We clean to keep our families safe and healthy. But the cleaners we use may put our health and the environment at risk.
Many common household cleaners sold in Canada contain hazardous chemicals — you've seen the skull and crossbones. Unfortunately, in Canada, there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to disclose all ingredients and hazards in household cleaning products.
10 tips to help you make safer product choices:
1. Read the label. Avoid hazard symbols whenever possible. Opt for products that voluntarily disclose ingredients on the label, and check for chemicals of concern. Don't be fooled by vague terms like "preservative" or "dusting agent." When companies won't disclose what's in their product, it makes you wonder what they have to hide.
2. Simplify. Choose the smallest number of eco-friendly, multi-purpose products that will help achieve your household cleaning goals. We don't need a separate stainless steel cleaner, tub & tile cleaner and counter cleaner to get our homes squeaky clean.
3. Go fragrance-free. "Fragrance" often involves a mix of chemicals that can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. Fragrance chemicals, like phthalates and synthetic musks, are of particular concern when they make their way into our bodies and the environment. Even "unscented" products may contain some fragrance or parfum to mask the odours of chemicals. See more tips to go fragrance-free.
4. Avoid dyes. Most dyes are derived from petrochemicals—an unnecessary addition.
5. Freshen air naturally. Synthetic air fresheners mask odour with a mysterious concoction of chemicals. Real freshness is proper ventilation, open a window.
6. Forgo aerosols. Aerosol products create fine particles that deposit more deeply into the lungs. Particles hang in the air longer than their pump-spray counterparts.
7. Wash with plain soap. Antibacterial dish soaps often contain Triclosan. It's an ingredient that may interfere with hormone function and contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It's also toxic to aquatic life. The Canadian Medial Association recommends washing your dishes with plain soap.
8. Make your own. The best way to know what's in your cleaning products is to make them yourself! Tested by the Queen of Green, these homemade cleaners and soap are versatile, affordable, and eco-friendly. And many ingredients are food-grade.
9. Look for the logo. Beware of misleading declarations. Claims like "natural" or "made with organic ingredients" are unregulated. EcoLogo certified products are third-party certified and meet environmental standards.
10. Better brands. The U.S.'s Environmental Working Group ranks and rates products, Healthy Child Healthy World lists their favourites, author Adria Vasil, ranks and rates brands in her book Ecoholic Home, and Leaping Bunny lists brands not tested on animals.