5 Toxins in Cleaning Products & How to Avoid Them

Who doesn’t love the clean scent and shimmering look of a well-scrubbed home? While spotless countertops you can eat off of are alluring, what leaves much to be desired are the toxins and harmful chemicals that populate the labels of home cleaners, disinfectants, and polishing solutions. It begs the question: What’s the point of cleaning if it means filling your home with dangerous chemicals that put your family at risk?

Thankfully, there are household cleaning products and laundry detergents that allow you to say goodbye to the grime without using toxic chemicals. Separating the good from the bad—however—that’s the tricky part. 

So the next time you ask yourself if laundry detergent is safe or how to tell if your cleaner has toxic ingredients? We want to help you know what to look for. To get you started, we’ve rounded up 5 commonly used chemicals in cleaning products that you should try to avoid.

#1 Phthalates

Both tough to pronounce and tough on the body, phthalates is an umbrella term for chemicals that act as binding agents in household cleaning products, laundry detergents, fragrances, and skincare products. They also aren’t listed on the product label or ingredients list, which can make them hard to avoid. 

Our recommendation? Get in touch with brands directly to find out if phthalates are present in their products, or look for companies that specifically do not allow these harmful chemicals in their manufacturing processes.

#2 Ammonia

A commonly produced industrial chemical present in polishing agents and all-purpose cleaners, ammonia is a powerful ingredient that can wreak havoc when breathed in or ingested. When it comes to breaking down dirt and grime, lifting cooking grease, and destroying stains, ammonia works wonders. Unfortunately, there’s no peace treaty in ammonia—it’s equally harsh on your skin and health.

Ammonia exposure typically comes one of a few ways:

  • Inhalation
  • Eye or skin contact
  • Oral consumption

An extreme irritant, if inhaled, you’ll feel the burn right away in your nose and throat. Exposure to the skin, eyes, or inside of the body can cause corrosive action and permanent damage. Needless to say, cleaners that contain ammonia should be avoided.

#3 Bleach

If you’re hyper-aware of toxins in household cleaners, one of the most common ones you’ll notice is bleach. In use in homes for hundreds of years, bleach is a dual-purpose cleaning agent that both whitens and disinfects. 

It can remove any stain and kill germs. Win-win, right? Not quite.

If you’ve ever used a cleaning product that contains chlorine bleach in your home, you’re likely aware of that chemical smell that leaves a slightly singed feeling in your nostrils. Chlorine bleach can be unsafe because its fumes are toxic, especially for people with asthma or allergies. Bleach can also release chlorine gas when mixed with other chemicals.

Yes, it’s a powerful disinfectant that can fight extremely tough forms of bacteria. But is it necessary for everyday cleaning? No. 

When it comes to removing food stains from a countertop, stick to cleaners with natural ingredients, which will do the job without potentially harming your lungs.

#4 Artificial Dyes

Loving the bright purple gleam of your favorite lavender cleaner? We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that bright color may indicate the presence of artificial color additives.

Despite being legal, artificial dyes can irritate your skin, causing symptoms like:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Blocked pores

On top of that, they’re usually made up of a dozen or more chemicals that aren’t necessary for cleaning

#5 Chemical Surfactants

A fancy word for a substance used in detergents, foaming agents, and soaps, surfactants range in harmfulness from mild to super toxic. On the worse end, surfactant use has been associated with damage to the reproductive systems of fetuses, endocrine disruption, cancer, and other developmental disorders.

Unfortunately, in the context of household products, a more effective cleaner often means a higher chance of the inclusion of a toxic ingredient or surfactant. What’s a neat freak to do?

The answer? Turn to natural sources. Plant-based surfactants, used in plant based cleaning products and detergents, can be found in plant and vegetable substances, such as:

  • Coconut 
  • Palm
  • Yucca
  • Soapnut

With so many naturally-derived cleaners on the market, you can harness the useful properties of surfactants without risking damage or bodily harm. So the next time you are deciding between plant based laundry detergent vs regular detergent, hopefully this helps nudge you in the right direction. Natural ingredients are cleaner for your home and cleaner for you. 

Enjoy Archipelago’s Line of Toxin-Free Cleaners

The benefits of a sparkling clean home shouldn’t come at the expense of your family’s health and safety. That’s why Archipelago has launched a new collection of safer cleaning products and laundry products. Our line of dish soap, hand wash, natural disinfectant cleaner, and laundry detergent are made with plant-based formulas and infused with lively natural fragrance and essential oil.

At Archipelago, we are committed to designing products that are free of harsh chemicals. Whether you’re looking to uproot dirt or break down stains, these items will do so safely.

Check out our family-friendly products and learn more today.



The Guardian. Phthalates are everywhere, and the health risks are worrying. How bad are they really? https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/10/phthalates-plastics-chemicals-research-analysis  

New York State Department of Health. The Facts About Ammonia. https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/chemical_terrorism/ammonia_tech.htm 

Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects. Skin toxicity of surfactants: Structure/toxicity relationships. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0927775715000382