Glean to be Green – Natural cleaning solutions are better for your health and the environment

There’s something to be said about walking into a clean home, but we can do without inhaling an onslaught of harsh chemical odours and fumes. What about using natural or “green” cleaning products? You can lessen your exposure to harmful ingredients that may have negative effects on your health, and the planet.

Since the mid 20th century, about 85,000 new chemicals have been introduced to the market through various products. I recall the strong scent of vinegar on cleaning day from my childhood. Perhaps it’s time to get back to sourcing more natural ingredients in our cleaning routines, and feeling healthier and enjoying cleaner household air at the same time.


Chemical-laden cleaning products can cause myriad short term or immediate health problems. You might feel satisfied at how the house smells after scouring and scrubbing, but those strong fumes can lead to headaches; dizziness; skin, respiratory and eye irritation; and asthma attacks. Some cleaners also contain known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, reproductive system toxins and hormone disruptors. Jerry Balice, owner at NEX Wellness in Burlington notes that even though manufacturers say that in small amounts these toxic ingredients aren’t likely to be a problem, continued exposure, also known as “toxic load” can contribute to disease.

The smaller members of the home are even more vulnerable. “Because of their smaller size and weight, and because their vital organs are still developing, children have a reduced ability to eliminate toxins from their developing bodies and are at greater risk of being affected by these toxins over the long term,” says Balice. Topping the toxicity list are drain, oven and toilet-bowl cleaners; chlorinated disinfectants; mildew removers; and wood and metal polishes. Even benign products, such as dish detergent, can contain toxic chemicals, he advises.

Whether you choose to make your own vinegar solution to remove mold and mildew, or you decide to purchase natural, chemical-free products, you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve eliminated chemicals from your home along with the mold, mildew and spaghetti stains. Plus, you won’t have to worry any more about accidentally spilling bleach on your beige bathroom towels.

What to Watch For
Often you can more accurately assess a product’s safety by reading through its ingredients list. Watch out for these toxins as you shop:

Phthalates (in fragranced household products such as air fresheners and dish soap). Known endocrine (hormone) disruptors may not be listed, but if the label says “fragrance”, chances are phthalates are present.

Perc (perchloroethylene) – a neurotoxin found in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.

Triclosan (antibacterial foaming agent used in dishwashing detergents, hand soaps and even toothpaste). In addition to contributing to antibiotic resistant microbes, it’s also suspected of being a hormone disruptor and possible carcinogen.

2-Butoxyethanol can cause sore throats, pulmonary edema, and liver and kidney damage.

Ammonia (a polishing agent for bathroom fixtures and sinks, also a glass cleaner). It can cause chronic bronchitis and asthma. Avoid the combination of ammonia and chlorine bleach – together these create highly toxic chloramine gas that can injure lung tissue.

Chlorine (in scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners and household tap water). These compounds can severely irritate the lungs or burn skin and eyes and may be a thyroid disruptor.

Sodium hydroxide (in oven cleaners and drain openers) is extremely corrosive, causing severe burns if it touches the skin or eyes. Inhaling sodium hydroxide can cause a sore throat that lasts for many days.

Article courtesy of NEX Wellness   |   |   672 Brant Street   |   905-634-5000

Local Links for natural cleaning products:
Centro Garden, Burlington

Goodness Me, Burlington

Simply Green Baby, Bronte

Whole Foods, Oakville

Soap & Water, Oakville

By Rebecca Dumais

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