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EPA: “The greatest exposure to toxic chemicals is right inside our own homes.”

Those who created chemical-based household products are putting the population at risk for long term health issues. Consumers who are opening their eyes to the true effects of the harmful ingredients in these products are taking matters into their own hands and learning more natural cleaning approaches.

poison residue on dishesWhen one envisions clean dishes, they may think of pristine, sanitized dishes left without any reminisces of food. That’s not too much to ask… right? I doubt they would imagine that the soap residue from the store bought soap could be potentially dangerous.

The FDA doesn’t mandate ingredient disclosure to household products. That means that what may be deemed “safe” for one person may be harmful to another. In fact, most commercial-brand dishwashing detergents are made from a petroleum-based mixture of chlorine bleaches and other harmful substances that can cause hormonal disruptions, lung and eye irritations, intoxication and even cancer.

Further, terms like “bio-based” and “solvent-free” have very broad meanings and do not necessarily indicate that a product is safer. Even the citrus- and pine-based cleaners, both bio-based, raise potential health and environmental concerns, and the term solvent refers to a large class of chemicals-ranging from the highly toxic to essentially benign, like water.

The Harmful Ingredients Found in Commercial Dish Detergents

Although the following ingredients are usually in small amounts in household cleaners, over time, they have the potential to cause long term health issues.

  • Ammonia – Ammonia is a very volatile chemical and can be damaging to your eyes, respiratory tract and skin. A dangerous combination is mixing bleach and ammonia as the fumes can be very toxic, and often people don’t even know that their dish detergents contain these chemicals.
  • Coal Tar Dyes – These dyes are derived from petrochemicals, and may be contaminated with trace amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Dyes in cleaning products can be absorbed through the skin or ingested in the case of soap residue on dishes.
  • Cocamide dea – This is a chemically-modified form of coconut oil used as a foaming agent. It’s also a possible carcinogen.
  • Chlorine bleach – Concentrated amounts of chlorine is a leading ingredient of commercial dishwashing detergents. Due to the concentration of this cleaning agent, it has also become the #1 cause of household poisoning. Each time you wash your dishes, detergent residue is left on them, which accumulates with each washing and is picked up next time you use the dish. Further, when chlorine is released, it’s fumes are also released into the air thus causing bronchial issues and asthma.
  • DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine) – These are hormone disrupting chemicals known to form nitrates and nitrosamines. These ethoxylated alcohols may also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a possible human carcinogen that is persistent in the environment. DEA is a mild skin and severe eye irritant. MEA is known to induce asthma in workplace settings.
  • Formaldehyde – This chemical is a cancer causing agent, as well has been found to cause severe asthma and allergies. It is a chemical with many names: Quanternium-15 or DMDM hydantoin. Other trade names for formaldehyde are methanol, methyl aldehyde and methylene oxide.
  • Fragrance – Fragrance: More than 3000 chemicals are used when making fragrance mixtures. These toxic fragrance compounds coat plates, glasses and silverware which ultimately become ingested when used
  • Glycol ethers – This is are grease-cutting compound that can damage developmental and reproductive systems. Overexposure to glycol ethers can cause anemia, intoxication, and irritation of the eyes and nose. In laboratory animals, low-level exposure to glycol ethers has caused birth defects and damage to sperm and testicles. The most commonly used glycol ether, 2-butoxyethanol, has been shown to cause liver cancer in animals.
  • Phosphates – According to Cascade’s website, phosphates “helped with dishwashing performance by facilitating food removal, removing the calcium that binds these types of foods together, and aided in grease removal. They also helped control water hardness and bound/suspended soils within the wash water so they did not redistribute onto plates.” What they did not say is that phosphates pollute lakes, bays, and streams and can create algae blooms and starve fish of oxygen. Luckily, 17 states passed laws requiring the removal of phosphates from detergents.
  • Sodium borate – Although sodium borate is a naturally-occurring mineral that poses high concerns for hormonal disruption.

Those who created chemical-based household products are putting the population at risk for long term health issues. Consumers who are opening their eyes to the true effects of the harmful ingredients in these products are taking matters into their own hands and learning more natural cleaning approaches. As the adage goes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

There are several simple and inexpensive household substances that are very effective for many types of household cleaning jobs, especially when applied with a little extra elbow grease. These substances include white vinegar, baking soda, mild liquid (e.g., castile) soap, and lemon juice. (Note that vinegar (acetic acid) and lemon juice are acidic and thus potential irritants to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes; concentrated acetic acid may also cause respiratory effects when heated. They are useful for removing mineral deposits and wax or grease build-up, but they should not be used on all surfaces.

Homemade Dishwashing Liquid

6 cups hot water
3 tbls. Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
11/2 c. liquid Castille Soap
5-6 drops tea tree oil, lavendar or eucalyptus oil

  1. In a large container, dissolve 1 tablespoon of washing soda in 2 cups of water.
  2. Then add liquid Castille soap, and tea tree oil and gently stir.
  3. Pour into container.

Or, if you prefer tablets for the dishwasher, use a recipe I wrote about in 10 Household Products You Never Have To Buy Again {With Shopping List}:

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Tablets

2 cup washing soda
2 cup baking soda
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup citric acid
1 cup vinegar
10-15 drops essential oils (lemon, lavender and peppermint will add antibacterial properties and aromas to tablets)

  1. In a large bowl, add ingredients. When the vinegar is poured, it will create a slight fizzing and will die down within 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add your mixture to ice cube trays, pressing with your fingers or back of a spoon.
  3. Allow mixture to dry in a warm and sunny spot for 24 hours or until completely dry. Remove and add to an airtight container.
  4. Add one tab to the dishwasher dispenser. Also use vinegar or jet-dry in your rinse dispenser too.

To conclude, when purchasing cleaners, look for signal words on product labels. Try to avoid most products labeled “danger/poison” (indicating that they can be lethal when ingested in very small quantities), as well as products labeled as corrosive, severely irritating, highly flammable, highly combustible, or strong sensitizer.

Having a clean home should never cost you something as valuable as your health, but that’s exactly what you’re putting at risk when you use household cleaners and laundry detergents filled with chemicals on the market today.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on September 3rd, 2014