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Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals

Cleaning helps to protect our health in our homes, schools and workplaces. However, household and cleaning products—including soaps, polishes and grooming supplies—often include harmful chemicals. Even products advertised as “green” or “natural” may contain ingredients that can cause health problems. Some cleaning supplies can even be flammable or corrosive. Fortunately, you can limit your exposure to those risks. Read all labels and follow instructions when using cleaning products.

How can cleaning supplies, household products affect health?

Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that vaporize at room temperature. Even natural fragrances such as citrus can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors.

VOCs and other chemicals released when using cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. Studies are underway to assess how these chemicals affect people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Studies also link exposure to chemicals from cleaning supplies to occupational asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Cleaning supplies and household products containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include, but are not limited to:

  • Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products;
  • Air fresheners;
  • Chlorine bleach*;
  • Detergent and dishwashing liquid;
  • Dry cleaning chemicals;
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners;
  • Furniture and floor polish; and
  • Oven cleaners.

*Never mix bleach or any bleach-containing product with any cleaner containing ammonia. The gases created from this combination can lead to chronic breathing problems and even death.

Learn how to make safe tub/sink cleaner.

Learn how to make safe window cleaner.

Learn how to make safer drain cleaner.

How can you prevent harm from cleaning and household products?

Read all labels on cleaning supplies and household products before you buy them. Choose products that do not contain or have reduced amounts of VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. Avoid using air fresheners altogether.

Manufacturers are not obligated by U.S. law to list all ingredients in consumer products. Products that are labeled “green” do not necessarily mean they are safer. Do a little research on the product from a reliable source. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a list of products that meet its Safer Choice requirements for cleaning and other needs. The list includes cleaning products for home and vehicles.

As a safer cleaning alternative, warm water and soap often will do the trick, especially at home. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. A mix of vinegar and water can clean glass.

When using cleaning or household products, keep the area well ventilated. Open windows and doors. Never use cleaning products in a small, enclosed space.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

Living Safe – Are You Breathing In Your Cleaning Products?

Blog / For your home

6 minute read

As COVID-19 retains its grip on the headlines, keeping our homes clean and virus-free remain top priorities. But, does all the spraying, scrubbing, and disinfecting come at a cost to our health? The truth is – yes – all that deep cleaning can spread some nasty chemicals into the air of your home.

Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors – even without a global pandemic – and our indoor air can be dirty. In fact, it’s been found to be 2-5x more polluted  than outdoor air. Much of our indoor pollution comes from what’s called volatile organic compounds – a.k.a. VOCs – from chemicals in our cleaning products and other household items.

The Notorious VOCs

Invisible and insidious, VOCs are toxic chemicals that vaporize or “off gas” and enter the air from thousands of common items like traditional cleaning products, disinfectants, air fresheners, aerosol sprays, paints, pesticides, and more. You not only breathe VOCs in while using these products, but they can continue to “off gas” while stored away in a cupboard or under the sink. As anyone who has used ammonia or bleach without proper ventilation can tell you, VOCs can cause  eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and skin reactions, or more severely, trigger asthma symptoms or damage the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system.

Healthy Advisory: User Error

A recent CDC survey revealed that 1 in 3 respondents have been using chemicals and disinfectants unsafely while trying to protect against COVID-19 and a related uptick in calls to poison centers since the start of the pandemic. They identified big knowledge gaps on proper preparation, storage, ventilation, and a host of other high-risk behaviors like misting the body with disinfectant and purposely inhaling cleaning product vapors. Yikes.

All this exposure to toxic VOCs and chemical substances on any given day, week, or year can accumulate over time, adding to the body’s overall toxic burden and can contribute to a variety of health problems. Despite obvious health concerns, there is no national requirement to list ingredients on cleaning product labels. This leaves consumers in the dark, unknowingly bringing potentially harmful chemicals into their homes. According to the Environmental Working Group, over 53% of household cleaners include one toxic ingredient, 22% contain chemicals reported to cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals, and over 93% of manufacturers won’t even list their ingredients!

Know Your Clean

Cleaning and disinfecting smart starts with learning what to avoid, and swapping out conventional cleaners with products that contain safer ingredients, so you aren’t spraying toxic chemicals into the air. Some common toxins and VOCs to steer clear of include:

  • Ammonia (or ammonium hydroxide) – causes nose and throat irritation, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing.
  • Chlorine Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) – toxic if inhaled; causes respiratory, skin and eye irritation.
  • Quats (quaternary ammonium cations) – often listed as “cationic surfactant” or “benzalkonium chloride,” can cause wide-ranging health concerns from lung and skin irritation to reproductive issues; known asthma contributor.

Breathe Easier

Here are some simple steps you can take to spray, scrub and disinfect smarter and safer to improve the air quality in your home and help protect your health:

  • Look for plant powered cleaning sprays that are U.S. EPA Safer Choice certified. It’s a great way to find products that use the safest ingredients in their class, have proven superior performance, and avoid potentially toxic ingredients.
  • Find products with safer disinfectant chemical alternatives that have been shown to be just as effective in killing viruses and other germs without the related health hazards like: hydrogen peroxide.
  • Open the windows! Let fresh air inside daily, especially while you clean. Circulate the air with ceiling, bathroom, attic, or portable fans. 
  • Invest in an air cleaner and change the HVAC filters in your home every 60-90 days – more often if you have pets. 

A Safer Way to Clean

Current CDC COVID-19 guidelines advise cleaning visibly dirty surfaces first, then disinfecting. Try ECOS One-Step Disinfectant Cleaner, to safely kill germs and clean without VOCs or harsh fumes. If you just need an effective surface cleaner, try Safer Choice-certified ECOS All-Purpose Cleaner Parsley Plus. Both are safe for everyday use throughout your home.

ECOS is so committed to using safer ingredients that we made a list of 500 known toxins – a.k.a. “the Nasties” – that we promise never to use in our products. Check out the list here. We hope it helps guide you to products that are better for your home and your health during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Want more tips on detoxing your home? Join us on Instagram.

Allergy to household chemicals – symptoms and treatment

The long-awaited cleaning – the windows shine with cleanliness, the floor shines, everything in the apartment is arranged on the shelves, the dust is wiped off the surfaces, beauty! And suddenly, unexpectedly, you start sneezing, coughing and other signs of allergies. It is quite possible that this is due to the reaction of your body to household chemicals. What leads to the development of an allergy to household chemicals, can it be avoided? How to protect yourself from exacerbation, and are there treatments to completely cure this type of allergic reaction? Answers in this article.

What is an allergy to household chemicals?

  • An allergy to household chemicals refers to hypersensitivity to substances in various cleaning products and detergents, as well as shampoos and soaps. These substances damage the skin by making it more permeable to chemicals and are themselves serious allergens 1, 2 .

What are its reasons?

The most powerful factor in the development of sensitization, that is, increased sensitivity to foreign substances, is the contact of the skin or respiratory tract with household chemicals. At the same time, contact can occur not only when using cleaning and hygiene products, but also be indirect – that is, through things and household items that have leftovers of detergents or cleaning agents.

After contact, the substances enter the body, causing a reaction from the immune system, the cells of which come into battle with the substances, trying to destroy them as quickly as possible. The biological and immunological processes that take place during this battle lead to the formation of special complexes and antibodies, which in the future must fight allergens.

  • At the same time, it is important to remember that the complexes are specific: some develop on insect bites or plant pollen, others on cleaning products or animals, that is, in each case, the antigen is different. This explains a kind of paradox, in which some people have a reaction to household chemicals, others to animals, but at the same time they can all safely use ordinary detergents 1.3 .

What household substances and products can provoke an allergic reaction?

There are many substances that can lead to allergies to household chemicals 1.2 .

  • detergents.

  • Cleaning products, including those containing chlorine.

  • Surfactants, including those found in washing powders and other household chemicals.

  • Solvents, adhesives.

  • Food additives and certain food products.

  • Means for coloring and care of hair.

  • House plants and preparations for their care.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to household chemicals?

  • This type of allergy refers to contact, and the first symptoms appear at the site of direct penetration of the allergen into the body. Most often, this is the skin and mucous membrane of the respiratory tract – the main points of contact of household chemicals with the body. So, for example, a rash and itching, dryness, redness, peeling, cracking or blisters, a rash in the form of urticaria, etc. may appear on the skin. If the allergen has penetrated the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, then the allergy is manifested by a respiratory syndrome: runny nose, copious secretion of mucus, a feeling of nasal congestion, itching and perspiration in the nose and nasopharynx, cough. But when an allergen enters through the eyes, an allergic inflammation of the mucous membrane of the eye develops – that is, the conjunctiva. If the remedy was swallowed by inhalation and entered the digestive system, then the symptoms may be similar to those of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, stool disorders.

Severe allergies to household chemicals can manifest as bronchospasm, Quincke’s edema, anaphylactic shock 2, 3 .

The treatment of allergies to household products depends on many factors: the localization of the manifestations (that is, where exactly it arose), the severity of the symptoms (what exactly happens to the body), the individual characteristics of the patient, as well as his social activity.

Therefore, the first thing treatment begins with is, if possible, the complete exclusion of contact with allergy-causing agents. This does not mean that you have to move around the apartment in a spacesuit, not at all. You can, for example, start using hypoallergenic products, clean with a steam cleaner and a vacuum cleaner, and involve other family members who do not suffer from allergies.

