Are We Cleaning Ourselves to Death?

by Victoria Bender, Contributor to Aromatherapy on

We buy products to clean, deodorize and freshen our homes that have ingredients also used as pesticides and fertilizers among other things. Many of these chemicals are known and classified as poisons, carcinogens and toxins, but are not even required to be listed as ingredients on product labels since they are not considered consumables.

In fact, neither the state nor federal government regulates indoor air pollution, only outdoor. This means that common household products are not tested for whether or how much they degrade the air inside. We know that the olfactory nerve in the sinus cavity is the only opening on the body directly connected to the central nervous system and yet the FDA does not consider what we inhale or smell as a consumable. According to the National Research Council, “no toxic information is available for more than 80 percent of the chemicals in OTC household products. Less than 20 percent have been tested for acute effects and less than 10 percent have been tested for chronic, reproductive or mutagenic effects, and most have not been tested for their effects on unborn children.”

It is not uncommon to feel tense, tired and exasperated after cleaning even though you may be satisfied with the appearance of cleanliness. Have you ever considered the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals that you may have been inhaling and even absorbing transdermally throughout the process? According to the article written by Deborah Halverson, BA RA in the 2006.2 Issue of Aromatherapy Journal, “The chemicals and synthetic fragrances in commercial household cleaners contribute to a myriad of health problems, including multiple chemical sensitivity, headaches, allergies, and asthma; and studies done by the EPA show that indoor air may be anywhere between three and seventy times more toxic than outdoor air.” She goes on to expose that EPA studies contribute a major factor as the volatile organic chemicals found in cleaning products, and that pesticides and herbicides used in the home and garden are even linked with higher incidences of childhood leukemia.

My great grandmother was not only a dedicated farmer, gardener and lover of animals; she was also a fanatic about cleaning the house, after all – cleanliness was next to Godliness. She used vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda like there was no tomorrow, and I can remember her saying that she just didn’t trust those store bought cleaners and that when she smelled them she felt that, “They are trying to steal my breath away.” There were many things about the modern world that she did not seem to trust. At that time I saw her as an old fashioned and lovable eccentric. It wasn’t until several years later when I had my own home and set up an environment for my new Cockatiel parrot that I began to wonder whether my wise old grandmother might have been on to something. She had been in the habit of trusting her instincts and relying on her own innate responses to the natural environment rather than by being seduced by marketing techniques that eluded her by virtue of her media refusal.

The wonderful “Bird Lady” at the avian sanctuary where I rescued my new feathered pet warned that I be very careful about the use of household cleaners around my bird. She was very specific that I never spray air fresheners and especially to avoid carpet powders and cleaners around my bird cage or the results could be devastating. I am happy to report that I took her advice and many years later, I still enjoy not only the company of a very happy healthy bird, but many other vigorous plants, animals and extremely healthy children too.

And now as an Aromatherapist, I know that there is no limit to the simple, natural and effective recipes that I can concoct within minutes that not only save me money, but also serve to protect the environment and the health and well-being of my loved ones. I may have to scrub a bit more for some of the tough stuff, but isn’t it worth that?

With the use of essential oils that have proven antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, I can make my environment clean, my home and business smell fabulous and I can also rest easy knowing that I am avoiding the harsh chemicals and toxic synthetics that can lead to not only nausea and headache, but could also very well be contributing to other devastating health issues.

How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
5 Basics for Non-Toxic Cleaning


Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey4 years ago

"In fact, neither the state nor federal government regulates indoor air pollution, only outdoor. This means that common household products are not tested for whether or how much they degrade the air inside. We know that the olfactory nerve in the sinus cavity is the only opening on the body directly connected to the central nervous system and yet the FDA does not consider what we inhale or smell as a consumable"

It looks like someone needs to create a petition to request that the FDA alters its standards...

Leslie K.
Leslie K6 years ago

I have been making my own laundry soap for awhile now and I'm very happy with it. Only four ingredients: Fels Naptha bar, Borax, washing soda, and water. No fragrance either (unless you add essential oil). Saves TONS of money, better for the environment, and saves my family from exposure to the horrible chemicals and fragrances that are in most commercial detergents. Also, I double the recipe and make 5 gallons at a time so it lasts forever. I agree with Bryan S. about not being able to walk down the laundry isle in a store because of the toxic fumes! Gross.
* Here is a link to the recipe for the laundry soap. This is not my recipe by the way. It can be tweaked to fit you and your family's needs. If you try it, let me know how you like it. :)

Bryan S.
Bryan S6 years ago

Speaking of cleaners, i wonder how safe most laundry detergents are. Regardless, the smell alone keeps me from using ones that aren't all natural ingredients. Can't even walk down the aisle in the store they smell so bad.

Cinderella Maid Service
Past Member 6 years ago

Interesting! It makes a lot of sense with me and it was such a big help. I had also fun reading your post. Thank you.

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Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson6 years ago

I didnt realize ithat one of the biggest threats to our children is the arsenal of toxic chemicals that we have in our homes.
do all that we can to protect our families.
=· We are aware of the dangers of lead paint.
· We avoid sugary foods and drinks.
· We regularly visit the pediatrician and dentist.
What can you do? There are safer products available in some health food stores and through some Internet. Some of these out-perform the grocery-store brands, and cost less. If you'd like to know more visit my web site at :

Free E-Classes available

· We insist they wear bicycle helmets and protective gear.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

Peoples' different standards of cleanliness are amusing. In India, they may clean the floor 3 times a day but never touch the walls.

Vicki S.
Vicki S6 years ago

Thank you I became aware of Toxic cleaners about 6 years ago and now am a 100% green! My Daugther suffered allergies from washing powders and a whole host of build ups from toxic cleansers! We now use Microfibres, bicarb and vinegar and that is it! We are all healthier for it and my feathered friend is at no risk either!

Cassie Marcks
Cassie Marcks6 years ago

Getting my own place and going to try very hard to clean with healthier products. TY :)

Tim Dillingham
Tim D6 years ago

michelle m, What's the brand?
Young Living makes an essential oil blend household cleaner called Thieves. They also have a whole line of products with this name, such as shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, because it has the blend of oils named Thieves. This blend is named after the spice traders turned thieves, during the Black Plague. They soaked their gloves and masks in essential oils. The main ingredients are essential oils of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary. There are a few other ingredients that are printed plainly on the label and in their literature.

Michele m.
Michele m.6 years ago

Does anyone know if Melaleuca cleaners are less toxic, I signed up and bought the entire line.. yet they don't list the ingredients. They do come in concentrate formulas that you dilute which is great.