Reasons not to use your Mama’s (or Grandma’s) cleaning products

They say that family traits tend to skip a generation.  In my case, the cleaning habits did skip a generation, because my grandma would rather be outside or repairing a bicycle (her hobby), and I would definitely rather be doing anything outdoors than cleaning inside!  In any case, her old cleaning products like Pine-Sol and Simple Green are still around, but I found out that whenever I do get the urge to clean, I should not be using them.  What triggered my concern?  Several things, first being I knew from previous research that heavily-fragranced products contain a lot of toxic chemicals (see the post on Ewww! how can I get rid of that smell?).  Secondly, a recent study showed that simply mopping a floor with a normal terpene-based cleaner released as many nanoparticles into the air as are on a heavily-trafficked city street (yikes!).  I definitely am glad I do not have to clean as a profession.

Here are some common products (most of them overly-fragranced) that need a makeover.  

Pine-Sol: For some reason (probably because we lived in the woods) my mom favored Pine-Sol for cleaning our linoleum floors and the toilets and cleaning-wise, it seemed to do a decent job.  I even used it to clean my first apartment in the 1990’s.  However, it was recently discovered by Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) that many brand-name cleaners have hidden toxic ingredients, because manufacturers are not required by law to disclose all ingredients.  Their study and test-results give the details.  Pine-Sol contains toluene, which can cause pregnancy complications, limonene, which can cause allergies, and carbon tetrachloride, which is at least an irritant and at worst shown to cause kidney and liver damage.  According to the EPA it has already been discontinued from consumer use, but obviously manufacturers who are not required to disclose all ingredients to the consumer are also not purposefully disclosing to the EPA. 

Simple Green: Sounds pretty good, right?  I never like the smell of Simple Green, and maybe now I know why, because it was on the aforementioned study by WVE.  The formulation “Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner Non-Toxic Biodegradable” contains toluene, and “Simple Green Naturals Multi-Surface Care Lemon Verbena” contains phthalates, which cause hormone disruption and neurodevelopment disruption, and 1,4-dioxane, a cancer-causing ingredient.  The manufacturer was already ordered to pay $4 million in a class action settlement (2021) for making misleading claims about being a “non-toxic” cleaner.

Fabuloso: I was not familiar with Fabuloso until I started visiting family homes of a Latina friend.  It is quite popular in the Latin community, as it was created in Venezuela.  Full-strength Fabuloso, though formulated to emulate botanical fragrances like lavender and “spring in bloom” is very strong on the nose and eyes and every part of your respiratory system.  This smart Latina dug into  disclosed list of ingredients to find it contains Sulfuric Acid, 2 Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol Propyl Ether, and Alklbenzenesolfonic Acid, all of which are mild to severe respiratory irritants.  The EWG gives the Fabuloso Lavender Multipurpose Liquid Cleaner, one of the most popular fragrances, an “F” grade for toxicity.  It is certainly not “Fabulous”, and the not-uncommon habit of boiling it on the stove to perpetuate the fragrance can damage lungs and cause asthma in children.   However, it is a brand leader globally and a cultural icon, which means it will probably not die slowly.  

Do you want to be sure that you’re not breathing toxic nanoparticles or chemicals when you clean and afterward?  There are a couple of easy ways to do that.

  • First, you can use natural cleaning products over chemical agents. (20 Ways to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Your Home)  There are many DIY cleaner recipes online that use simple ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice and non-toxic soap, that you probably already have in your pantry or cleaning cabinet.
  • Our new product TotalClean is the one to replace floor cleaners, countertop cleaners, toilet cleaners and even spray deodorizers, because it performs well in all of these categories without toxic chemicals or fragrance.  If you want to add in fragrance, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils, which can be changed for your mood or the season.  This product has already replaced my Windex and Febreeze (also on the WVE list), and another countertop cleaner.  

With good non-toxic cleaners, maybe cleaning will move up the priority list–you never know!