For most of my life, I have associated the smell of something being “clean” when it had that harsh chemical smell. I always used bleach in my toilet and tub thinking that was the only way to get get rid of bacteria and properly sanitize. Not until the past few years did I start to become more aware of what was actually in these cleaning products. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate all chemicals from your life, but now I try to make a conscious effort when choosing products. I look for alternative natural cleaners that have fewer harsh chemicals and ones that have less of a negative impact on our environment.
What To Look For
Finding healthier alternative cleaning products can be tricky because many marketing terms that these brands use are false. This is called “greenwashing”, where a company is misleading in the way they promote their product as being environmentally sound. They use words like; “natural”, “green”, and “eco-friendly”. Because of this consumers need to educate themselves on how to read ingredient labels. This can also be confusing because who knows what half of those crazy chemical names mean?!
Here is a list of some of the chemical you should look out for;
- 2-Butoxyethanol: associated with skin/throat/eye irritants, damaging to blood, and kidney toxicity
- Ammonia: linked to respiratory and skin irritation
- Chlorine: associated with respiratory irritation, destruction of gut bacteria, and thyroid disruption
- DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine) and MEA (monoethanolamine): known as a hormone disruptor, carcinogen, and toxic to organs
- DEHP & Phthalates: known as a major endocrine disruptor and linked to reproductive toxicity
- Ethanolamines, Phosphoric Acid, Chloric Acid: can burn the eyes, skin, and lungs and is a respiratory irritant
- Ethoxylated Surfactants, 1,4-Dioxane, Ethylene Oxide: can react to form formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
- Formaldehyde: Associated with allergies, irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, a carcinogen
- Fragrance/Parfum: This industry is self-regulated. The FDA says that companies don’t have to disclose what is used to make their fragrance as it is a trade secret. Classified as carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, skin, and respiratory irritants.
- Perchloroethylene (PERC): associated with neurotoxicity
- Quats (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds), Glutaral, and Sodium Hypochlorite (chlorine bleach): associated with allergies, asthma, birth defects, and fertility issues
- Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide: can burn the eyes, skin, and lungs and is a respiratory irritant
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate: linked to skin & eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and ecotoxicology
- Triclosan: linked to skin irritation, liver damage, hormone disruption, and antibiotic resistance
When in doubt I use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database to see how they rate products. They will break down the list of ingredients and list which ingredients are dangerous. They also will give it a letter grade; A-F. I not only use this website for my cleaning products, but also for all my beauty products.
My Favorites Alternative Natural Cleaning Products
Here are some of my favorite products I use in my own home and feel confident using them around my whole family.
Attitude is a Canadian-based company that makes all of their products with natural, plant, and mineral-based ingredients. Their products are also ECOLOGO® and PETA Certified, hypoallergenic, vegan, and cruelty-free. They make more than just cleaning products. They also make bath, baby, and pet products.
I switched to their dishwashing soap when Cooper came into the picture. I learned that regular dish soap is packed full of harmful chemicals that can leave traces behind on bottle and pump parts. I also have their baby lotion in the almond milk scent.
EWG Rating: Verified- which is the best rating, above an A, by the EWG standards. This means, per their standards, the ingredient list has the least hazardous makeup.
Seventh Generation uses source renewable, plant-based ingredients for all of their products. They also offer plastic-free, recycled, and recyclable packaging. Both products are safe on your septic system and are biodegradable.
EWG Rating: Grade A- Both products’ ingredients meet EWG’s high standards of health and transparency.
Better Life products are biodegradable with plant-based ingredients that naturally clean. They are also a company located in the USA and all their product packing is made from recycled goods. This specific detergent is concentrated, meaning you are getting more product and using less water and plastic.
When I was searching for a detergent that was safe to use with a baby, the number one brand is Dreft. On the bottle, it even states that it is the #1 detergent trusted by pediatricians, so automatically your first instinct is to trust it, right?… Well if you take a look at the back of the bottle it contains a list of ingredients that are potentially hazardous with possible affects of;
- Skin and respiratory irritants
- Developmental, endocrine, and reproductive issues
These are the last things that I want to put on my baby’s brand new perfect skin.
EWG Rating: Grade A- meets EWG’s high standards of health and transparency.
One of the hardest things for me to give up, but was the first thing I eliminated was dryer sheets. I loved the smell it left on my sheets and towels. Then I realized I was just washing my clothes to put more chemicals back on them. To get the same effect, I use these wool balls with a few drops of lavender essential oil. These are also super eco-friendly because they only need to be replaced every few years. The balls help keep clothes separated, cutting down on drying time using less electricity.
9 Elements are vinegar-based cleaning products broaching they will never use more than nine ingredients. I use this is my shower, sink, and toilet seat.
EWG Rating: Grade A- meets the EWG’s high standards of health and transparency.
This product line is as eco-friendly as a cleaning products can come. All you need is water and these cloths to polish your mirrors and windows, no extra chemicals needed. With each cloth lasting 300 washes they are significantly reducing waste.
I admit his product I was a bit skeptical about… until I tried it and saw the results. I used the cloths on my bathroom mirror first, but what I was super impressed by was the job it did on my glass shower doors. We have hard water, so that and soap build up on the glass. I also get ready in front of this shower, so it gets sprayed with hair products every day. Below is a picture of before and after. You do have to use a bit of elbow grease but these cloths by far gave me better results then any glass cleaner I have ever used.
This carpet deodorizer uses baking soda and essential oils for its scent, with no artificial fragrances. The product line is safe to use around children, pets, and manufactured within the USA.
You sprinkle the powder on your carpet and let it sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up. I found the essential oils pack a whole lot of punch so use sparingly!
If you are looking to start changing up your cleaning products because you are worried about some of the possible side effects from the harsh chemicals, start slow or it can become overwhelming and costly. Start with one as I did with eliminating dryer sheets and replacing them with the wool balls. Again, unfortunately, we can not eliminate all chemicals from our lives, but we can be more cognizant about what chemicals we are introducing to our families. By doing this we are taking one step forward in making a happier and healthier world!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I could earn a small commission if you make a purchase using one. This comes at no additional cost to you and I will only ever share items I have used myself and tested out.