Do you notice how commercial cleaning products, even “all-natural” varieties, clean faster than soap and water, and cut through grease and grime without much difficulty? This special ability can be attributed to a specific class of chemicals called glycol ethers.
Don’t be fooled by these chemicals, though. Even if they can clean your home adequately, they may also be putting your health in danger. Animal studies reveal that low-level exposure to glycol ethers can lead to birth defects, and sperm and testicle damage.
According to a report in AlterNet:
“You are exposed to the glycol ethers when you inhale them as the cleaner is used … Most glycol ethers can silently penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream … If that were not enough, the glycol ethers also go through natural rubber gloves and many types of plastic gloves without changing their appearance.” (link)
Overexposure to glycol ethers can also lead to intoxication, anemia, and eye and nasal irritation.
Dr. Joseph Mercola says: “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 many of the hazardous chemicals on the market today.”
The Dangers of Glycol Ethers
Glycol ether is a generic term for more than 30 solvents derived from crude oil. They have different properties and are used in numerous products such as cleaning chemicals, degreasing agents, paints, and inks. When these solvents enter your skin or lungs, they can be hazardous to your health. This is why it is not recommended to use cleaning products with glycol ether, which are usually used indoors without proper ventilation.
Many glycol ether variants are found to cause many severe side effects. For example, ethylene glycol monoethyl is linked to a lower sperm count in men. Animal studies also found that it can lead to reproductive abnormalities and low birth weight.
Research claims that pregnant women and young children are more susceptible to the damage caused by glycol ethers, which is why they must avoid products with these chemicals.
Glycol ethers are not the only chemicals that you should watch out for; there are many other toxic ingredients found in cleaning and personal hygiene products that may lead to irritating and severe health effects. Check out other toxic ingredients in “green” cleaning products that you should beware of.
Warning: Some “Green” Cleaning Products Are Not What They Claim to Be
More and more consumers are now becoming aware of the dangers of the products they use in their homes. Many companies now offer eco-friendly cleaners, like Simple Green, Purex Natural Elements, and Clorox Green Works Natural All-Purpose Cleaner.
However, not all of these cleaning products are as “green” as they claim. Some are still loaded with glycol ethers and other dangerous chemicals that may be harmful when inhaled or when they are placed on your skin.
“Folks, the simple truth is that if a substance cuts through grease and dirt any faster than soap and water, then there are chemicals in there that most likely aren’t very good for your health,” warns Dr. Mercola.
You Don’t Need Toxic Chemicals to Clean Your Home
Dr. Mercola says that there are some household items that can get the job done just as good as toxic chemicals do. For example, a vinegar-hydrogen peroxide solution works well as a disinfectant and sanitizer.
He also recommends using baking soda, saying that it is a “real powerhouse” when it comes to household cleaning. Baking soda can help:
- Clean your oven. Leaving a baking soda paste on the bottom of your oven can help loosen the grime that has collected, so that it can be easily cleaned off.
- Unclog a drain. Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once it bubbles, it means that the mixture has worked. Flush it with a cup of boiling water.
- Deodorize dry carpets. Sprinkle baking soda all over the carpet, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then vacuum it out.
- Clean your silver. In a shallow pan, boil two to three inches of water with one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda, and an aluminum foil sheet. Submerge your silver in it and let it boil for two to three minutes. Afterwards, you can easily wipe away the tarnish on the silver using a clean cotton cloth.
- Clean metals and porcelain safely. Use it as a scrub to wipe these materials. Baking soda will not scratch the surfaces.
For more tips in cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, read Dr. Mercola’s article How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally.
“Remember, if you have trouble finding safe alternatives, there is nothing wrong with natural soap and water for cleaning most surfaces. It will take a little more elbow grease, and you’ll have to rinse the soap off, but the benefit of avoiding toxic chemicals far outweighs any extra effort you might have to put in,” says Dr. Mercola.