This is an issue that’s really important to me and that I think should be important to everyone. I’d like to live in a world where our bodies aren’t chemical carriers by default.

“The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found the human body carries 210 of the 75,000 chemicals registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. The one study revealed the participants carried an average of 43% of the said chemicals. The chemicals found included over 50 carcinogens and more than 60 substances considered toxic for the reproductive and nervous systems. The findings have led to general guidelines aimed at reducing chemical pollution, especially the number of household cleaning products used.”  Bio-Vert

A lot of us think about what we put in our bodies. We make conscious food choices for our health, the planet, and our ethical convictions. A lot of us think about what we put on our bodies for many of the same reasons. Food and body care products are an obvious starting point if you’re concerned about what’s making it’s way into your body, but don’t forget about the products you use to clean your home.

“According to the Cancer Research Society, 12.6% of the population will have a strong reaction to small amounts of chemical substances such as VOCs or the fragrances found in many cleaning products.  Bio-Vert

Non-toxic & sustainable cleaning should be a priority is every conscious home.

I know from experience finding truly non-toxic options is a challenge. A lot of the terms used by manufacturers and marketers aren’t legally defined. The result is that manufacturers can say things that lead you to believe a product is non-toxic, when a close look at the ingredients list tells you otherwise. This applies to conventional manufacturers and green companies alike. Terms like “natural” “naturally derived” “green” “free and clear” and (the most rage inducing) “made with organic botanicals” can be totally meaningless. It’s called corporate greenwash.

It’s really easy to get taken by corporate green wash. We usually just take it on a company’s honour that a product marketed as “green” really is. Sometimes it isn’t a tactic so much as a poor formulation (that they’re usually still working to improve.) There are a lot of green brands I trust that sell a few bad products here and there. What’s important is to know exactly which green products to avoid. For that reason I’m so happy to offer this guide free for anyone and everyone’s use and benefit. Please share it widely with anyone in your life who cares about their wellbeing.

EWG provides information on cleaning product ingredients from published scientific literature, to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government. The ratings indicate the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in this product – not the product itself – compared to other product formulations. The ratings reflect potential health hazards but do not account for the level of exposure or individual susceptibility, factors that determine actual health risks, if any. – EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning



  • The chemicals found in common household cleaners significantly affect indoor air quality.
  • Indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.
  • In an experiment by Environmental Defense Canada it was found that a 30 minute clean up doubled levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home.


  • Chemicals found in common household cleaners are one of the top pollutants, along with agricultural runoff and sewage treatment.
  • Nitrogen and phosphorous are two of the most hazardous chemicals found in common household cleaners. These chemicals aren’t removed from water by the water treatment process so they make their way into rivers, streams, lakes, groundwater and ain
  • inking water. This is called “nutrient pollution.” Nutrient pollution has significant effects on human health and the environment.
  • Common household detergents like dish soap, car wash and laundry detergent are made up of 30-40% phosphorous.
  • In 2010 phosphorous based dish soaps were banned in 16 states and phosphorous concentrations in cleaning products were limited to 0.5%.


  • Nitrogen is found in glass cleaner, dish soap and other detergents in the form of ammonia.
  • Nutrient pollution deposits nitrogen based compounds called nitrites into the drinking water of millions of people, which can be harmful even in low concentrations.
  • Excess nitrite in the body reduces the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues, a disorder called  methaemoglobinaemia. Infants are especially vulnerable.
  • Independent research from both Canada and the United States has found an association between high levels of nitrite in the body and incidence of gastric and esophageal cancers. Nitrites react with compounds in the human stomach to form carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds.
  • High nitrate levels in drinking water have been linked to congenital malformations in Australia.


  • Nitrogen compounds in the air produce pollutants like ammonia and ozone, which reduce air quality.
  • Too much nitrogen in aquatic areas causes algae to overgrow into algal blooms, disrupting the balance of entire aquatic ecosystems and creating oxygen starved dead zones.
  • Humans are linked to our environment. The health hazards posed by household cleaners impact humans directly and indirectly through the environment. We can’t remove ourselves from the environmental impact of our choices. No one is safe is the environment isn’t safe.


  • NPE’s (nonylphenol ethoxylates) have been phased out of detergents in the EU and US but are still widely found in various cleaners, disinfectants, drain treatments, and floor care and protection.
  • Not biodegradable. Bioaccumulative (toxic compounds accumulate in fatty tissues and move up the food chain into larger and larger organisms including humans.)
  • Also used as a stabilizer in plastic food packaging.
  • Xenoestrogen (endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and causes hormonal imbalance.
  • Promotes growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Doses lower than what is generally found in the environment pose risks for first trimester pregnancy and have been linked to placental cell death.
  • High concentrations are found in human breast milk.
  • Use is prohibited in the EU, being slowly phased out in the US, but still widely available in commercial detergent in Asian and South American countries where there is little regulation.


  • Antibacterial cleaners contribute to the bacterial resistance epidemic.
  • Antibacterial cleaners don’t leave your home any cleaner than plain soap and water.
  • Common antibacterial agents are Quats (quaternary ammonium compounds) and triclosan.
  • In peer reviewed studies quats have been shown to cause reproductive toxicity. They are also known to cause antibiotic resistance.
  • Triclosan has been banned in antibacterial hand wash by the US FDA, but beware its still found in deodorant and other cosmetics.
  • Banned in the EU, where it was found to be toxic and bioaccumulative and “no safe use could be demonstrated.”
  • Still allowed in Canada in everything from cosmetics to cleaning products.

“Large companies have found that consumers respond well to products claiming to be “antimicrobial,” “antibacterial,” etc. However, this culture of surface cleanliness leads to the frequent use of antimicrobial agents in the community, exposing microbes to increased levels of antimicrobial agents and the subsequent development of resistance. The use of bactericides, disinfectants and antiseptics in the home, community and health care facilities (in cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products, etc.) and the incorporation of these agents in common household products increase selective pressure on bacteria to develop a resistance to these agents. In a study of over 240 American households, the households using disinfectant cleaners did not record lower microbial infections than the households using non-disinfectant cleaners.”  Bio-Vert


  • “Fragrance” is probably the worst ingredient in most formations.
  • The word “fragrance” on an ingredient list can be used by manufacturers to hide thousands of untested chemicals through trademark protection.
  • 90% of the chemicals that can fall under “fragrance” are petrochemicals and many of which are known human carcinogens.
  • 75% of the chemicals used in typical synthetic fragrance are endocrine disruptors.
  • A study of 13 common household air fresheners showed that they aggravate asthma and affect reproductive health.
  • Aerosol air fresheners contain CFCs, which contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.

“A majority of personal care products for men, women, and children, along with home-cleaning products, contain “fragrance.” The ingredients in “fragrance” are absorbed into the bloodstream directly though the skin. We advise people to avoid ALL products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the label—including perfumes and colognes, baby lotions and wipes, air fresheners and candles, dryer sheets and detergents, and so on.” Five ‘Must-Knows’on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance – Huffington Post

Featured image credit @healthyplanetgroup


Cristina is the founder and editor in chief of bold + blush. She's been covering the beauty beat here for almost three years, applying the research skills she picked up in law school to cut through the beauty industry hype and find the products and practices that actually work. Her other interests include wellness, yoga and cooking. When she isn't writing about beauty on bold + blush you can usually find her freelancing as a writer, blogging at, or spending time with her husband and dog at home in Amsterdam. Fun fact: She's usually reading half a dozen books at any given time.

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