Girl Planting seeds

Green Your Cleaners This Spring

By Deirdre Imus, February 2018
The doldrums of winter can feel endless, and though many of us remain mired in winter’s grip, spring is sooner than you think. With just under one month until the official start of the next season, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning. Whether this means cleaning out clogged closets or scrubbing the tub and tiles until they can shine no more, clearing your home of clutter and debris is beneficial to both physical and psychological well-being.

It all depends, however, on how exactly you choose to clean your home. I’ve written and spoken tirelessly on the dangers of toxic cleaning agents, which contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to respiratory damage; nose, eye, skin and throat irritation; birth defects; asthma attacks; cancer; chemical burns; poisonings; and allergic reactions, to name a few. These products typically contain ingredients such as triclosan, ammonia, chlorine, phthalates, enzymes, bleach, and artificial fragrances, again to name just a few.

As if there isn’t already enough reason to avoid these products, a new study has found that women who clean at home or at work experienced a greater decline in lung function over time, compared to women who do not clean. The women in the study were followed for more than 20 years, and the research sought to evaluate the long-term impact of exposure to cleaning sprays and other cleaning products.

We’ve been promoting the concept of green cleaning for nearly two decades at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center, at Hackensack University Medical Center, where we developed our Greening The Cleaning product line. Green cleaning products are formulated with plant and mineral-based ingredients that have not been linked to cancer, do not cause reproductive problems, and are safe for the environment. Truly green cleaners also do not test on animals, or contain any animal-derived ingredients.  And while it’s encouraging that many retailers and consumers have followed suit and caught on to the benefits of using green cleaning products, studies like this recent one out of Norway indicate there is work to be done. 


Rather than worry about the health risks of decades of exposure to harmful chemicals, read carefully the labels of the cleaning products you buy. Look for third party product certifications such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Safer Choice” label, which was designed to give consumers the opportunity to purchase products with safer ingredients.  Every ingredient in every cleaning product that bears the Safer Choice logo is evaluated by the EPA for safety. 

Another helpful resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, where you can search by specific product and decode confusing labels.  In a recent study conducted by EWG, more than 20 cleaning products were selected and tested individually by a leading laboratory that specializes in studying air pollution released by cleaning products.  Results showed that third party-certified green cleaning products released half as many air contaminants as conventional products, and contained one-third the chemicals with known health concerns.

We encounter so many toxic exposures over the course of each day, whether we like it or not. You can control what comes into your home, and how these products affect the health of everybody who lives there. Start your spring cleaning early by ridding your home of all toxic cleaning products, and I guarantee you’ll feel better before the first flower blooms.


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