  • Drug treatment (as a rule, long-term and requiring careful adherence to doctor’s prescriptions) is built according to individual schemes, and may include taking various drugs and their combinations. To begin with, diagnostics are carried out, which helps to identify the allergen and prescribe appropriate therapy. Based on its results, antihistamines can be prescribed, and their selection will depend on which symptoms are leading. In addition to antihistamines, enterosorbents, glucocorticosteroids, as well as physiotherapy procedures are also used in the treatment 1, 3 .

Prevention of allergies to household chemicals

Prevention of allergic reactions to household chemicals is similar to the initial treatment regimen and consists primarily in the exclusion of contact with household allergens.

There is a whole bunch of tips here, of which the main ones are:

  • Careful selection of detergents and hygiene products. In no case do not buy those that contain potentially dangerous components.
  • Use of barrier methods of prevention – gloves, masks for the nose and mouth, respirators, protective clothing.
  • If allergens do get on the skin, they should be washed off as soon as possible: removal of allergens should be carried out with clean water using non-allergenic detergents.
  • Strict ban on clothing and bedding that has been laundered using conventional, non-allergenic detergents.
  • Exclusion from the diet of foods with a high risk of an allergic reaction: citrus fruits, exotic fruits, smoked meats, fried, spicy, industrial convenience foods, chocolate, etc.
  • The healthiest lifestyle possible. That is, walking in the fresh air, playing sports, alternating work and rest, getting enough sleep.
  • And finally, avoid contracting SARS. And also treat various foci of infection – teeth, tonsillitis, chronic otitis media, etc. 1, 3

Poisoning by household chemicals – aviclinic.



  • 0007 Symptoms
  • Help for the victim
  • What methods of help are prohibited
  • Consequences
  • Prevention

Now few people will be surprised by the fact that poisoning with household chemicals is quite possible. It has entered the life of a person so tightly that it can be found, perhaps, in every home. Household chemicals include:

  • preparations for removing grease from the surfaces of stoves, sanitary ware,
  • acetone and turpentine solvents,
  • alkaline, alcohol and acid detergents,
  • foaming hygiene products (shampoos, gels),
  • laundry detergents (washing powder, etc.),
  • aggressive cleaning agents based on acids and alcohols for heavy soiling,
  • cosmetic spirits (lotions).

Any of these products may be poisonous if misused and cause poisoning.

According to the international classification of diseases, the ICD code 10 for such poisoning is X 49.

How you can get poisoned

Getting poisoned with detergents is not that difficult. All of them are used in various household areas, a person comes into contact with them daily, which means that there is always a risk of intoxication.

There are several reasons for poisoning with these products:

  • inhaling vapors indoors,
  • when corrosive liquids come into contact with the skin,
  • after accidental or intentional ingestion (in the first case – if the drug was in the hands of a child, in the second – with the aim of suicide or harming one’s own health).

All these causes are the result of careless handling of chemicals. It is no less dangerous to use any household remedy for other purposes or to mix different drugs, supposedly to achieve a greater effect.


The clinical picture in case of poisoning with household chemicals will always be different depending on the composition of the drugs that have entered the body (acid drugs have one symptom, alkaline drugs have others, etc. ).


These substances are found in all products designed to get rid of greasy stains and dirt that cannot be washed off with water. They can accumulate in the body if a person often inhales their vapors, but their main effect is on unprotected skin, as a result of which its surface layers are destroyed.

If surfactants enter the body, the poisoned person will experience:

  • pain in the stomach and intestines,
  • foam at the mouth,
  • vomiting,
  • shortness of breath,
  • malfunctions in the liver.

The condition of the poisoned person is severe, so emergency care is required in such cases.

Alkaline preparations

Alkaline compounds found in dishwashing detergents, pipe cleaners, etc. If swallowed, they immediately cause severe poisoning, which is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • burns of mucous membranes, causing severe pain,
  • occurrence of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract,
  • diarrhea and vomiting (both may be bloody if the alkali has eaten through the walls of the stomach or intestines),
  • intense thirst,
  • swelling, suffocation.

If the concentration of alkali in the product is high, poisoning can lead to death due to internal bleeding, pulmonary edema or shock of pain.

Poisoning with acid-based household chemicals also manifests itself in the same way. The main sign of their poisoning is severe burns of internal organs up to their through burning with a caustic composition.


These cleaners are used when surfaces and sanitary ware need to be disinfected. There are oxidizing agents in both stain removers and bleaches. When working with them, vapor poisoning most often occurs, which leads to the following manifestations:

  • irregular breathing,
  • cough,
  • feeling of constant itching in the eyes, lacrimation,
  • upper respiratory tract irritation,
  • shortness of breath,
  • swelling of the mucous membranes of the throat and mouth.

If household oxidants are ingested:

  • red blood cells are destroyed,
  • erosions develop in the oral cavity and trachea,
  • liver damage occurs,
  • immediately burns the digestive tract (first the mouth, then the throat and then down to the stomach and intestines).

