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The Risks Of Toxic Chemicals In Our Homes

The Risks Of Toxic Chemicals In Our Homes

You might find a lot of these toxic ingredients in your cupboard!

Cleaning chemicals are a huge part of our day-to-day life. If you’re anything like us, you take time and care to find the “right cleaning product” for you and your home which often consists of weighing up the price, the quality (or assumed quality based on product packaging and branding) and the size.

Some of us look for products that are advertised as Vegan or Cruelty Free whilst others look for particular scents or brands or the desired “eco” labelling. We look at the “kills 99.9% of bacteria” and think “that’s good!” and off we go to buy it and use it without even thinking of the consequences for a second. Not many of us read the instructions on the packaging for using the chemical safely let alone considering our health when handing over our cash at the counter. I mean, it’s designed for the home so it has to be safe, right!?

Wrong! As science and research continues to excel, so does our knowledge of toxic chemicals and how they’re not always safe in our homes despite our earlier assumptions, so we’ve compiled a list of the toxic ingredients you’ll probably find in your cleaning kits. Don’t be scared off too much though, we’ve also offered advice on how to use the cleaners safely and what eco cleaning products would be a safe alternative for your health and the environment too!

Hidden Toxic Chemicals You’ll Probably Find In Your Cleaners At Home!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, it’s first important to remember that it’s about understanding the product you’re using and how to use it safely to avoid the risks and side effects, not throwing all your cleaners away!


The toxin and its side effects: This ingredient is what makes your window cleaners smell so sweet. Basically, it’s a powerful solvent that doesn’t beat around the bush to get the job done! It’s been linked to creating sore throats when too much has been inhaled naturally and with high levels of glycol ethers in it, it can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Scary, right!?

Where you’ll find it: You’ll find this ingredient in domestic window cleaners, kitchen cleaners and multipurpose cleaners. As it’s not the law to include this ingredient on the packaging, it’s hard to know if it’s in the product you’ve chosen sadly.

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: Always well ventilate the area you are cleaning and remove any of your family, friends or pets from the area for a good few hours after use. We recommend using protective gloves and protective masks as always! Try using products made from natural ingredients or choose concentrated cleaners to reduce your usage of harmful chemicals – you’d be surprised how much product you’d reduce!


The toxin and it’s side effects: This rather aggressive antibacterial agent has been proven to promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, at which point you’re probably thinking “what?”. Essentially, The American Medical Association is worried that consumers are overusing antibacterial chemicals which, in turn, will help our microbes develop resistance to both antibacterial products but also antibiotics too which is a real concern amongst the health industry at the moment!

In addition to that, scientists have found “dangerous amounts” of triclosan in our rivers and streams which is a huge concern for our beautiful nature and wildlife! There are also some suggestions (although it’s yet to be proven) that triclosan may disrupt our hormone functions.

Where you’ll find it: It’s very likely you’ll find this hazardous ingredient in dishwasher detergents and hand soaps which are labelled antibacterial!

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: This one’s hard to avoid since washing your hands is so important and we definitely don’t recommend not washing them! What we would recommend instead is to avoid over using the product more than anything. Try looking for cleaning products with shorter ingredient lists or alcohol-based cleaners instead of triclosan based to avoid using too much of the chemical ingredient. As always, plant-based cleaners are a great alternative for both yourself and the environment as they don’t include anything harmful at all!

Quarternary Ammonium Compounds or “QUATS”

The toxin and its side effects: As Quats are another type of antimicrobial; you’ll find most of the same problems with this ingredient as you would triclosan. Other than increasing our chances of becoming antibiotic resistant, this ingredient is also a massive skin irritant and has been linked to the increase in asthma sufferers.

Where you’ll find it: You’ll mainly find this ingredient in fabric softeners and most cleaners labelled “antibacterial”.

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: Wearing protective clothing such as gloves and a mask where you can is a must as well as opening all of your windows! Alcohol-based cleaners and eco cleaners which use natural ingredients are a great alternative too!


The toxin and its side effects: Phthalates are known as endocrine disruptions in the health industry although that’s irrelevant as long as you know the side effects it can have and how you become exposed to them.

Your main exposure to the hazardous chemical is through inhalation although it can also occur with skin contact too. These toxins are absorbed through our skin to go directly to our organs, which doesn’t sound great does it? Well it’s not! The main side effects of using cleaning products with Phthalates in it are found to effect men. In some studies, the toxic compounds in their blood have correlated to reduced sperm counts!

Where you’ll find it: You will likely found Phthalates in most fragranced household products such as air fresheners, washing up liquids and possibly even toilet roll!

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: Sadly you won’t find this on the products label which isn’t against the law but you can usually guess the product has Phthalates in it if you find the word “fragranced” on the label. Of course, you could always contact the manufacturer too or check with Pattersons Cleaning Supplies for an expert opinion! Wear rubber gloves and face masks to avoid the side effects or simply avoid choosing “fragranced” cleaner as after all, a fragrance doesn’t help to clean anything!

Buy cleaning equipment from Pattersons in the West Midlands.Perchloroethylene or “PERC”

The toxin and its side effects: In technical terms, Perc is a neurotoxin and a possible carcinogen (depending on who you ask) but in non-technical terms, this cleaning product ingredient has been reported to create a dizzy feeling, loss of coordination and other similar symptoms which you may have experienced yourself when using some cleaners in your home or workplace. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned about the side effects of this common household cleaning products so much that they have ordered to phase-out all Perchloroethylene products in residential homes by 2020, whilst California wants to eliminate them totally by 2023.

