Ever since the famous 1984 paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, it is fairly common knowledge that our skin is a giant sponge.

Highlighting the dangers of the chemicals in drinking water, scientists concluded:

A review of the experimental literature revealed that skin penetration rates for solvents are remarkably high and that the stratum corneum is a less effective barrier to penetration than traditionally assumed. … We found that skin absorption contributed from 29-91 percent of the total dose, averaging 64 percent. … In weak aqueous solutions, the flux of the solute is directly proportional to concentration. … We conclude that skin absorption of contaminants in drinking water has been underestimated and that ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure. (1)

The key takeaway from this is that “You are what you eat and put on your body.” And not only are you what you put on your body, but you are also affected by what comes into contact with your body, which includes inhaling and smelling chemicals.

So why is this important?

Because chances are that you are unknowingly being poisoned with products that you come in contact with every day — from lotion to moisturize your body to the household cleaners used to sanitize your home.

These same cleaning supplies contain harmful toxins and have been linked to everything from neurocognitive diseases to cancer to learning disorders and allergies.

Unable to escape the chemicals

Essentially, most of what we see at stores today is harmful to us and, unless you’re buying all natural cleaning products or making your own, there’s no way to escape the toxins that are emitted when we use conventional cleaners.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Short of wearing a hazmat suit to clean in, microdroplets and vapors from the cleaning supplies you use will inevitably come into contact with your skin and respiratory system.
  • This means it is virtually impossible to refrain from inhaling the fumes when you clean the house. (Remember: if you can smell it, it has already reached your nasal mucosa and automatically is transferred to the brain and lungs!)
  • Also, those rubber gloves that you use are basically useless because they are not airtight and only partially protect up to the elbow.
  • The water in your washing machine can’t possibly dissipate all of the chemicals in your laundry detergent and the toxins in your soap will come into contact with your bare skin. Same thing with the chemicals in your dryer sheets.
  • The chemicals in the cleaners that we use to clean the floor remain and leave behind a toxic residue. Although you’re trying to protect Junior from the dirt and bugs in the house, when he crawls on the floor he’s getting infected with harmful chemicals.
  • Same thing with the toys that he puts in his mouth if you’re using conventional methods to “disinfect” them.

See where we’re going with this?

EWG Guide to healthy cleaning

You may be asking, “So how do I avoid these toxic chemicals?”

Well, first off, it’s going to take some work and some research.

Secondly, you need to be a voracious label reader and commit to staying clear of chemicals as much as possible.

By far, the most accurate, useful resource on the Internet to help ensure that you’re minimizing the risk of toxic cleaners is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

This non-profit public health research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC has systematically evaluated more than 2,000 cleaning products and have ranked them in an easy-to-understand guide to help people know what’s safe. Check it out for yourself, it’s super easy!

For instance, when you search for “Clorox bathroom cleaner,” you’ll see that Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner earned an “F” grade because the ingredients in this product have been linked to: (2)

  • Asthma/respiratory disorders (“moderate concern”)
  • Skin allergies and irritation (“some concern”)
  • Developmental and reproductive toxicity (“high concern”)
  • Cancer (“some concern”)
  • Environmental population and toxicity (“moderate concern”)

Below the report card is a detailed description grading each ingredient: (2)

  • Silicon Compounds – Graded “F” because of developmental, endocrine, reproductive effects as well as biodegradation and chronic aquatic toxicity.
  • Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl, Ammonium Chlorides C12-16) – Graded “F” because of general systemic, organ and respiratory effects.
  • Alkyl Dimethyl, Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride (C12-14) – Graded “D” because of various respiratory effects.
  • Alkyl Dimethyl, Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chlorides (C12-C18) – Graded “D” because of various respiratory effects.
  • Butoxydiglycol – Graded “D” of various respiratory effects, carcinogenesis (can cause cancer), developmental, endocrine, reproductive effects as well as damage done to DNA, nervous system, digestive system, skin, and vision.
  • Fragrance – Graded “D” because of skin irritation, allergies, acute aquatic toxicity, nervous system and respiratory effects.
  • Glycine, N,N'-1,2-Ethanediylbis(N-(Carboxymethyl)-, Tetrapotassium Salt – Graded “C” because of biodegradation.
  • Amine Oxides – Graded “C” because of various respiratory, general systemic and organ effects.

You can pretty much search any product available on the market today and see if you are exposing yourself to toxic chemicals.

Pesticides in our cleaning products?

Another problem with most cleaners on the market is that more than 75 percent of the “antibacterial” products that line our shelves contain an ingredient called triclosan; a registered pesticide since 1969.

Fortunately, triclosan awareness is reaching fever-pitch and even Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton just recently signed a bill that will literally ban the chemical in most retail consumer hygiene products because it has been linked to hormone dysregulation and a slew of other health and environmental concerns. (3)

Most experts are confident that Minnesota is just the first state to ban triclosan and other harmful chemicals from our shelves.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we voice our concern and let Congress know that we do not want to be exposed to toxins any longer.

DIY natural cleaning solutions

In the meantime, we hope you find solace in the fact that YES, you can minimize toxins and harmful chemicals from cleaners relatively easily. Just type “natural cleaners” on Google and you’ll literally get 49 million hits.

Needless to say, there is an abundance of alternatives to the conventional products we see at most stores. Here are our Top 5 favorites: