A Prescription for Healthier Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning can be hazardous to your health. Many of the ingredients in store bought cleaners are toxic enough to cause harmful side effects when released into the air or when they come in contact with skin.

According to the Washington Toxic Coalition, the most dangerous cleaning products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners. Ingredients with high levels of toxicity, like bleach and ammonia, produce fumes that can irritate the eyes, lungs, nose and throat. When these chemicals are used in our homes, they are released into the air we breathe, and then sent down the drain entering sewers and the water system creating environmental hazards.

Many household cleaning supplies that are expected to clean are actually doing more harm that good. Toxins from these products can build up in our homes and in our lungs, causing serious health problems over time such as cancer and an increased rate in birth defects.  Symptoms from even minimal exposure to chemicals in cleaning products can range from mild to severe and can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • A skin rash
  • Chemical burns to the skin

Fortunately, a variety of less hazardous cleaning products that contain biodegradable, non-toxic and natural ingredients can be found at most stores. Non-toxic cleaners can easily be made at home for a fraction of the cost of store bought cleaners using ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar, borax and lemon juice.

Tips for Safer Housecleaning

  • Always read the label and use products as directed
  • Steer clear of product labels that say danger, poison or corrosive– they are the most toxic
  • Use only use the minimum amount of product needed
  • Store cleaning products in their original container and out of the reach of children and pets
  • Never mix products together, especially ammonia and bleach
  • Keep areas well ventilated by opening windows and turn on fans to minimize exposure to fumes
  • Wear gloves to protect skin

A clean house shouldn’t make you sick. If you are experiencing symptoms such as dizziness or difficulty breathing while using cleaning products, stop using them immediately and seek medical attention if your symptoms persist.


  1. I often wonder what is in oven cleaner that makes that stuff so strong! Probably some really bad chemicals. And the sad thing is they took dry cleaning fluid off the consumer market. That would clean anything, but now you can’t buy it. DRATS!

  2. Alicia Verity, MSPH

    Who knew cleaning your house could be hazardous to your health. Gloves, masks, ventilation…sounds like a science experiment. Maybe it is best to just live amongst the mess!!

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