7 Toxic Household Cleaners to Avoid - Don't Mess with Mama

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7 Toxic Household Cleaners to Avoid + The Problem with “Natural” Store-Bought Cleaners

7 Toxic Household Cleaners to Avoid and The Problem with Store-Bought Natural Cleaners - DontMesswithMama.com

Are you cleaning with conventional, store-bought household cleaners? You may want to think twice about using them. Why? They are toxic household cleaners. Check out the labels. There are often warning signs of toxicity and instructions to call Poison Control if ingested or exposed to skin.

Types of Toxic Household Cleaners

Toxic chemicals in conventional household cleaners vary in their severity – from acute (immediate) hazards such as skin or respiratory issues, chemical burns or watery eyes to chronic (long term) hazards such as cancer, fertility issues, ADHD, compromised immune system and more.1

Most toxic chemicals found in household cleaners fall into these categories:

  • Carcinogens – which cause or promote cancer
  • Endocrine disruptors – which mimic human hormones and cause false signals within the body and lead to issues such as infertility, premature puberty, miscarriage, menstrual issues, ADHD and even cancer.
  • Neurotoxins – which affect brain activity and cause issues such as headaches and memory loss

7 Household Cleaners to Avoid

1. Air fresheners

The fragrances (even those marked unscented) can trigger asthma and allergies. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 2,000 household cleaning products in 2012 and found that 53% of cleaning products contain ingredients harmful to the lungs AND 22% of cleaning products contain chemicals known to cause asthma in otherwise healthy people.

2. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets

The fragrances and other ingredients used to make them can cause asthma, allergies or lung irritation.

3. Cleaning products with artificial fragrances

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic, yet because the formulas used for these fragrances are trade secrets companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients used.

4. Antibacterial products

The ingredients used to kill bacteria in these soaps can can encourage the development of drug-resistant superbugs.

5. Corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners

These are the most acutely dangerous cleaning products on the market. The ingredients in these cleaners can cause severe burns on the skin and eyes, or if ingested to the throat and esophagus.

6. Bleach and ammonia

Separately these cleaners produce fumes with high acute toxicity to eyes, nose, throat and lungs and should not be used by people with asthma or lung issues. Used together, these products produce a a toxic gas that can cause serious lung damage.

7. Products that create suds (shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath, laundry detergent) 

Ingredients such as 1,4-dioxane, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, etc. are known carcinogens linked to organ toxicity.

In addition to acute and long-term health issues, many of these chemicals pose health hazards to the environment too. When these cleaners are used in sinks, bathtubs or showers, they go down the drain and may threaten water quality or wildlife. Sudsing agents in shampoos, liquid soaps and detergents and phosphates used to soften hard water in detergents pose a huge threat to our water supply. 2,3,4

The Problem with “Natural” Store-Bought Cleaners

Even many “all-natural” cleaners found in grocery and some health food stores have harmful chemicals and may even score worse than conventional cleaning products. Mother Nature Network researched a few common natural cleaning products and found that a leading all-purpose cleaner fared worse in the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning Guide. Check out the results.

The other problem with natural store-bought cleaning products is that they often cost twice as much as conventional store-bought cleaners. In many cases, old-fashioned vinegar, baking soda, essential oils and other inexpensive ingredients found in your pantry can clean just as well or better than conventional or natural store-bought cleaning products.

Make Your Own Household Cleaners

Instead make your own homemade cleaners for less than a dollar AND use natural ingredients you probably already have around your home. I’ve got 10 homemade household cleaners you can make right now with ingredients in your kitchen and check out my own recipe for an DIY natural household cleaner that can be used for everything from kitchen countertops to bathroom sinks.

7 Toxic Household Cleaners to Avoid and The Problem with Store-Bought Natural Cleaners - DontMesswithMama.com

Looking for Other Eco-Friendly Cleaners for the Home?

Check out DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes by Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus. You’ll find recipes for cleaning all areas of the home – such as detergents, drain cleaners and hand soap – as well as baby and personal care.

DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes - Don't Mess with Mama.comHere’s what you’ll find inside this book:

  • Basic ingredients and equipment you’ll need
  • All about essential oils
  • All-purpose cleaner recipes
  • Cleaning recipes for the kitchen (fruit and veggie wash, liquid dish soap, rise aid, degreaser and more)
  • Cleaners for the bath (soft scrub, tub and tile remover and more)
  • Laundry products (powdered detergent, scented dryer sheets, wool dryer balls and more)
  • Wood care (furniture wax, hardwood floor wash and more)
  • Carpet and tile care (stain remover, carpet deodorizer and more)
  • Leather care (leather conditioner and more)
  • All about polishing and caring for metals (stainless steal cleaner, brass polish and more)
  • Air fresheners
  • Tutorials for how to make soap, washing soda, unpaper towels and more

For instance, this Citrus Splash All-Purpose Spray Cleaner costs just $1.62 to make a 32 oz. bottle. Compare that to $3-4 for store-bought brands. That’s more than a 50% savings. Plus, you’re using natural ingredients without harmful chemicals – even some all-natural cleaning products have questionable ingredients such as methylisothiazolinone.

Citrus Spray All-Purpose Cleaner

Citrus Spray All-Purpose Cleaner. (Photo courtesy of Mommypotamus.)

Even if you’re not ready to replace every cleaner in your home, this e-book is great because you can choose one product to replace (such as an All-Purpose Cleaner), and this e-book will still pay for itself after you go through a few bottles. The easiest thing for me to replace was my Laundry Detergent (another big waste if you buy from the store).

Pink Lemonade Dish Detergent

Pink Lemonade Dish Detergent (Photo courtesy of Mommypotamus.)

And dryer sheets. We used to spend so much on dryer sheets – for what? The smell and static clean? Conventional dryer sheets are loaded with toxic chemicals that can cause allergies and asthma. These wool dryer balls are cheaper and work better than dryer sheets because they help to speed drying time.

DIY Wool Dryer Balls

DIY Wool Dryer Balls (Photo courtesy of Mommypotamus.)

Buy It Now

DIY Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes is just $24.95 and includes more than 50 tested-and-proven cleaning recipes that really work. You can download the PDF instantly and view it on any e-reader, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Plus, you’ll have exclusive access to video tutorials online for e-book buyers only.

Feature image credit: Flickr / Pixel Drip


  1. How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies, Organic Consumers Association, http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_279.cfm.
  2. Toxins in Household Cleaning Products, Green Wiki, http://green.wikia.com/wiki/Toxins_in_Household_Cleaning_Products.
  3. Household Cleaner Ratings and Ingredinets, Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/findings.
  4. Environmental Working Group’s Updated Cleaning Guide, Mother Nature Network, http://www.mnn.com/family/protection-safety/blogs/environmental-working-groups-updated-cleaning-guide.
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About Tracey Black

Hi, I’m Tracey. Welcome to Don’t Mess with Mama. Join me to stand up against junk food, processed food, and anything artificial. I’ll show you how to cook wholesome, gluten free (and grain free) meals with real food ingredients to nourish your family. Plus, learn how to get the toxins and chemicals out of your home for good with my favorite DIY and homemade recipes for beauty, personal care and cleaning products.


  1. While I wholeheartedly agree it is necessary to avoid ingesting/living with certain chemicals, please choose credible references to support your argument wisely. Cherry picking is dangerous and can lead to false impressions. However, I do appreciate the link up to the recipes!

  2. I REALLY wish this was a paperback and not only an Ebook!!!

  3. I wholeheartedly endorse this blog post, especially the list of seven cleaners to avoid! I have occasionally experimented with some do-it-myself cleaners, but as a Norwex consultant I keep going back to using simply a high-quality microfiber cloth and water for many regular cleaning tasks. At some point, I’ll probably be linking to this article on my own Facebook page. Thanks for your input!

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