Housecleaning Made Cleaner

Could your housecleaning actually be dirtying the environment?

Avoid these harmful ingredients shown below. Though they might not bear a warning label, many household cleansers contain ingredients that pose problems for the environment and public health.

  • Petroleum: Many conventional detergents (“surfactants”), solvents, and polishes contain paraffin, mineral oil, diethylene glycol, perchloroethylene, or butyl cellosolve – all of which are derived from petroleum. Extraction and refinement of this nonrenewable resource contribute to air and water pollution.
  • Phosphates/EDTA: Phosphates, which have traditionally been used in detergents to soften water and increase cleaning power, encourage algae growth in waterways, depriving marine life of oxygen. EDTA, a common substitute for phosphates, degrades slowly in the environment.
  • Phthalates: Manufacturers of many cleaning products use phthalates to prolong their products’ scent. However, these chemicals have been linked to cancer and disease of the reproductive system in laboratory animals.
  • Antibacterial agents: The use of cleansers containing antibacterials such as triclosan and benzalkonium chloride could be contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in human illnesses that are more difficult to treat.
  • Chlorine bleach: This popular whitener and disinfectant can harm the environment by contributing to the formation of organochlorines (chlorine-carbon compounds) such as the chlorofluorocarbons that damage Earth’s ozone layer.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists