I remember when I first became more informed about the products I was using around the home to clean and disinfect. I was shocked and surprised! Shocked, as I had absolutely no idea that what I was spraying around the home could not only be harmful to my health and that of my family and also damaging to the surfaces I was using them on. I was surprised, as I had no idea about the number of alternatives that were out there that could work just as well (and in many cases even better!). At the time, my children were 6 months and 4, and I was so thankful that someone had shared this information with me so I could decide what I now wanted to use around my home.
I became extremely passionate from then on and decided that more people needed to be informed in a simple way! I wanted to be able to cover the basics so they too could do more research if they want to and could make informed choices that suit them and their families about the cleaning products they use in their home.
Over the years, I continued to hear things that surprised me and that reinforce how important it is to get rid of the nasties at home for the sake of the whole family. These would have to be my top 10.
1. Chemical cleaning products can burn and damage anything they touch
One poor husband learned this the hard way. His wife sprayed the toilet seat with a cleaner and let the cleaner sit on there to “soak” and do it’s work! Unfortunately during that time, the husband decided to go to the toilet and sat on the seat which was still a bit wet. He ended up in hospital to get treated for the burns from the cleaning products!
You might have also noticed that the laminate on your toilet seat is peeling or fading. We often put this down to the water or just age and wear and tear, but it could in fact be the cleaning products you are using. Over time, they eat away at surfaces.
2. Many store bought gel hand sanitisers have a very high percentage of alcohol in them
You may have read a story in the newspaper a few years ago about a 3 year old who drank 55ml of hand sanitiser after finding it in her mum’s handbag. After tests at hospital, it was discovered that her blood alcohol level was 0.25. She was admitted to intensive care for 24 hours to be monitored while she made her recovery.
Heavy users of hand sanitisers often find that their hands become cracked and dry from the alcohol. You might also notice the bitter taste when eating after putting it on your hands.
3. The residue left on surfaces by cleaning products can be enough to be harmful
If you bathe in a recently cleaned bath where the residue of the cleaning product still remains, you may experience skin irritation. A number of mothers have told me that their children’s skin issues stopped after they stopped cleaning the bath with chemicals. The residue can be even more dangerous in the shower, because when the hot water hits the surface, it creates a vapour which you then breathe in.
4. Sponges can kill fish
Many people don’t realise there are toxins in their cleaning sponges. Make sure you check the back of the sponge packet for warnings. In particular, some have a warning relating to the cleaning of aquariums.
A woman I met thought she had done such a great job finally getting round to cleaning the fish tank. After she had finished, she sat down with a cup of tea, feeling proud that she could tick off a job done. Then she looked over at the fish tank and noticed the fish starting to float to the top one by one, no longer moving.
5. Disinfectant and air freshener sprays seem helpful, but many are actually dangerous
A mum discovered this when spraying her daughter’s room (where their bird was also kept) with an air freshener. When she walked back into the room, the poor bird was no longer sitting on the perch but was lying at the bottom of the cage.
There has also been much research in the use of these sprays and how they can aggravate conditions such as asthma, allergies and migraines. That’s just the short term effects. Inhaling the chemicals in cleaning products changes the lining of our airways and speeds up the decline of our lungs as we age.
6. Bleach is not the best cleaner for your tea and coffee cups
Bleach is a popular recommendation for cleaning tea and coffee stains out of your cups. Simply pour some bleach into the bottom of the cup and let it soak away. Although this may bleach the bottom of the cups, the residue can remain and then mix with your next drink. In one story I heard, someone mistook the contents for water and accidentally drank it!
7. Mixing cleaning products within a confined space, such as a shower, is not recommended
Mixing certain products within a small space can be extremely dangerous, especially when adding hot water to the mix. You might use one product for the tiles, one for the grout and another in the window. Depending on your choice of products, mixing them can cause a chemical reaction and a potentially deadly chlorine based gas. Many cleaning products have a warning on the back of the bottle saying “Do not mix with other cleaning products/chemicals”.
One woman shared how she did this and collapsed on the shower floor from the gas. Luckily she awoke 20 minutes later and was able to move herself to get some fresh air. This story could have ended very differently.
8. Some chemical products can damage the tap fittings and grout in your home
Over time, some chemical cleaning products actually corrode the tap fittings and damage the grout in your bathrooms and kitchens.
A woman purchased a home which was still under a builder’s warranty. The shower was leaking so she filed a claim for repair under warranty. The builder believed the grout was damaged by corrosive cleaning products and wanted the claim to be rejected. Builder’s warranties often list this as an exclusion in their cover. So, if this could have been proven, the claim would’ve been rejected and the home owner would’ve had to pay for the repairs herself.
9. Take care when using drain cleaners
A few years ago where a woman had unsuccessfully tried a number of products to clear the blockage in her kitchen drain. She tried one more and put her face over the plug hole to see what happened. A chemical reaction occurred and it exploded into her face, causing injury.
You might have also heard that these products can corrode the pipes under your house and also damage our environment. In fact, even the plastic containers they come in cannot be recycled as they are considered contaminated with hazardous waste.
10. You could be ruining your oven and eating your oven cleaner
When I replaced my oven cleaner element a few years ago, I was asked what oven cleaner I used. The repair man shared many stories of people using corrosive oven cleaners in their electric ovens without protecting the heating element. When the spray hits the element it causes corrosion, destroying a very important part of your oven!
Have you ever cooked something after cleaning your oven and noticed a funny taste in your food? This could be the oven cleaner residue cooking through your food. Not a great thing for you or your family to be ingesting.
These are just some of the memorable stories I have heard over the years, that have really highlighted how important it is to be informed about the contents and potential dangers of the cleaning products you are using in your home. Our health is so important, and of course, we all want our children to be safe from things that could hurt in them in either the short or long term. With the right knowledge, we can make better choices.
About the Author: Danielle Bortignon
Danielle is a Clean Living Advocate and mum of 2 children, aged 13 (Allee) and 9 (Noah). She first started researching all the “nasties” in cleaning products nearly 10 years ago. She learned all about labelling and the effects that some cleaning products can have on people with allergies, asthma, migraines and more. As a frequent migraine sufferer herself, she was determined to find out if her cleaning products could be the cause. Now she is armed with a wealth of knowledge, and passionately helps people be informed about toxic cleaning products in a simple way, so that they can make better choices for their family.