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Housecleaning products: Safe to breathe?

Photo: zoranm/iStockphoto

Spring has sprung, and you’re on a mission to bust dust, banish mildew and annihilate the merest hint of mold. But how safe are your cleaning supplies?

The American Lung Association points out that “even products advertised as ‘green’ or ‘natural’ may contain ingredients that can cause health problems.” However, simple steps can make spring cleaning safer.

Certain cleaning supplies can contain potentially dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds, the association states. Examples of cleaning products that may contain VOCs are aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning items; air fresheners; chlorine bleach; detergent and dishwashing liquid; rug cleaners; furniture and floor polish; and oven cleaners. Using these products may contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches.

Follow these tips from the association to help stay safe when cleaning your home:

  • Never mix bleach or a bleach-containing product with anything that contains ammonia. The gases created can result in chronic breathing problems and even death.
  • Always read and follow all instruction labels on cleaning products.
  • Purchase cleaning products that don’t have – or have reduced amounts of – VOCs, irritants and flammable ingredients. (For a list of safer cleaning products, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at
  • Never use cleaning products in small, enclosed areas. Open windows and doors when cleaning and keep the area well-ventilated.
  • Consider not purchasing cleaning products altogether. Instead, the AMA notes that a safer cleaning alternative is using warm water and soap. For cleaning glass, try using a mixture of vinegar and water.

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