Why Common Household Cleaners are Bad for Us and the Environment

By: Van Burbach PhD, PG Environmental Consultant

Many people have the idea that since cleaning products are used to clean our homes of dirt, germs, and filth to give us a “clean” living environment, that they are safe for us and our planet; but this is not the case.  Many common cleaning products you can find on your grocery store shelves, and possibly under your own kitchen sink, are extremely toxic and very harmful both to human beings and to the environment.  

Links between use of common household cleaners and asthma and other respiratory illnesses have been well established.   In 2018, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published the results of a 20-year study by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway which found that using cleaning products can be as harmful to women’s respiratory health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.  Also, household cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, many of which involve children. 

But these cleaners are also very harmful to the environment outside of our homes.  The all-purpose cleaners, hand sanitizers, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and other cleaning products we use get washed down our drains and into our sewer systems.  They are often treated at wastewater treatment plants: but most wastewater treatment plants are not very effective at removing the toxic chemicals from these products, so they end up released into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water supplies.  A 2002 study conducted by the United States Geological Survey tested streams across the United States and found traces of detergent in 69% of the streams, and disinfectants in 66% of the streams.  

Common household cleaning products often contain hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of chemicals, many of which are known to be toxic to humans as well as to fish, birds, plants, and other living organisms.  Some are also known carcinogens.  Many others of these chemicals have not been studied thoroughly enough to know what their possible toxicological impacts might be. 

One group of chemicals of concern are phosphates, often found in laundry and dishwasher detergent.  When released into a lake or stream, phosphates act as fertilizers, promoting growth of algae that decrease the water’s oxygen content, killing fish and reducing biodiversity.

Another group of chemicals of concern are alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which are surfactants that are added to many laundry detergents, stain removers, all-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and degreasers.  Some APEs break down into nonylphenol and octylphenol, which are more toxic and do not readily biodegrade.  APEs have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen, and their presence in water may be harming the reproduction and survival of salmon and other fish.

It is not just the chemicals in our cleaning products that are the problem.  The packaging those products come in can also have a very adverse impact on our environment.  The proliferation of single-use plastic containers has caused major problems for landfills and recycling programs cannot keep up.  In 2015, the EPA estimated that only 9.1% of plastic waste generated in the United States was recycled, and since China stopped accepting our recyclable waste, that number is probably lower now.  All the excess plastic waste has caused a global crisis as these plastics end up in our waterways and eventually in our oceans.

Shaklee has been a pioneer of non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products since the 1960s.  Shaklee Basic H was one of the first official Earth Day products, and has been used by Jacques Cousteau, the Biosphere II project, the Whitehouse, and many environmental organizations and programs.  Today, Shaklee is proud to offer a full line of household cleaning products that are free of toxic chemicals and are safe for you, your children, and the planet.  And many of our cleaning products are concentrated, reducing the amount of plastic waste created.  One bottle of Basic H2 can replace as many as 5000 bottles of other cleaners, keeping thousands of plastic bottles our of our waste stream.  And you don’t have to sacrifice performance, as Shaklee cleaning products are amazingly effective.  Check them Out.


Dr. Burbach has extensive experience in: hydrogeologic site investigation; environmental assessment of industrial sites, underground storage tank sites, and solid waste facilities; compliance monitoring; remediation of impacted soil and groundwater; and geophysical investigations. Including remediation of pesticides, metals, and hazardous waste. 

Dr. Burbach has designed and implemented Corrective Action Plans involving groundwater pump and treat systems, air sparging, soil vapor recovery, soil venting, soil excavation, phytoremediation, aggressive fluid-vapor recovery, multi-phase extraction, ex-situ bioremediation, enhanced in-situ bioremediation, and monitored natural attenuation. Currently, Dr. Burbach oversees compliance monitoring of soil, groundwater, surface water, leachate, landfill gas, and treatment systems for several soil waste sites in Virginia and North Carolina.

Ahhh Fresh Air: It matters for your health.

Ok…yes…I still have dishes in the sink. It’s OK, no one is perfect. But I do have my window open!! YAY – open windows make me happy!!! They also help make me healthy!!

The home is potentially the most dangerous place you go because of the high levels of indoor pollution, which are toxic gases and particles trapped in your home. They can lead to things like asthma, emphysema, eye irritation, nose irritation, throat irritation, headaches, nausea and more.

Some things you can do to help reduce the poor Indoor Air Quality in your home are switch to non-toxic cleaners like Shaklee Get Clean, keep a clean home- I know it sounds silly, but it helps…even if you don’t put your dishes away until the next morning. Use appliances properly, ditch the air freshener- really!! read all the little fine print – this stuff is dangerous! Ditch those scented candles too unless you know the wick and scent are safe, use proper ventilation and choose safer carpet and furnishings which can give off harmful VOCs and one thing that can help, in addition to these, is to open your windows.

Did you know?? The Environmental Protection Agency lists your home and office as one of the top 5 environmental health concerns??? With possible negative impacts lasting years!!

Did you know?? Consistent cleaning of your home can greatly reduce bacteria and viruses in your home without using bleach and germicides!

Did you know?? A person who spends just 15 minutes cleaning the shower with conventional cleaners could inhale 3 times the acute exposure limit!!

Opening your windows just 10-15 minutes a day can greatly reduce your poor indoor air quality (IAQ), no matter what season-even when it’s cold outside.

It’s just a few minutes, even 5 minutes helps, and won’t impact your heating or cooling bill, just your health. Why?

So throw open that sash – you know, the window, and let that air in and out!! Grandma was right!

Breathe and enjoy!

#greencleaning #healthyliving #shaklee #freshair #nontoxic #nontoxichome #breatheeasy #livewell #selfcare #homemaking #domesticity #greenliving #greengeek

Lisa received her Health Coach Certification from the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, founded by world-renowned physician and author, Dr. William Sears. The Institute is a leader in science-based health and wellness education that focuses on the four pillars of health; Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutrition (L.E.A.N.). A certification by the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is obtained only after completing the extensive course work and meeting all requirements. Once certified, a Health Coach possesses the knowledge, tools, and resources to make a positive difference in the health of others.

The information in this blog is educational and not meant to diagnose, treat, or mitigate symptoms.

Van and Lisa are also Independent Shaklee Distributors helping people live younger longer.