Hidden Toxins In Your Home And How To (Safely!) Remove Them
by Morgan Simon
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already started the process of transitioning to safe skin + personal care products. This is a HUGE step and I am so proud of you!
The toxins we put on our skin are directly absorbed into our bodies. As Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says in her book Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, “Many chemicals in personal care products and domestic cleaning formulas are synthetic oestrogens, which mimic the real oestrogens in our bodies, causing cancer of the breast, ovaries and other organs in women and infertility, impotence and other abnormalities in men”.
Since you’ve already mastered the first step of that equation with non-toxic personal care products, let’s take the next step together and tackle the toxins hidden in your home. Even in small amounts, the chemicals lurking in conventional cleaning and household products place an unbelievable amount of stress on our bodies. They hinder our healing abilities, strain our immune system (which is understandably on everybody’s mind at the moment!), and diminish overall health.
Fortunately, there are plenty of safe, non-toxic cleaning products and solutions that are easy to implement and, just as important, get the job done! Below we’ll walk through the top offenders hidden in your home, how to get rid of them, and safe options to replace them with.
First stop: the laundry room.
Conventional laundry detergent tends to be one of the most harmful products in many homes.
The Environmental Working Group, who rates product safety in their Guide to Healthy Cleaning database, gives Tide laundry detergent a D on the safety scale, citing multiple ingredients that have been tied to nervous system effects and endocrine and reproductive damage. Furthermore, because these products are used on our clothing and bedding, we are absorbing the toxins into our bodies (literally) 24 hours a day.
Again, don’t worry – there are plenty of safe alternatives!
My personal favorite is TX-based company Branch Basics, but you can find a complete list of safe rated options on the EWG site. And, if you are up for the task, making your own nontoxic laundry detergent is also a great option!
Dryer sheets are another source of hidden toxins. A 2012 study found that five of the most widely used dryer sheets emitted 15 different endocrine-disrupting chemicals. No thanks!
Fortunately, there is an easy replacement: wool dryer balls. Not only are they much safer and completely void of any toxins, but they are also much better for the environment and your budget.
And lastly, it’s time to ditch the fabric softener if you haven’t already done so. (I know what you’re thinking: who would have thought the laundry room would be home to so many harsh chemicals?!). Fabric softener often contains benzyl acetate, which has been linked to pancreatic cancer; ethanol which has been linked to Central Nervous System disorders; and phthalates which have been tied to everything from cancer to reproductive system damage.
This one is also quite an easy swap: a generous pour of vinegar in the laundry machine along with your clothing will safely function as your fabric softener!
Next up on our detoxifying journey is the bathroom.
Ironically enough, hand soap – the very thing we use to keep ourselves clean and healthy – tends to house several toxic ingredients. Fragrance, which is a catch-all term to 4,000 chemicals and is in nearly all conventional hand soaps, is absorbed through the skin and can contribute to severe health issues including cancer, heart disease, and endocrine system disruption. Unfortunately, artificial fragrance is just one of many harmful chemicals lurking in soap. Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS), parabens, and triclosan are among some of the other toxins you’ll want to avoid.
I recommend referencing the EWG or Think Dirty databases prior to purchasing any hand soap, as even many of the ones marketed as natural sneak in unnecessary (and often toxic) ingredients. My go-to is Seventh Generation unscented hand soap.
Bathroom cleaners are another hidden source of harsh chemicals that wreak havoc on our bodies. Particularly because they are used in small areas with limited ventilation, their dangerous impacts are exacerbated. Luckily, some of the safest (and best performing) bathroom cleaners are likely in your cupboard already: I swear by vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to keep my bathroom spick and span. Branch Basics (especially their Oxygen Boost) is also a favorite for tough bathroom cleaning.
The last stop on our journey to a safe, clean home is arguably the most important: the kitchen.
Let’s start with dish soap, which is often filled with artificial fragrance, dyes, and toxins. By this point, you probably already know the damaging effects these have, but in case you need a reminder: these chemicals cause undue stress on nearly every system within the body and contribute to a host of diseases.
Thankfully there are several brands that have popped up over the last several years and make non-toxic, effective dish soaps. A good guide to be referenced can be found here.
Conventional sanitizers, while popular, are incredibly toxic and something I caution strongly against. (I know this may be a bit hard to swallow in our current climate where nearly everything you read is promoting sanitizing.) Current research, however, tells us that not only may they be contributing to antibiotic resistance (think MRSA) but they do not actually work as advertised.
Antibacterial wipes, specifically, have been shown to be ineffective against killing bacteria and can contribute to spreading pathogens. I’ll repeat that again: Clorox/Lysol/any other antibacterial wipes may actually be spreading the very germs that you are trying to kill, while also exposing you to dozens of other toxins.
Not to fret, this one is also an easy fix! Using vinegar followed by hydrogen peroxide (and letting both dwell on the surface for 15 minutes before wiping) has been shown to be a safe and effective way to kill germs.
And, lastly, let’s tackle dishwasher cleaning solutions. For most of us (myself included!), this is one of the last places you suspect toxins. Unfortunately, they tend to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to asthma/respiratory implications, skin allergies, and developmental/reproductive toxicity. Luckily, I’ve found the non-toxic versions to be just as effective as the commercial ones I previously used. My personal favorite is Seventh Generation Unscented tablets.
Removing Items from Your Home
Many of the conventional products discussed above require hazardous waste protocols to remove them. If that isn’t a red flag, I don’t know what is!
It is important to properly remove them (and as quickly as possible) because even when they are stored with lids on the chemicals can escape into your home. Many towns and communities offer bulk trash days where they safely collect and dispose of household chemicals – Earth911 has a comprehensive list of collection sites.
I’ve mentioned quite a few of these already, but these wonderful resources are worth repeating as they are great to have in your tool kit as you transition to a completely nontoxic home:
- EWG Skin Deep – Database that rates personal care product safety
- EWG Healthy Cleaning – Database that rates household cleaning supply safety
- ThinkDirty – An app that scores personal care and household product safety
- Made Safe – Database of ingredients and their potential hazards. They also have a list of recommended, nontoxic products broken down by category which can be found here.
- Earth911 – Collection of recycling sites and information on how to safely dispose of various items
Taking the steps to clear your home of toxins is one of the most impactful steps you can take to increase your overall health – and I’m excited to be on this journey with you! If you have any questions as you walk through this process, I’d love to hear from you!
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