Cleaners 101

2-Butoxyethanol

A skin and eye irritant also associated with blood disorders.

Found in: glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers.

Alkylphenol ethoxylates

A skin and eye irritant also associated with blood disorders.

Found in: glass cleaners, laundry stain removers, carpet cleaners, automobile cleaners, windshield wiper fluid, degreasers, oven cleaners, and rust removers.

Ammonia

Vapours may irritate the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. People with asthma may be particularly sensitive to the effects of breathing ammonia. May also cause kidney and liver damage.

Found in: window cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet cleaners, bathroom cleaners, oven cleaners, stainless-steel cleaners, car polish, and all-purpose cleaners.

Coal tar dyes

Concern that synthetic dyes may cause cancer and that heavy metals can harm the nervous system.

Found in: most types of cleaning products.

Fragrance chemicals

Irritants that can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. Can build up in the environment and can be toxic to aquatic organisms. Suspected endocrine disrupters.

Found in: most types of cleaning products.

Monoethanalomine

Can react with nitrites (present as preservatives or contaminants in other products) to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. MEA is also known to induce asthma. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Found in: liquid laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, car wash products, degreasers, dishes soap, oven cleaners, and glass and surface cleaners.

Phosphates

High concentrations in bodies of water can promote harmful algal bloom, increase weed growth and kill fish.

Found in: dishwasher detergents, laundry detergents, and bathroom cleaners.

Cleaners 101

Quats

Irritate and sensitize skin, cause allergies, and trigger asthma. Do not readily degrade in the environment. Toxic to fish.

Found in: bathroom cleaning products, all-purpose cleaners, fabric softeners, and degreasers.

Silica powder

Rated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a known human carcinogen. This natural ingredient (made from finely ground quartz) is hazardous as a dust if inhaled.

Found in: abrasive cleaning powders.

Sodium dihydrate

Corrosive; severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. High doses of this chemical cause kidney damage. Very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term effects in aquatic ecosystems.

Found in: toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, surface cleaners, and disinfectants.

Sodium hydroxide

Highly corrosive; can burn the eyes, skin and lungs and is a respiratory irritant. Long-term exposure in the air may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation. If discharged in large quantities, can alter the pH of water.

Found in: oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, disinfectants, drain openers, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Sodium laureth sulfate

Found in dish soap with other ethoxylated alcohols (look for eth in the chemical name). Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer, and is persistent in the environment.

Found in: dishes soap, liquid laundry detergents, cleaning towelettes, and toilet bowl cleaners (as well as sudsy cosmetics).

Triclosan

May interfere with hormone function and contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Found in: dish soaps and disinfectants, as well as a wide range of other household products. Look for it listed as an “active ingredient” in antibacterial products.

Trisodium nitrilotriacetate

A possible human carcinogen. In aquatic ecosystems, can also cause heavy metals in sediment to redisolve and these metals are toxic to fish and other wildlife.

Found in: bathroom cleaners and possibly some laundry detergents (more common in industrial formulations).