If you get easily irritated by conventional cleaning products, you’re not alone. Most cleaning products on the market contain common allergens – even the ‘healthier alternatives’. Read on to learn about how to find the best anti-allergy cleaning products for a healthy home.
Whether it’s you, your spouse, or kids who have allergies, living with a sensitivity impacts every area of your life. Many people are surprised to learn that their cleaning routine can trigger allergies, which is ironic because we clean to eliminate dust – another common agitator.
Most cleaning products come with obvious irritating ingredients such as fragrances, but others such as methylisothiazolinone are harder to notice. The good news is that carefully selecting your cleaning products can help minimize your exposure to chemical allergens and using the right cleaning tools can help you clear away dirt and dust efficiently.
If you suffer from allergies, one of the most important tools you can have to keep your home allergen-free is a good vacuum. Look for a vacuum with a high-efficiency air particulate (HEPA) filter.
The HEPA filter traps dust and dander that gets collected during the vacuuming process and stops it from circulating back into the air. A HEPA filter is capable of trapping extremely small micron particles that would otherwise float as impurities in the air.
In the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Guide to Healthy Cleaning’ 40% of floor cleaners that were inspected were rated with an F. A common problem with a lot of these cleaners is a lack of disclosure for ambiguous ingredients such as ‘fragrance’ or ‘preservatives’.
When looking for a floor cleaner, it is best to try and find an unscented, natural floor cleaning solution. This is important because you will be spreading the product over a large surface area which increases your exposure to the ingredients in it.
Natural floor cleaner is also important if younger members of your family are allergy sufferers as they spend a lot of time in close proximity to the floor.
Laundry detergent can be one of the worst culprits for allergies, especially for sensitive skin. Washing things in allergy-triggering soap increases your exposure to allergens during the wash, but you’ll also come into direct contact through clothing and bed sheets.
In general, people tend to associate scents with cleaning power, particularly in the wash – clothes seem cleaner if they smell fresh. But like most other cleaners, conventional laundry detergents that are scented get their ‘fresh smell’ from synthetic fragrance.
If your preference is to have your clean clothes scented, wash them using laundry detergents that are natural and lightly scented with a small amount of pure organic essential oil. If allergy sufferers in your household are particularly sensitive to scent, we would recommend using an unscented detergent with clear ingredient disclosure and an A rated EWG rating to ensure that the products are free from other harsh chemicals.
Dryer sheets are one of the worst hidden triggers for allergies. Like laundry detergent, they are often scented which can cause allergic reactions. Dryer sheets are also commonly coated in chemicals that are bad for the environment.
Wool dryer balls are a great alternative to dryer sheets. These felted balls roll around in your dryer with your clothes to prevent static electricity buildup and help soften your clothes. They are unscented and reusable, and they collect pet dander from clothes, further reducing allergens. If you prefer a scent, add a drop of your favourite pure organic essential oil to your dryer ball before you add it to a load.
Dish soap and dishwasher detergents will often come scented with problematic synthetic fragrances, but another common allergy trigger is colour. Like the ‘fragrance’ ingredient listing, the issue with ‘colours’ is the opaque nature of the label.
According to the EWG’s research, 12% of products use the terms ‘colourants’ or ‘colours’ instead of listing specific chemicals or dyes that make up the colour. Two dyes that are sometimes listed on products are ‘FD&C Yellow 5’ and ‘FD&C Red 40’ which may be allergy triggers or be contaminated with impurities known to cause cancer.
To keep your dishes allergy-free, use natural products with full ingredients lists that don’t contain ‘fragrance’, ‘colour’ or ‘colourants’. These chemicals are not necessary to clean your dishes.
There are many effective natural dishwasher and dish soap alternatives that are clear, lightly scented with pure organic essential oils or are simply scent-free.
You also run the risk of ingesting allergens when your food comes into contact with residues left from kitchen cleaning products.
In the kitchen category of the EWG ‘Healthy Cleaning Guide’, only 6% of products investigated received an A rating, and 32% of products were rated with an F. This means that the available information for 32% of kitchen cleaning products indicates a health hazard.
The potential for exposure to allergens in the kitchen is a little higher than other rooms because you can ingest them. For this reason, it is best to take extra care and choose only natural kitchen cleaners (when disinfecting isn’t needed) that are rated with an A by the EWG.
Scouring scrubs are great to have on hand for tougher cleaning tasks such as cleaning the oven, stove, burnt-in pans or soap scum build-up.
Oven cleaners in particular contain chemical ingredients such as ethanolamine, which is listed by the EWG as an asthmagen, respiratory irritant and is of high concern for skin allergies and irritation. What is worse is the number of these products that are marketed as ‘Fume-Free’.
Instead, use a natural scouring scrub powder to help cut through grease and work on stains. A good quality scouring powder can be sprinkled over surfaces for added scrubbing power but should be gentle enough on glass and stainless steel so that they don’t scratch the surfaces.
Scouring powders can also be mixed with a small amount of cleaner or water to form a strong cleaning paste that can be used to clean anything from coffee stained cups, grimy bathtubs and greasy stoves.
Bathroom cleaning products can also be laden with chemicals that can aggravate allergies. Bathrooms can be a challenge to clean which can lead many people to default to chemical cleaners to get the job done.
Staying on top of bathroom cleaning by regularly wiping and washing surfaces with natural bathroom cleaner and natural glass cleaner will make your job easier.If you’ve left it for too long, use a natural scouring powder instead of chemical-based formulas and a little elbow grease to work through tougher mess.
Regularly cleaning your drains with boiling water, baking soda and vinegar is also a great substitute for harmful drain cleaners. Also, be sure to regularly wipe and clean the bathroom fan to help ventilate your bathroom and keep it mould-free.
High-quality microfiber cleaning cloths are made with microscopic fibres that are superior at picking up dirt, dust and even bacteria. They are an essential tool for allergy friendly cleaning and great for people with sensitivities as they pick up mess rather than spreading it around surfaces or into the air.
Textured microfiber cloths are also great when used in conjunction with natural cleaners to help you clean without going overboard with cleaning products.
Cleaning is essential for keeping an allergy-friendly and healthy home, but it shouldn’t aggravate your sensitivities or make them worse. Look for products that list all ingredients, avoid using ambiguous ingredient descriptors such as ‘fragrance’ or ‘colour’, are made with natural ingredients and certified by a third-party such as the EWG.
If you use a cleaning service, keep in mind the residue that cleaning products can leave. Just because you aren’t exposed during cleaning, doesn’t mean that you won’t be exposed at all.
Look for a cleaning company that uses allergy-friendly products that you would be happy to use if you were doing the cleaning yourself.
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