even at that it is a gamble, as they could just decide to leave something out – so, even if there is a label, it wouldn’t be very trustworthy.
These common ingredients can cause problems:
- Anything with -chlor- in its name, as this would mean a chlorinated substance. They pose a risk for asthma and allergy sufferers as well as people with sensitive skin. They also add significantly to air pollution and can be carcinogenic.
- Solvents are found in almost all synthetic cleaning products. They are a known endocrine disruptor and are linked to issues with your hormones.
- Ingredients ending with -ene or -ol are usually made from petroleum or tar derivatives, which have both been known to cause health issues.
- Synthetic fragrances are commonly understood to cause skin and respiratory irritations. When you think that one single artificial fragrance can have up to 300 different chemical ingredients, their toxicity is not surprising.
- Other frequently used ingredients in cleaning agents are sulphates. While they cause a lot more harm in personal hygiene products like soaps and shampoos, they are also known to be responsible for allergic reactions caused by cleaning products.