You’re most likely to be exposed to the side effects through though inhalation and yes, the left over fumes and smells that linger will still affect you!

Where you’ll find it: You will find this toxic ingredient in dry-cleaning products for the home such as spot removers, carpet cleaners and upholstery cleaners.

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: One way to avoid having to use a Perchloroethylene cleaner is to take all of your products that say “dry clean only” to your local wet cleaner or alternatively, there are no nontoxic brands you can try at home such as Ecover which we love!


The toxin and its side effects: Let’s be honest, we’re all instantly repelled by the stench of chlorine despite the fact we associate it will something being clean. The health risks of being exposed to chlorine can be big or small. It can be a skin irritant or it can be a serious thyroid disrupter. Sadly, there’s not much you can do to avoid chlorine since it’s probably in your shower and bath water and definitely your swimming pool on holiday, but you can look at alternative cleaners to reduce your exposure to it.

Where you’ll find it: You’ll often find chlorine in scouring powders, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, toilet cleaners and even tap water (argh!).

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: We’d always recommended a plant-based cleaner if you can or a diluted cleaning chemical so you’re not using as much product! If you want to continue using the same products, that’s totally fine but make sure you wear cleaning gloves, cleaning masks and open all the windows!


The toxin and its side effects: Ammonia has its benefits. I mean, we’d be the first to admit it’s great for leaving behind no streaks on windows or mirrors which can be a complete pain! But beauty does come with a price as they say. Ammonia is known to be a powerful irritant which will affect people pretty quickly after use of the product. If you have asthma, are elderly or have lung issues/breathing products, then you should certainly avoid ammonia based cleaners at all costs! Sadly, it’s been proven that people who get a lot of Ammonia exposure, such as cleaners, can develop chronic bronchitis and asthma which nobody wants. Not only that, but it also creates a poisonous gas if mixed with bleach!

Where you’ll find it: You’ll mainly find Ammonia in polish and glass cleaners.

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: Choose a plant based cleaner alternative for safer usage, wear gloves and always wear a mask!

Sodium Hydroxide

The toxin and its side effects: Sometimes referred to as lye, Sodium Hydroxide is extremely corrosive – hence why products that include it come with strict directions and safety equipment! If these ingredients get onto your skin or in your eyes, it can cause severe burns whilst inhaling it can cause a sore throat for a week!

Where you’ll find it: You’ll most often find this in your oven cleaners and drain openers.

How to avoid the side effects & choosing the alternatives: Always ask our friendly team for advice on the safest way to use your cleaners and follow the rules to a T! Use the equipment you’ve been provided or even buy your own safety gloves and mask for extra protection!

How To Safely Use Cleaning Chemicals At Home

First things first, always read the instructions carefully and follow the instructions exactly. Chemicals products will explain how to use the product safely and in some cases, even provide safety gear. If you’re still unsure, product labels should also provide supplier details and they will be happy to advise you further.

We also advise you always follow these rules for your own safety:

  • Avoid using too much product. Don’t be worried to use it sparsely and only use as much as you need – you don’t usually need much anyway!
  • If a cleaning chemical’s label has a hazardous warning label, make sure children, pets and toys are kept away from the area for as long as recommended on the product label.
  • Always ventilate the area by opening windows
  • Wearing protective clothing including gloves, long sleeves and masks are advisable.
  • Never leave the cleaning product unattended!
  • Mixing the two common household cleaners, chlorine bleach and ammonia, creates a highly toxic gas so please do not do this!
  • After using your cleaning product, make sure to wash any part of you that came into contact with the chemical or packaging with warm soaping water.

Recognising Chemicals In Your Household Cleaning Products

All cleaning products should include hazard symbols on their packaging to explain to you what harmful chemicals are found in the product and what it means. There are 9 in total, some of which you might recognise as it’s quite common you’ll find more than one of these on some of your cleaning chemicals!

If this label showing a skull appears on a chemical product it shows that it's toxic

Very Toxic (fatal)

Chemical symbol for contains gas under pressureContains gas under pressure

If this label appears on a chemical product it shows that it's harmful to skin and might cause eye irritation

Harmful skin and eye irritation

Chemical symbol for flammableFlammable

Chemical symbol for explosive


Chemical symbol for harmful to the environment

Harmful to the environment

Chemical symbol for increases fire risk

 Increases fire risk

Chemical symbol for serious long term health hazards

Serious long term health hazards

Chemical symbol for severe skin burns and eye damage

Severe skin burns and eye damage

If you would like more information about these hazardous symbols or the ingredients in your cleaners, please contact our Pattersons cleaning experts and they will be happy to help make your everyday cleaning, safer!

It’s About Choosing Your Cleaning Products Wisely & Following The Instructions Not Entirely Ditching Them 

It’s been known for a long time now that some cleaning products can have negative side effects to our health when they come in contact with our skin or inhaled. Luckily, we live in a world now where we’re much smarter about the products we’re using and the effect they have on ourselves, our loved ones and our environment too!

Choose plant based cleaning products for a completely eco-friendly safe-to-use product with the same great results or consider drastically reducing the amount of harmful chemicals you’re exposed to by choosing concentrated cleaning products! We cannot stress any more how important it is to always follow the above steps for your own health and safety!

For advice on safe cleaning, our eco cleaners and Jangro Envirovisit, call our friendly team of experts on 011 7934 1270 or email

Happy and safe cleaning!

The Pattersons’ Team 


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