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8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid

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3. Triclosan

Found in: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Explains Sutton: “The American Medical Association has found no evidence that these antimicrobials make us healthier or safer, and they’re particularly concerned because they don’t want us overusing antibacterial chemicals — that’s how microbes develop resistance, and not just to these [household antibacterials], but also to real antibiotics that we need.” Other studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. The EPA is currently investigating whether triclosan may also disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function. It is a probable carcinogen. At press time, the agency was reviewing the safety of triclosan in consumer products.

Healthier Choice: Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists, and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. If you’re hooked on hand sanitizer, choose one that is alcohol-based and without triclosan.

Triclosan Found in Dolphins

4. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”

Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Quats are another type of antimicrobial, and thus pose the same problem as triclosan by helping breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant; one 10-year study of contact dermatitis found quats to be one of the leading causes. According to Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they’re also suspected as a culprit for respiratory disorders: “There’s evidence that even healthy people who are [exposed to quats] on a regular basis develop asthma as a result.”

Healthier Choice: You don’t really need fabric softener or dryer sheets to soften clothes or get rid of static: Simple vinegar works just as well. “Vinegar is the natural fabric softener of choice for many reasons,” explains Karyn Siegel-Maier in her book The Naturally Clean Home (Storey Publishing, 2008). “Not only is it nontoxic, it also removes soap residue in the rinse cycle and helps to prevent static cling in the dryer.” White vinegar is your best choice for general cleaning; other types can stain.

Alternatives to chemical disinfectants abound, including antibacterial, antifungal tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.

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Read more: Health, Health & Safety, Home, Household Hints, Non-Toxic Cleaning, ,

By Jessie Sholl, Experience Life

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Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.


+ add your own
1:39AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

I just can't believe why people still use chemical cleaning products. I'm shocked that most of the cleaning companies use toxic cleaners. Two weeks ago I booked expert cleaners in London, who use eco-friendly tools and techniques.

9:37PM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

Amei saber como substituir os produtos de limpeza.Obrigada!

3:51PM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

Thanks for the info. Great addition, Sheila D.

3:24PM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

One point that should have been mentioned, unless I missed it somewhere, is that these same chemicals can be even more harmful to your pets.

3:12AM PDT on May 21, 2013

facebook ni dotdot

3:11AM PDT on May 21, 2013

design for market

3:09AM PDT on May 21, 2013


5:52AM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:07AM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

Useful information. I certainly do not want to face any health issues due to the use of chemical-based cleaning products. Fortunately, Go Cleaners do not use such, and they are the only ones cleaning my Canonbury home. Learn more about Go Cleaners Canonbury - Spot-on tips from an expert in the field of dangerous chemicals.

6:10AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

thanks! We use Honest Company :) so we are good

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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