What Are the Chemicals Used in Cleaning Products?

Most households use an arsenal of cleaning products in the kitchen, in the bathroom and on the furniture, floors and appliances. Traditional cleaning products use dozens of ingredients and chemicals. Some of these chemicals can cause damage to the environment. The more hazardous chemicals can pose a serious health risk to users.


Chemicals in household cleaners can pose health risks.

A variety of household cleaners contain ammonia. For example, toilet bowl cleaners, glass cleaners, bathroom cleaners and disinfectants can contain ammonia. Ammonia can cause chemical burns on the skin. The chemical can also cause upper respiratory problems if inhaled. If mixed with chlorine bleach, the two chemicals form a toxic gas that can cause severe health problems.

Chlorine Bleach

Consumers can buy chlorine bleach to use on laundry and as a disinfectant. Many cleaners also contain chlorine bleach as an ingredient. For example, kitchen countertop disinfectant sprays, mold and mildew removers and some laundry detergents contain chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach causes breathing problems and eye irritations. It can even lead to death if mixed with other chemical ingredients.


Laundry and dishwashing detergents contain phosphates. The Labour Environmental Alliance Society reports that dishwashing detergents contain up 30 to 40 percent phosphates. Phosphates have negative environmental effects. Phosphates act as nutrients for algae and other plant life in water streams. Heavy doses of phosphates encourage an overgrowth of algae and plants, which can kill fish.

Ethylene Glycol Butyl Ether

Commonly found in carpet cleaners, ethylene glycol butyl ether causes negative health effects. If swallowed or absorbed into the skin, ethylene glycol butyl ether can cause damage to the kidneys and liver as well as blood disorders. Long-term exposure to the chemical may damage the reproductive system.

Trisodium Nitrilotriacetate

Trisodium nitrilotriacetate exists in many laundry detergents. This chemical has both negative health and environmental effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists trisodium nitrilotriacetate as a possible carcinogen, according to the Labour Environmental Alliance Society. In the environment, the chemical can prevent waste treatment plants from removing metals from the water.

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