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Carcinogens in Cleaning Products – And What You Can Do About It

Updated on October 2, 2016
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

What is in Your Home?

In the United States cancer is responsible for close to 500,000 deaths annually, second only to heart disease. There our many products we use in our homes that contain ingredients linked to or suspected to cause cancer, plus they have other ingredients that may cause allergies, asthma, and other health problems. Loose government regulation is to blame, but we can take charge in our own homes once we know what to look for.

Green Cleaning Products

Non-toxic Products

There are a lot of non-toxic options that work well which we can use to replace the toxic products, and they are usually cheaper and easier to replace. For instance, many cleaning products can be made with items you already have on hand, which include things like white vinegar, baking soda, salt and many other items. The two videos will show you in more detail how to make a variety of cleaning products.

How to Make Organic Cleaning Supplies, Threadbanger

Chemical Products to Beware Of

Art and craft material: You might not think of art and craft materials as carcinogens; however, there is a full list of prohibited items for use in California schools put together by the California PA to guard against exposure to carcinogens or other highly toxic ingredients. Use vegetable-based dyes and paints and as you probably know, avoid paints with a lead or other heavy metals. Also, use water based glues, paints and markers. Avoid hazardous solvents like rubber cement, paint thinners and solvent-based markers.

Automobile supplies: We know how unhealthy auto exhaust fumes are, so it's no surprise that the fluids we use in our cars are not very safe either. If you work on your own car do so carefully and keep the automotive supplies locked away when you're not using.

Dry-cleaning: Conventional dry cleaners use many chemicals and they can stick to your clothing for several days. If your garments require dry-cleaning, ask for the wet cleaning option of the cleaners and seek dry cleaners that use liquid CO2 or citrus juice cleaners.

Some of the main offenders are:

Air fresheners: They often contain naphthalene and formaldehyde; both are known carcinogens, as well as, a host of other toxic chemicals. These chemicals mixed with ozone make the air fresheners more toxic. The best thing to do is remove the odor source first rather than trying to mask them. Keep your garbage emptied; keep the window open when possible; clean the source of the bad odor with non-toxic products; burn 100% pure beeswax candles with 100% cotton wicks and they will purify the air. Use an open box of baking soda to freshen the refrigerator or any room. Indoor plants are great to clear carbon dioxide and other toxins as well.

You can also perfume the air with natural methods such as simmering cinnamon and cloves, fresh ginger or herbs and water on top of stove. Try using a drop or two of your favorite pure essential oil. For cleaning, try zeolite, baking soda or natural fragrances from essential oils.

Clean the Air with Plants

Photo courtesy of Gonline
Photo courtesy of Gonline

Kitty with Fleas

Flea, Tick and Lice Control

Avoid lindane-based pesticides. In rare cases lindane has caused seizures and even death. There are some safer alternatives listed on the linked website.

Ready to Clean

Check the Labels when Buying These Products

Moth balls:

Moth balls are nearly 100% naphthalene, a carcinogen or paradichlorobenzene, a toxin. I don't know if many people use moth balls today as they did when I was young, but they were typically used to combat moths eating your wool clothing while stored in a cedar chest.

Cleaning products:

Not all cleaning products contain carcinogens, but this is a list of the worst offenders; mold and mildew cleaners often contain formaldehyde. Use a natural approach to killing mold and mildew by using tea tree oil with hot water.

Stain Removers for Carpet & Upholstery:

Products that are designed to remove stains or heavy dirt from carpet and upholstery sometimes use the ingredient percloroethylene, which is the central nervous system toxicant and respiratory irritant. Instead, try using a steam cleaner with water as a natural-based cleaner. When you shop for furniture look for styles that use slipcovers that can be removed and washed or water-process dry cleaned.

Furniture Polish:

Typically, furniture polish achieves a shine with nitrobenzene, which is a reproductive toxin in central nervous system toxin that can be absorbed through the skin. Look for an all-natural polish or make your own polish by using 1/8 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon vodka.

Gorgeously Green: How to Make Organic All-Purpose Cleaner


There is a whole list of products with carcinogens on WikiCancer from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Since most of this cleaning list includes ingredients that you already have in your home, it should be easy to replace the items with non-carcinogens and avoid any contact with ingredients that could cause you cancer or any illness. Most of the cleaning products, the paints, the automobile chemicals, just make good common sense anyway and are easy enough to avoid exposure.

© 2011 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Barbsbitsnpieces, I'm glad this hub was helpful to you. Thanks for your comments.

  • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

    Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

    @Pamela99...Thanks for sharing this useful Hub! It's great information, especially for persons with breathing difficulties and other ailments that already exist. Finding out what to avoid using in our own homes is valuable help going forward.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    marimccants, Thank you for your comments.

  • marimccants profile image

    marimccants 6 years ago

    Wow, good information here.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    jolisa, I am glad this hub was helpful and I appreciate your comments.

  • jolisa profile image

    jolisa 7 years ago

    Very useful information, thank you, I feel much happier using non-topic products.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    mama-em, I'm glad this hub was helpful to you and when I think of raising my children with all those harsh chemicals I am grateful they are grown and healthy now. Thanks for your comments.

  • mama_em profile image

    mama_em 7 years ago

    Thanks for the great information. I am always looking for green alternatives. It is scary to think that the floors that many babies are crawling on are washed with such harsh chemicals and carcinogens.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Sherri, I'm very glad that you enjoyed the hub I appreciate your comments.

  • profile image

    Sherri @ Luv a Bargain 7 years ago

    I am SO excited about finding this. Thank you!!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Tam Cor, That sounds like a good idea. I appreciate your comments.

  • TamCor profile image

    Tammy Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

    Thanks for all of the good tips! I've been using baking soda and vinegar for years, but some of your tips I hadn't heard of before, and am anxious to try.

