I have two problems with my household cleaning: too much cleaning products and too much chemical impact from these cleaning products. Some time ago I violated the cardinal rule of chemical cleaning – mixed up Scrubbing Bubbles with Tilex. Oh my, did I regret that when a couple of hours later nothing could cure my burning headache. My mouth felt like I had ate a pound of paper, my stomach was turning inside out.. I’ll spare the rest of the details. I felt fine the next day, but the relationship between me and Scrubbing Bubbles was never the same.
It took me a while to start questioning the safety of everyday household items, like Windex, Comet, Lysol, even Yankee Candles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not über paranoid and I frequently use advertised cleaners to clean my apartment, but if there’s a relatively easy alternative, which will also help the environment and won’t leave me sneezing, aching, itching, etc., I will switch without having a second thought.
So I set myself on a task of researching what it is in those household products, that we might want to avoid. My first discovery was the so called MSDS or material safety data sheet, which provides pretty much all the necessary information needed to asses how dangerous the product is for you and for the environment. The only problem with this is that manufacturers are not required to make this information available to the general public. So unless you are an employee working with potentially harmful substances, fire department or an emergency planning official – lots of luck finding that information on some products. It took me two evenings to find a very evasive document written on behalf of Yankee Candle Company, Inc., explaining why it is exempt from providing MSDS on its finished products.. Their main excuse it “trade secrets” – fair enough; and they also claim that there were no instances in 30 years of manufacturing there was no evidence of harm to employees. Good enough for some.., but I will limit my usage of Yankee Candles and try to air my apartment out as often as possible without catching a cold.
MSDS sheet for Windex did not really contain any scary revelations. The only low level hazard was indicated in the fire/flammability ratings. SC Johnson (the manufacturer of Windex) does mention that you should wear protective clothing, when using Windex, but hey, they have to cover every possible loophole for a lawsuit. I actually went beyond the MSDS with Windex and checked out the ratings for its ingredients individually. None of the ingredients sounded too hazardous, but there’s still a certain level of toxicity in all of them. Isopropanol can have a toxic effect on a human if left untreated; ethylene glycol can be fatal if ingested in sufficient amounts; ammonia can be irritating to eyes and skin and lead to hazardous compounds if mixed with bleach, for example, or a poisonous gas may result. None of the ingredient have been identified as a major environmental contaminant. So nothing too scary, but nothing too great either. My suggestion would be, stay away from it if you can and if you cannot – don’t drink it or take a bath in it.. (humor intended here)
So it won’t feel too bad if I occasionally clean my windows with Windex, given of course that I recycle the container. Moving along to my sparkling bathtub and tiles – hello, Tilex, from The Clorox Co.! It was really easy to find MSDS for Tilex. The sheet was not as positive as Windex though: eye irritant; skin irritant; may cause nausea and vomiting if swallowed; may aggravate asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart conditions and obstructive lung disease. Sorry, Tilex, I love the way you clean my tiles, but you are going straight into recycling and will no longer be welcome in my apartment.
And finally I’m getting to my nemesis – Scrubbing Bubbles. What does your MSDS say about you? Potential health effects: may irritate eyes; may irritate skin; may cause nose, throat and lung irritation; may cause abdominal discomfort. Ut oh! Those reactions sound way too familiar. A low health hazard and one of the higher fire hazards. No environmental impact information, but that’s enough for me personally. Scrubbing Bubbles, you will join Tilex in the recycling can.
I will stop here and not review every cleaning product I have in my closet for now. I will definitely check every one of them, like I did with my friends Windex, Tilex and Scrubbing Bubbles and will hopefully help the environment along the way.
Also, if you are asking me what I suggest to use instead of all those discarded cleaning products,
here’s a link to a very neat article advising on how to substitute your commercial cleaning products with natural recipes our grandmas used.