Cleaning is meant to make your home a healthier place, getting rid of accumulated dust, mold and mildew.
But some of the sprays, powders and foams you use to get the job done may not be so good for you, notes Consumer Reports.
One reason: Many household-cleaning products now incorporate ingredients once reserved for hospitals and health care institutions. But risky antibacterial chemicals aren’t necessary to get your house clean.
Here’s advice from Consumer Reports’ experts:
What to be aware of: Cleaners that contain ingredients like dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride may help breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Better bet: Clorox Green Works All-Purpose Cleaner spray did a good job of removing soap scum and dirt in Consumer Reports’ tough mess tests and contains ingredients that are less likely to harm you or the environment. If you prefer ready-to-use cleaning cloths, try Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Wipes.
What to be aware of: Aerosol sprays can contain volatile organic compounds, such as naphtha. They can irritate your eyes and throat and cause headaches and nausea. Plus they are often flammable.
Better bet: Opt for pump sprays. “Pump sprays don’t contain environmentally problematic propellants, are easy to use, and the chemical droplets are larger and less likely to be inhaled,” said Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University in Tempe.
What to be aware of: Full-strength household ammonia (5 to 10 percent) can potentially damage your lungs and blind you if it splashes in your eyes. It’s usually found in gallon jugs at supermarkets and drugstores. (Never mix ammonia and bleach — it creates dangerous fumes.)
Better bet: If you do use ammonia, dilute it. Use at least 8 parts water to 1 part ammonia. Or try an ammonia-free product.
What to be aware of: Some cleaners contain hydrochloric acid (listed as hydrogen chloride on the label). It can burn your skin and eyes. The American Association of Poison Control Centers says toilet-bowl cleaners harbor some of the most dangerous chemicals found in homes.
Better bet: Seventh Generation Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner worked well in Consumer Reports’ tests and contains chemicals that are less likely to be harmful.
How to find safer cleaning supplies: Look for cleaners with the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Safer Choice” logo, found on more than 1,000 products sold in stores such as Costco, Home Depot, Staples, Target and Walmart.
To earn the seal, cleaning products are screened by EPA scientists for potential health and environmental risks and are considered to be a safer alternative; they cannot contain ingredients such as triclosan, for example, which is found in some antibacterial dish detergents.
Consumer Reports’ experts have evaluated the label and rated it as meaningful.