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Clean or Toxic? Cleaning Products Doing More Harm than Good and Better Swaps


I Was Doing It Wrong

I am the food police. I read all the labels, and I shame my husband if he sneaks the boys a bag of Doritos. I push an array of pharmaceutical-grade supplements that I’ve researched to the brink of becoming an expert. On top of that, I’m a neat freak. I don’t like clutter, and a dirty sink makes me crazy. I’m not sharing this to show you my dark, neurotic side. I’m sharing it to show you that I’m a flawed human being. One thing (among many) that I’ve learned about myself is that I’ve been taking both of those obsessions and working them against one another: I’m the mother who says no to the Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, but every Saturday, I hand my son a bottle of bathroom cleaner and tell him to get moving on his chores. I hand him bleach-filled, eye-burning, lemony chemicals and say no to McDonalds. I’ve never said that aloud and boy does it sting. After I finish cringing, I’ll share how I’ve changed everything about the way I clean with healthy cleaning alternatives.

Old Habits Die Hard

I was raised to believe that a chemical smell meant it was clean. Does it have that bleach scent? Good. It’s clean. I was taught this way, and I carried it on into my own home.


I learned that the clean smell is poison. I learned that the most dangerous cleaners have ammonia and chlorine bleach in them. Dishwasher detergents, mildew stain removers, bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, metal cleaners, and dish soap are all common culprits. They’re all things that, until recently, I kept under my sink. Yes, under my sink—in my kitchen, where my family eats. I kept corrosive products that can burn, products that cause asthma, respiratory problems, and even cancer where my family gathers and bonds.


Are you getting a little nervous? Let’s do a checkup. What do you have in your home? Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that specializes in researching toxic chemicals, compiled a list on a grading scale that runs from A through F. An A grade means that these products have nothing in them that causes any concern. As you probably guessed, an F means that the product is really toxic. It can cause cancer, respiratory problems, and other issues internally and externally.

Brands That Failed Miserably

  • Ajax
  • Clorox
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Fabuloso
  • Fantastik
  • Goo Gone
  • Goof Off
  • Green Works
  • Kirkland
  • Lysol
  • Method
  • Clean
  • Murphy Oil Soap
  • Pledge
  • Safeway
  • Simple Green
  • Soft Scrub
  • SOS
  • Swiffer
  • Tylex
  • Up and Up
  • Windex

Brands That Made the Grade

  • Arm and Hammer Baking Soda
  • AspenClean
  • Attitude
  • Aunt Fannies
  • Aussan Natural
  • Bon Ami
  • Bronners
  • Green Shield
  • Lion Bear Naked Soup Co.
  • Mama’s Suds
  • Ology
  • Whole Foods Market

Don’t Be Deceived

I was floored/saddened to find one of my favorite brands, Mrs. Meyer’s, was graded an overall D for having concerning ingredients. Cancer was on that list! Below, see the list that EWG put together from one of my former favorite products, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Baking Soda Cream Cleaner, Lemon Verbena:


D: FRAGRANCE: Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects, bio-degradation; Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient


D: METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE: High Concern: acute aquatic toxicity; Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage


D: POLYSORBATE-20:  Some Concern: cancer, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, damage to DNA, respiratory effects, nervous system effects, digestive system effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, damage to vision


C: CITRUS MEDICA LIMONUM (LEMON) PEEL OIL: Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, cancer, general systemic/organ effects


C: ABIES ALBA LEAF OIL: Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, cancer, general systemic/organ effects


C: CYMBOPOGON SCHOENANTHUS OIL: Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, respiratory effects, cancer, acute aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects


 C: GELLAN GUM: No data, some concern


 C: PEG-5 COCOATE: No data, some concern


C: BENZISOTHIAZOLINONE: Moderate Concern: acute aquatic toxicity; Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, biodegradation

Titles and Product Names are Deceiving!

Why didn’t I know this? I trusted the front of the bottle that promised me an all natural experience. “Clean Day” is part of its title, for crying out loud! The craziest part about this is that I don’t trust food products that promise the same thing. I know how to read a label. It’s time for me to flip the bathroom cleaner over and read that bottle, too. It should be a no-brainer, really. If something warns, “Do NOT mix with other cleaning products or harmful fumes may generate,” I don’t want that anywhere near my family. Do you? No, especially when there are healthy cleaning alternatives out there that will get the job done.

Healthy Cleaning Alternatives

Vinegar Surface Cleaner by Live Simply


  • 1  cup distilled water
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (optional)
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil or peppermint or orange


Pour all the ingredients into a 16 oz. spray bottle (use a funnel, if needed). Gently shake the cleaner. This cleaner will need to be stored in the fridge between uses due to the fresh lemon juice.


To Use: Gently shake the spray bottle before spraying the cleaner on the desired surface. Spray the cleaner and wipe off the surface with a damp cloth. Do NOT use the vinegar cleaner on marble or granite.


Frozen Citrus-Rosemary Garbage-Disposal Cleaning Cubes by Pop Sugar


  • 1/2 cup citrus rinds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dried rosemary
  • Ice cube tray
  • Vinegar


  1. Chop the citrus rinds along with the rosemary into a rough dice. You can use lemon, orange, or lime rinds for this DIY. Citrus peels are filled with natural antibacterial oils and also smell amazing. Rosemary is also naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal, making it a smart addition. You can use fresh or dried, whichever you have on hand.

  2. Sprinkle the ice cube tray with the mixture, evenly distributing the peels and rosemary. Now fill with the vinegar, which is also a natural cleaner that refreshes dark and damp spaces. Place in the freezer until the cubes are frozen solid.

  3. Pop the cubes out of the tray, and place them in a glass jar or bowl in your freezer. The next time your garbage disposal isn’t smelling so great, toss one down the drain, turn on your disposal with water running, and enjoy the fresh scent! Extra bonus? The frozen cube also sharpens your disposal’s blades.

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to change a routine, especially when that routine has lasted a lifetime. We become invested in what we know—or, what we think we know. On the other hand, as we learn more about the toxins we’re putting into our bodies and homes, it’s more important to embrace safer habits. Start a toxic-free cleaning trend for your children. Teach them to ditch those toxic chemicals for healthy cleaning alternatives that they will someday use in their own homes.

Wondering if you and your family could be suffering from toxin overload?

Schedule a discovery call with a health advisor to learn more.