    I've just discovered the usefulness of steaming, too, and have started using my steamer for more than just getting wrinkles out of clothes! :)

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Audry, Thanks for your comment.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

    Interesting Pamela - will have to check into that and good information for everyone.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Rebecca, I really appreciate your comments and I didn't want to put up all the bad news without putting up some solutions. Thanks again.

  • Rebecca E. profile image

    Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

    love this hub. WHY? because you give suggestions as to what you can use otherwise. many many thanks.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    midnightbliss, Thanks so much for your comment.

  • midnightbliss profile image

    Haydee Anderson 7 years ago from Hermosa Beach

    great alternatives for toxic cleaning products that we often use.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Katie, I know you are current on all these things. I appreciate your comments.

    Mickey Dee, What a sweet comment and I appreciate it very much.

    acaetnne, I think so many people don't read labels and realize the dangers. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • acaetnna profile image

    acaetnna 7 years ago from Guildford

    A brilliant hub Pamela. I have long thought chemical cleaners are very hazardous. I even bought a jewellery cleaner last year and when I read the instructions at home in very tiny print it said 'May cause cancer'! How are these products allowed to be sold? Mine went straight into the bin.

    I prefer to use a steam cleaner for my cleaning but your suggestions are brilliant too. Thank you for such great information.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 7 years ago

    This is awesomely beautiful as you are dear Pamela. Thank you very much for this. We need the alternatives to hard chemicals.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

    All natural cleaners free of chemicals that are harmful in so many ways is a no brainer to me! Thanks for bringing this to light, a clean light! Blessings, Katie

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    JY, Drinking water is another major problem and a lot of people aren't aware of it so I'll look forward to your hub. Thank you so much for your comments on mine.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Very good Pam. I'm about to publish a related story on our drinking water. Voted up on this one.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    drbj, I hadn't read about hand sanitizers but I'll bet she is right. Thanks for your comments.

    Hello, I'm glad you liked my hub. Thanks for your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you, Pamela, for much good advice. Your are super.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

    Hi, Pamela. I never realized air fresheners were bad for your health. They smelled so nice they had to be good. Thanks for the newsflash. And one of your fans commented on hand sanitizers. Are they villains, too?

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    BKCreative, Yes, I agree that we must be responsible for what we bring into our homes and we need to be aware of the names of the toxins so we know what to avoid. Thanks so much for your comment.

    prasetio, So glad you enjoyed my hub and a very much appreciate your comments. God bless you too prasetio.

    BlissfulWriter, It sounds like you're already careful as to products you use. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image

    BlissfulWriter 7 years ago

    I don't like to use things with too much chemicals. I don't use air fresheners either. That's a good tip on using salt and vinegar instead.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

    You have valuable information. We have more care with this, especially for cleaning product you mentioned above. I always learn much every time I visit your hub. Of course, you got my vote. Great tips and always beautiful. God bless you!


  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Thanks for your thoroughly informative hub. We just have to be responsible for bringing toxins into our homes - there is no excuse. We have to remember that these heavily advertised products are made for profit - health and environment be darned - and they are. Toxic chemicals are just not necessary.

    You laid out the risks as well - it is up to us - not someone else.

    Thanks again and rated up!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    rpalulis, After reading about all these toxic chemicals it makes you want to stay away from any display of cleaners. thank you for your comments.

    CMCastro, I didn't even think about hand sanitizer so thank you for adding map to the list. I very much appreciate your comments.

    Darsky, You have to write about making your own detergent so we can all learn how to do that. I'm glad you found the hub useful and I very much appreciate your comments. Love and peace.

    anginwu, It really is scary to find out all this information some of that I didn't know until I started doing research. I have been using more green products and I certainly will continue to change my ways as it's so simple to do and so much safer. Thanks for your comments.

    RTolloni, I'm glad you like the hub. Thanks so much for your comments. You can check on me anytime. I am using the Dragon naturally speak software since I am unable to type with my right hand since the surgery but it will be worth it when my hand is healed.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

    Voted up. Just checking to see what you've been up to and wow. This is very helpful. Thanks!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    It's scary what carcinogens found in cleaning products can do. This is a very useful hub on how we can be green and safe. Thanks for sharing and rated up.

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    Yes Pam, I love this sooooooooo much, I am learning how to make detergent from Robert and now all the other products from you. Rate this up, emailing to my friends, and twitting it. Love & peace darski

  • CMCastro profile image

    Christina M. Castro 7 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

    I am right with you on this hub, dear, and I am so aware now what is out there that is toxic. I can't stand Hand Sanitizer. For years, I was using this product and could not understand why all of a sudden I would feel so drowsy when I was at work. I decided to stop using hand sanitizer all together and was amazed at the remarkable difference. So I decided I will stop using other products that contain triclosan, triclocarbon and any form of alcohol. I won't even touch bleach unless I have gloves on. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

    I am on board with make your own natural cleaners 100% Excellent hub Pamela, such an important topic. I actually hold my breadth when I have to walk down the cleaning isle in the stores now.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Rosie, I'm glad this hub is useful for you and I appreciate your comments.

  • Rosie2010 profile image

    Rosie Rose 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    Hiya Pam, oh this is so useful for me. I love air fresheners and I've using Fabreeze lately. I love the vinegar and salt for cleaning too.. so easy to do plus I love vinegar. Thumbs up for sure and useful.

    Have a nice day,


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Kay, I am glad to hear that the clean homemade cleaners are working so well for you. It sure sounds like a safer way to clean house. Thanks for your comments.

  • Kay Creates profile image

    Kay Creates 7 years ago from Ohio

    Great information here. I like using homemade cleaners and find most work just as well as the commercial ones.