Tips to Keep Your Home Clean of Toxic Chemicals

Interiors that are clean are healthier to live in. Building and interior design should be geared towards ensuring interiors are able to be kept clean without any great difficulty.

Guidelines for a Clean Building

  • Smooth, even surfaces are easier to keep clean
  • Areas need to be well lit if dust, grime etc is to be noticed
  • Areas need to be accessible to be kept clean
  • Cracks, high shelves, light fittings etc. can easily collect dust and go unnoticed
  • Minimise fabrics which will collect dust/ breed pests (eg. mites, etc)
  • Avoid using cleaners that contain toxins or leave undesirable residues.


  • By selecting low radiation appliances and placing them in appropriate places, this risk can be minimised.
  • Appliances made from plastics can give off toxic fumes at a faster rate if they heat up.

Cleaning Materials

There are toxic components in many common household cleaners. Ammonia and chlorine based cleaners are common, but these can also be detrimental to health if used repeatedly over a long period of time.

Aluminium in salty water acts as a magnet, drawing tarnish from metal in the kitchen or jewellery. In the kitchen sink you could add a sheet of aluminium foil with a few handfuls of salt, and immerse metal items in for a quick clean. A teaspoon of baking soda will add in the cleaning process.  Lemon juice and salt work well on brass, silver, bronze, copper and steel.
Household Chemicals and Hazards
Tetrachloroethylene can enter the home on clothes that come fresh form the dry cleaners. Benzene can enter the home on clothes form self-serve petrol stations. Elevated levels of chloroform are present in every time you take a shower, if the water is chlorinated. Oven fumes, nail polish, paint thinner, and especially cigarette smoke add toxic fumes to which you may be exposed.    Plants may be an effective method in removing some of the most dangerous toxic contaminants. In one experiment it was proven that the spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum) was capable of reducing the concentration of formaldehyde by 85% within a 24 hour period.
As such, 2 or 3 spider plants per average household room should be sufficient to reduce offensive chemicals.

Ozone generators have been used by many people to reduce the chemical out gassing of new cars and other such products. These generators destroy odours caused by chemicals, tobacco, animals and fires, aerosols; they kill fungus, moulds, spores and mildew, and detoxify buildings. Unfortunately, it is toxic to humans and animals, is unstable, ages fabrics, plastics and rubber, and is believed by some to affect the ozone layer.  

Research in Oregon (USA) has shown that housewives aged between 16 and 64 are twice as likely to die from cancer due to domestic exposure to carcinogenic materials found in cleaning materials such as petroleum distillates, benzene, naphtha, chlorinated hydrocarbons and ammonia.

In a comparison between indoor and outdoor air, breath and drinking water in North Carolina (USA) it was shown that at least 11 chemicals were found to be 2 to 5 times higher indoors. Some households had exposure to chemicals 70 times the outdoor rates.

The worst household dangers identified so far include smoking, living with a smoker, using air fresheners, mothballs, aerosol sprays and storing paints and solvents.

Ideas to reduce Hazards

  • Kitchen microwaves - long term exposure to low-level microwave radiation affects the central nervous system, causing insomnia, decreased sexual potency, dizziness and birth defects. If microwaves must be used, do not stand in front of it when cooking. Eastern European nations believe that the "safe exposure levels" set by western nations is far too dangerous and would prefer the rate reduced from 10 milliwatts to 10 microwatts per cubic centimetre.
  • Gas ovens and stoves - the toxic fumes released by poorly ventilated appliances is sufficient to make the air inside the house worse than that of Los Angeles' smoggy skies. When using gas, ensure exhaust fans are on and windows are open.
  • Lead - lead is a well known hazardous ingredient used in paints and soldering in tin cans. Fruit juices such as orange or any acidic product, can react with the original metal container if kept in the refrigerator. Closed glass bottles are best.
  • Synthetic carpets - spray on an anti-static fluid (one part fabric softener to five parts water) each month to reduce the positive ions generated by walking across it. Positive ions make you sleepy and rob you of oxygen. Replace carpet with natural thread throw rugs, non-porous ceramic tiles or sealed hardwood floors. 
  • Freshly dry-cleaned clothes will release trichloroethylene (TCE), which are known to cause headaches. Remove newly dry-cleaned clothes out of the bedroom for safety reasons, and a good night sleep. Consider airing the clothes on the porch/veranda until smell has gone.
  • Reduce use of "non-iron", "permanent-press", or "crease-resistant" clothing and materials. It is believed that formaldehyde is the ingredient that makes material crease-proof, and that it is used in the cotton/polyester blends.
  • Formaldehyde is suspected of being carcinogenic, teratogenic (causing birth defects) and mutagenic (causing genetic changes). It has also been implicated with infant death syndrome.
  • Electric blankets - get rid of them! The EMR so close to your body is dangerous.
  • Hairsprays - many contain methylene chloride which has been found to be carcinogenic to animals and is suspected to be dangerous to humans. The same substance is often found in decaffeinated coffee, and is used in spray paints and insect sprays.
  • Talcum powder - women using talcum powder on their genitals and sanitary napkins were three times as likely to develop ovarian cancer as women who didn't use the powder.
  • Toothpaste - some varieties contain formaldehyde.
  • Face creams - some creams use petroleum products. Avoid these: paraffin, propylene glycol, isopropyl myristate, sodium lauryl sulphate, TEA and DEA.
  • Laundry chemicals - avoid: naphthalene, phenol, ammonia, EDTA and dyes
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