There’s really is no denying that we rely on our cleaning products and if you’re anything like us here at Jan de Vries, you probably have a cupboard that’s stocked with all of the usual household goodies from easy-clean wipes to stain-busting laundry detergent.
But the real question we want to ask is what is really in these products? If you’ve ever tried to check you’ve probably encountered a large list of gobbledegook and nodded none the wiser, hoping that whatever it is, it will remove those beetroot stains from the carpet or help you de-grease your child’s school uniform.
Today we’re not taking gobbledegook for an answer. Our household cleaning products are definitely hiding some secrets and we’re here to unmask them!
Phthalates, Parabens and Perchlorethylene
What do your make-up and your dishwasher tablets have in common?
Phthalates, parabens, phosphate and perchlorethylene apparently.
While you may have caught a glimpse of them on the ingredients list, the odds are you’re now probably a bit confused. What makes phthalates, parabens and perchlorethylene so suited for both your blushers and your detergent? Well let’s start with the most well-known offender, parabens!
Parabens have been used as an anti-bacterial agent since the 1950s, making their way into everything from make-up to your cleaning products. However, in the 1990s parabens were exposed as xenoestrogens – they can mimic oestrogen in the body and some scientists have linked them to breast cancer, although no conclusive evidence has ever been verified.
Secondly in comes phthalates, a group of chemicals that act as binding agents. A couple of years ago there was a lot of buzz about phthalates and their effect on human health, with some research linking phthalates to everything from asthma to reproductive development. The real problem though, is that sometimes phthalates don’t even appear on the labels! You don’t know where they’re lurking but chances are if your product is fragranced, they’re in there!
Phosphate is another chemical that tends to lurk in the background. Ecover pioneer Frans Bogaerts was particularly concerned by this chemical and the polluting effects it may have upon aquatic life and the water system. This may be because they encourage algae growth and reduce the oxygen available for fish and plants in their natural water habitats.
And finally we have perchlorethylene, which we will refer to as ‘perc.’ Perc usually appears in dry-cleaning solutions or carpet cleaners. It’s recognised as neurotoxin and can be associated with dizziness and respiratory irritation, with the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens listing it as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.’
Nothing has been concluded but it still makes for a sobering look at your household cleaners. As we have already stated, some products don’t even need to list phthalates while parabens and perc often hide behind other names.
Our Top Tip - Watch out for tetrachloroethylene, methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl parabens. If you’re worried about phthalates try to go for fragrance-free!
What about all the rest?
The four big ‘Ps’ are just that – four of the potential nasties that your cleaning products could be concealing. There are so many others, we’d be here all day chewing your ear off about them. A few others we’d like to highlight though, are Ammonia and 2-Butoxyethanol.
Ammonia is often used in polishes but can be quite abrasive for your lungs, causing respiratory issues in those with sensitivities. Not ideal if you have children or care for elderly relatives. 2-Butoxyethanol on the other hand is very similar to phthalates, in that sometimes it doesn’t appear on the ingredients list at all.
"It can stimulate sore throats and has been linked to red blood cell damage in animal studies"
A couple of other nasty toxins to watch out for could include Triclosan, an antibacterial agent that is theorised to upset hormonal function and is known to be very bad for the aquatic life. Sodium lauryl sulfate, otherwise known as SLS can be very irritating for your skin and is believed to be toxic to the environment.
And finally there is chlorine, not just a popular addition to your local swimming pool. Chlorine is often used to inhibit bacterial growth and to disinfect, which is why it’s often present in bleach. It can be aggravating to inhale and cause difficulty breathing, especially if you are over-exposed to the substance!
A couple of side-effects have already been mentioned but we will admit, usually the risk is minimal provided you ventilate your home properly and keep such products out of the reach of children or pets. However these toxins are often very abrasive for those that suffer from sensitive or delicate skin, such as children, babies, the elderly and those with eczema or psoriasis.
It’s important to strike a balance – you have to clean your home but not at the expense of polluting it with unnecessary chemical toxins. But what is the alternative?
Natural home cleaning
Natural home cleaning brands, such as Ecover, offer a solution. This brand is one of our particular favourites here at Jan de Vries and many of our colleagues use it around their home. They are 100% cruelty-free, biodegradable and importantly, do not contain any unnecessary toxins.
Founded in 1979 in Belgium, the ethos of the company was pioneered by Frans Bogaerts, who wanted to provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional cleaning products. Each product is formulated using plant-based ingredients such as aloe vera and coconut oil, helping to protect your skin from any abrasive reactions.
Kind on skin and very affordable, the range really is impressive, offering everything from washing-up liquid to multi-action wipes. Nothing is missed and you should definitely be able to find something to suit your needs whether it’s fragrance-free or non-bio.