When it comes to keeping our homes clean, many of us use common brand-name cleaning products as we know they’re effective, promise a germ-free clean and have been trusted for generations. We’re also familiar with the warning labels and assume that we’re safe from any chemicals they may contain as long as we carefully follow their instructions... but what if we were wrong?
Data from Awair, an elegant device that tracks toxins and chemicals in the home, suggests that while we clean our surfaces, we could in fact be increasing pollutants in our air by up to 60% by using common household cleaning products.
Awair recreated a number of typical cleaning activities in the home including carpet cleaning, unclogging drains and getting rid of smells to measure the level of toxins unleashed in the home after using common household cleaners and products, with shocking results.
According to Ronald Ro, Founder of Awair. “Many cleaning products containing colourless and odourless Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which evaporate into the air and make their way into our lungs and bodies.” With high levels of VOCs in the air being attributed to ailments such as migraines, nausea, fatigue, congestion, irritation, allergies, asthma and even cancer and disease, Awair reveals what really happens to the air you breathe while cleaning and compiles a list of five easy hacks that will have the house sparkling and your lungs breathing easy.
Sodium hydroxide is very effective for unclogging drains but it comes at a price with toxic fumes known to cause sore throats that last for days.
Simple swap: Ronald Ro says, “Try a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to effectively unclog a drain. After the bubbles disappear, run hot water through the drain to achieve a similar (choke free) level of success.”
Popular carpet cleaners can be filled with a toxin known as perchloroethylene that some environmental agencies consider to be a carcinogen. Fumes from perchloroethylene can cause dizziness, loss of coordination, and other symptoms that are harmful to all.
Simple swap: Ronald suggests, “It’s worth investigating alternative liquid carpet cleaners that contain high levels of carbon dioxide as this is much safer. Pure castile soap is another really effective stain remover that can have carpets looking like new after accidents.”
Getting rid of smells
Air fresheners can trigger migraines and typically contain phthalates, a chemical that is linked to reproductive complications. Using a popular air fragrance resulted in both chemical and dust levels in the air to significantly increase, according to the Awair detector. Although the effects only lasted for less than five minutes, spraying a room freshener reduced the overall air quality by 45% which is harmful considering many people have automatic sprays in numerous rooms in the home as well as car.
Simple swap: “Try to avoid products that list ‘fragrance’ in their ingredients. If you want to freshen up the home, opt for strong smelling essential oils such as rose or ylang ylang. Or just open the window if it’s a sunny day”, says Ronald.
Cleaning the bathroom
Ammonia and chlorine are popular ingredients in toilet bowl and bathroom cleaners. Both can instantly irritate lungs with long-term exposure leading to potential bronchitis, asthma, and thyroid issues.
Simple swaps: “Baking soda and vinegar are highly effective at disinfecting surfaces while leaving shine” comments Ronald. “We’ve also found that vodka is very effective and a safe swap for polishing metals and mirrors”.
Window cleaners often use 2-butoxyethanol, which can cause sore throats and liver and kidney damage when inhaled.
Simple swap: Ronald says, “DIY window cleaners using safe and natural ingredients are easy to make. Mix half a cup of vinegar, two cups of water and one tablespoon of Castile soap with a few drops of essential oil for a fresh scent and you’ll have your windows sparkling”.