With constant misuse of these cleaning products, chronic poisoning can also occur, manifested in the form of high blood pressure, anemia, vascular atherosclerosis and deterioration of the hair (they become dry, brittle, dull and begin to fall out).

See also: Ethylene glycol poisoning in humans

Organophosphate preparations

These are insecticides, phosphorus-based repellents used to get rid of parasitic insects and pests. Among the most popular drugs of this series are Karbofos, Ammophos, and others. Insecticides are a separate group of chemicals that require especially careful handling, and therefore poisoning with them is much more common than with any household detergent.

If these drugs enter the body in excess through the respiratory tract, the poisoned ones will soon develop characteristic symptoms:

  • tears and saliva flow profusely,
  • nervous excitement will begin,
  • will suffer from nausea and severe vomiting.

Chronic organophosphorus poisoning will result in permanent tremors of the extremities, progressing to convulsions. Without treatment, paralysis will occur and the respiratory process will be disturbed.

Only 5 ml of this drug orally is sufficient for complete respiratory failure and damage to the optic nerve.

If the victim has obvious signs of poisoning with household chemicals, he needs emergency help.

Help for the victim

In case of poisoning with household chemicals, it will not be possible to do without the help of doctors, so you need to call an ambulance in any case. During a conversation with the service dispatcher, you can find out how to properly help the poisoned person while the doctors are on the way. The victim must be immediately evacuated from the contaminated area.

Further, assistance in case of poisoning with household chemicals should be provided based on the cause of intoxication:

  • if the product only gets into the mouth, rinse it,
  • if eyes are affected, rinse them with plenty of water (if chlorine-containing agent has got in, use soda solution 2%) for washing,
  • when swallowing cosmetics, a person should drink a sufficient amount of salted water, and then induce vomiting,
  • in case of burns with lime, remove it with a napkin and lubricate the affected area with glycerin (you can not wash off the lime with water, with which it reacts violently – this will only increase the burn many times),
  • if a person has been burned by high concentration alkaline or acid products, keep the affected area under running water for at least 20 minutes until the chemical is completely washed out,
  • when swallowing an alkaline agent, neutralize it with weak citric or acetic acid at the rate of 4 tbsp. l. acids per liter of water (drink little by little at intervals of 15 minutes),
  • in case of ingestion of acidic household chemicals, quickly prepare a soda solution (5 tbsp. / 1 ​​liter of water) and give to drink 3 tbsp. l. once every 10 minutes (for the same purpose, you can use milk or raw egg white – they will prevent further absorption of the chemical into the blood).

Naturally, it is better to do all this only with a good knowledge of chemistry, since ignorance of the possible reactions of some substances with others can cause even more harm.

What methods of help are prohibited

Most of the usual measures taken for most poisonings are inappropriate for intoxications with household chemicals:

  • Activated charcoal. This is an excellent remedy, indispensable for poisoning. But a person who has received burns of the esophagus after swallowing a caustic substance will not be physically able to take even one tablet, while coal is taken at the rate of 1 piece per 1 kg of the weight of the poisoned person.
  • Potassium permanganate. It’s not worth risking with it at all, because even if one tiny crystal of this strongest oxidizing agent remains undissolved, it will immediately settle in the burned stomach and “eat” its mucosa even deeper.
  • Gastric lavage and induction of vomiting. If a person has already swallowed the chemical, the caustic composition has already passed through the digestive organs once, leaving deep burns on them. The induction of vomiting is a direct provocation of the repeated passage of corrosive and burning substances through the esophagus, which means that the mucous membranes will be damaged even more. In addition, if the poisoned person has swallowed foaming agents, vomiting will provoke even more foam formation, which will lead to blockage of the respiratory tract.
  • Enema. If the chemical has managed to penetrate from the stomach into the small intestine, its walls are already injured. An additional “intrusion” will only add to the problems, so doing this at home is not recommended, even if you have extensive experience in the procedure.
  • blood transfusion,
  • gastric lavage with a special thin probe,
  • administration of drugs intravenously,
  • occasional inhalation,
  • supportive therapy to normalize the activity of the heart with special medicines.

A person who has been poisoned by household chemicals must stay in the hospital for 10 to 20 days, after which (subject to stabilization of the condition) the victim can be discharged home for aftercare.


Even if first aid and treatment for poisoning with household chemicals were carried out on time and correctly, consequences may remain.

Non-severe contact dermatitis resulting from constant or prolonged use of chemicals without skin protection. These diseases easily pass into the chronic stage, when ulcers and wounds and cracks that do not heal for a long time appear on the skin.

Another consequence of inhaling toxic vapors of chemicals is irritation of the mucous membranes of the larynx and nose.