Common Household Toxins and How to Avoid Them

Household Toxins

Many people don’t realise the number of household toxins they are surrounding themselves with on a daily basis in their homes. Recent studies show that the indoor air is usually more polluted than the one outside, even in big industrial cities. This is all due to the poor ventilation in most residential buildings, as well as the great number of toxins we use in our homes in the form of cleaning products, air fresheners, and even in some old pieces of furniture. Getting rid of all the toxins in the home is not an easy task, but with some small changes in your routines, you can avoid at least the most harmful ones. Here’s some more information on how to recognise and avoid them:

Common Household Products That May Contain Harmful Chemicals

When we clean our homes to make them smell fresh or get rid of those nasty stains, or to discourage pests from getting inside, we often use store-bought products, which are likely to contain toxic chemicals in small amounts. Common domestic products, which might contain such toxins are:

  • Surface cleaners
  • Air fresheners
  • All spray detergents
  • Insecticides
  • Scouring powders
  • Laundry detergents

Potentially Toxic Hygiene and Beauty Products

Staying clean and looking good is also not an easy task to achieve without using products, which may contain harmful chemicals. It’s important to read the labels and avoid or replace these dangerous products, because long-term usage can have unpredicted consequences. Here are some hygiene products which may do more harm than good:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Deodorant
  • Various perfumes
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Makeup and cosmetics
  • Shampoos and haircare products
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Sunscreen

Health Issues Caused by Household Products

The health issues caused by using toxic household products, cosmetics and detergents can vary depending on the exposure and the immune system of the person, but some of the most common problems are:

  • Headaches
  • Respiratory issues and asthma
  • A weak immune system
  • Hormone disruption
  • Thyroid and reproductive problems
  • Various forms of cancer

Which Are the Most Commonly Found Household Toxins?

Maintaining a healthy home is the key to living a healthy life, and the first step towards achieving that, is to thoroughly vet all the products you use around your home, get rid of the toxic ones and replace them with something more natural, be it produced from a sustainable company or by you, using the countless natural recipes available online. While you shop for household products, pay extra attention to the labels and avoid things which contain some of the following:

Ammonia – it’s used in many window cleaners and other detergents, it has a very harsh smell and is a respiratory and skin irritant.

Bleach – the bleach fumes contain chlorine and chloroform, both linked to all kinds or respiratory and neurological problems, as well as cancer. It’s also highly reactive – when mixed with other acids, it produces dangerous gasses.

Formaldehyde – commonly used as a preservative in many household products, it’s a known carcinogen.

Phthalates – they are chemicals which are added to plastics to improve flexibility and resilience. They are also used to prolong the fragrance on scented products. Used in plastic bags, clothing, children’s toys, shower curtains, shampoos, nail polish, hair spray, plastic food packaging, and more. Linked to endocrine, developmental and reproductive problems.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – these are chemicals which get released into the air as gasses. Commonly found in perfumes, air fresheners, paints, carpets, cleaning products, and more. Linked to different types of cancer, as well as respiratory, neurological and many other illnesses.

1,4 Dioxane – found in many multipurpose detergents, a suspected carcinogen.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) – they are commonly found in spray cleaners and fabric softeners, known asthma triggers.

Fragrances – most nice smells you sense in your detergents or even perfumes, are achieved by mixing various chemical compounds. They can trigger asthma and various allergies.

Carbon monoxide – it’s formed from incomplete fuel combustion, it’s produced by leaking gas stoves, chimneys, furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas water heaters, and other similar appliances. The exposure to carbon monoxide decreases the oxygen delivery to the cells, and can cause nervous and cardiovascular system failure.

Pesticides and herbicides – they are commonly found in non-organic farming regions and food supplies, as well as in some gardening supplies and pest control products. They are linked to nervous system problems, as well as developmental, reproductive challenges and various forms of cancer.

How to Choose Safe Household Products?

The best way to avoid harmful toxins in household detergents and other products, is to prepare your own. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time and means to prepare all their products themselves. Thankfully, nowadays there are many sustainable companies, which create household products that are free of toxins, fumes and parabens, and we can easily find them in our local stores. So, when you choose your cleaning detergents, avoid products containing the above mentioned toxic elements. Instead, aim for something healthier for your family and the environment. Look for labels like “organic”, “green” and “non-toxic”. Other labels, which will show you that a product is nature friendly and safe, are “solvent-free”, “biodegradable”, “petroleum-free”, “VOC-free” or “phosphate-free”. Also, avoid spray-on cleaners on upholstered furniture or carpets, the dangerous ingredients can become trapped in the fabric and poison the indoor environment for months.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Toxins

The non-toxic and organic home cleaners are inexpensive to make, they can last for months stored in plastic containers or spray bottles, and there are countless recipes for natural detergents for basically everything available online. Some of the ingredients you’ll need to prepare your own cleaners:

White vinegar – it’s a natural acid and an antibacterial agent, it eliminates stains and disinfects.

Baking soda – it’s a base, works well on hard stains and grease when combined with vinegar. It lifts stains, deodorises and absorbs moisture.

Distilled water – it’s purified, free of all chemicals, contaminants and hard elements.

Lemon juice – also an acid, kills mould and mildew efficiently, has whitening abilities and leaves a pleasant smell.

Salt – good for scrubbing, lifting red wine stains and disinfecting.

Alcohol – it’s perfect for disinfecting the fridge and other highly contaminated areas. Even vodka works as a good cleaner.

Castile soap – it’s the most natural type of soap, it’s a little more expensive, but it can even be used as a non toxic laundry detergent, among other things.

Olive oil – it’s used in small amounts to polish wooden surfaces.

Essential oils – A good substitute for the added detergent fragrances. They provide a nice smell without the dangerous toxins.


Author bio: Melanie Johnson is a blogger and the online marketing executive for the cleaning branch of Fantastic Services Group – an Australian home improvement company, which services both residential and commercial clients in some of the biggest cities in the country.