Clear and Present Dangers of Household Cleaning Products


Chemical household cleaners are ubiquitous in supermarkets and hardware stores worldwide. It would be rare to find a household that doesn’t have at least one bottle of bleach, ammonia or oven cleaner somewhere in the home. These chemical agents are toxic, hazardous and potentially fatal to humans. Yet, for all the efforts that some families make to maintain health, these chemicals remain a part of the daily lives of those who desire to keep a clean home environment.


Bleach is one of the most common and popular household cleaners in use today. It is relied on for everything from cleaning floors to bleaching chopping blocks. It also holds the dubious title of being the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. Bleach is categorized as a corrosive, and it can literally burn a hole through stainless steel. If you’ve ever used too much bleach in your white laundry load and discovered holes in your garments, you’ve seen firsthand the corrosive power of bleach.

Yet, many products containing bleach that are sold on store shelves today are used by homemakers without any personal protection such as gloves or a face mask. Since bleach is inexpensive and available almost everywhere, most people use it without concern over its health risks.

Overexposure to bleach can cause skin burns, respiratory edema and more. In a recent study by a leading scientific journal, passive exposure to bleach in the home was linked to respiratory illness in young children, coupled with lower I.Q. scores. Even unborn infants are susceptible to this dangerous chemical’s effects, when expectant mothers clean with bleach.


Ammonia is a naturally occurring compound made of nitrogen and hydrogen. Its unique properties render it an effective cleaning agent, among other things. It’s commonly found in popular glass and floor cleaners, and most homemakers value its ability to make glass shine without streaking.

Despite its natural makeup, ammonia is both caustic and potentially hazardous. OSHA has placed a time limit for exposure to ammonia gases to 15 minutes due to its noxious fumes. In the U.S. ammonia is defined as toxic by inhalation.

Despite these facts, homemakers across the world use ammonia in a dangerous and carefree manner. Floors are mopped with ammonia and water solutions that cause fumes to permeate the house. Windows are polished with one of the most popular glass cleaners where ammonia is the primary cleaning agent in the ingredients.

Oven Cleaner

Oven cleaner formulations contain a lengthy list of caustic, corrosive and toxic ingredients, including acid. To perceive the dangerous health consequences from oven cleaner, one only has to inhale one breath. Choking, throat swelling and even death can occur from breathing in this toxic combination of chemicals. The long list of associated symptoms from oven cleaner exposure should be enough to warn everyone away from ever using this cleaner in the home again.

Chemicals Have a Place in Industry

It’s important not to vilify chemicals in an all-encompassing fashion. Chemicals such as bleach, ammonia and oven cleaner have a place in the world. In weak dilutions, bleach can purify water to make it suitable for drinking in heavily populated regions of the world where clean drinking water is not readily available. Ammonia is used as a refrigerant because of its vaporization properties. Without it, millions of people wouldn’t be able to live in areas with soaring temperatures. In industrial use, oven cleaners are used to clean furnaces and engine parts. Chemicals like bleach, ammonia and oven cleaner play an integral role in civilization’s ability to live, work and recreate on earth.

Chemicals Not For The Home

Bleach, ammonia and oven cleaner don’t belong in the home. Their toxic properties pose a danger to humans and pets, making them an unnecessary health risk. They pose a threat to human health when used in certain manners. Unfortunately, the very nature of their intended use represents the manner in which they poison humans and animals.

Natural Cleaning Solutions are Better

On the other hand, natural cleaning solutions in the home pose no threat to human health, and can be used safely by adults and mature children alike. Natural cleaning solutions are just as effective, if not more so, than their commercial, chemical counterparts. They can be made with inexpensive ingredients that are not toxic, give off no noxious fumes, and can be used liberally without skin or respiratory protection.

The Market is Taking Notice

Thankfully, manufacturers are taking notice of the waning tolerance of the public for toxic chemicals in commercial household cleaning products. More products are being offered for sale that use alternative ingredients to bleach, ammonia and acid. Still, buyers need to be wary of labels. It’s prudent to do your due diligence and check the back of labels to survey the actual ingredients. Compare these ingredients to those that have been identified by consumer protection organizations as being potentially carcinogenic or dangerous in other ways. As always, it’s up to the individual to make the right personal decision.


Kate Supino
Kate Supino writes about nutrition, whole foods and holistic living. Visit her online portfolio at: