Saturday, April 4, 2009

Household cleaners - Read your labels

I’ve been interested in making my own household cleaners for some time now. So I sat down this afternoon to do some research. Among other things, I’ve found some frightening information about how dangerous the fumes from most cleaners are to humans, especially small children and infants. I do plan to share some of this information, but it’s way too in depth for just one post. What I will share, is some interesting information regarding product labeling from the EPA.

The EPA has implemented a system of signal words to indicate the care that should be taken when using a particular product. The words are:

Danger: This is the highest signal word. It indicates a high risk if the product is used improperly. Risks include blindness and death.

Warning: This is a lower classification than “Danger” but still indicates serious health risks if used improperly.

Caution: This is the lowest level signal word. The products with “Caution” on the label could still cause minor problems such as skin irritation, but is not as dangerous as the other two classifications.

After learning this information, I decided to take an inventory of the cleaning products I had on hand. Here’s what I found in my cleaning closet:

Danger: Old English Dark Wood Polish

Warning: Soft Scrub, Bathroom Cleaner, Showers N' Stuff

Caution: Pledge Clean & Shine, Iron Out, 409, Window Cleaner, Floor Cleaner

I was actually pretty surprised by what I found. The products I expected to be dangerous, like my 409 cleaner, was only classified as a “Caution” and my seemingly harmless bottle of furniture polish scored the only “Danger” in my cabinet.

I also found some other disturbing notes in the Caution/Warning/Danger section of my product labels. For example, my Iron Out stats that “…vapors may cause breathing problems” and most of my Caution labels called for use in a ventilated area, which isn’t always possible.

All in all, this has really inspired me to start making my own household cleaners and to really get serious about getting some of these toxic materials out of my house. There appears to be no downside - everything I’ve read says they provide a superior clean and are much cheaper to use. I have a few key ingredients on my shopping list this week, I’ll be reporting back when I actually have an opportunity to try them for myself.


  1. I look forward to hearing about your efforts! I want to start making more cleaners myself (I'm just doing laundry detergent right now) and have heard really good things about vinegar. I have yet to try it, though.

  2. Ooooh, you must blog about your laundry detergent...or did I miss it? I flip-flop so much, I'd love to find something I can use for diapers AND everything else.