Mammoth Health

How Toxic is Your Home?

Abode-Laundry-Liquid-Lavender-_-MintThere are hundreds of cleaning products on the market and though useful to clean away dirt and grime, chemical cleaners can also burden our internal and external environment.

According to Nicole Bijlsma, building biologist and author of the book, “Healthy Home, Healthy Family”, chemical cleaning products were only introduced after World War 2 with the advent of the industrial revolution. Somehow these chemical industries have marketed to us that ‘all germs are bad and we need to use harsh chemicals to create healthy homes’. Nicole proposes that ‘most of the ingredients used in conventional cleaning products will not only expose you and your family to potentially toxic (and in some cases known) carcinogens, but it becomes impossible for us, the consumer, to assess a product as the manufacturer is not obliged to list all the ingredients on the label’ (only the active ingredients). If you want to be vigilant and know exactly what’s in the products you are using, download the “product material safety data sheet” from the manufacturer’s website. The other point to remember is that the cleaning product industry is largely self-regulated and as a result 80% of cleaning ingredients have never been assessed for their impact on our health.

Nicole’s “Big Six” chemical ingredients to Avoid

For more information visit Nicole’s website:

  1. Fragrances, air fresheners and deodorisers
    Most commercial air fresheners and deodorisers are made from synthetic fragrances or phthalates which do little more than mask your ability to smell and cover up odours. Burning pure essential oils is a much safer option.

  2. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite)
    Bleach gives off toxic fumes which irritates the eyes, lungs, nose, throat and skin. Whilst it is effective in killing bacteria, its wide spread use in products alleged to kill mould is quite perplexing when it does little more than ‘bleach’ the mould so it can no longer be seen. Furthermore it may actually feed some moulds which further accentuates the problem.
  3. Ionic and non-ionic surfactants There are many solvents used in cleaning products that may be hazardous to your health. The two most common detergents are sodium lauryl (laureth) sulphate and cocomidopropul betain (cocamide DEA, coco-betaine) both of which are lung, eye and skin irritants. Despite the fact that coco-betain was voted “allergen of the year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2004, most “natural” products contain it. Look for cleaning products that contain the healthier ‘alkyl polyglucosides’ as their detergents.
  4. Ammonia and its compounds
    These are commonly used in window, oven and floor cleaners. It is a lung, skin and eye irritant that can trigger asthma.
  5. d-Limonene
    This is found in citrus-based products marketed as “natural”. These products often have an orange or lemon on the label and are common causes of skin rashes and may contribute to allergies in children. d-Limonene is a degreaser derived from orange peel but it is in fact a volatile organic compound (VOCs). Prolonged or direct exposure to VOCs may cause headaches, drowsiness and vomiting.
  6. Dry Cleaning Solvents
    Conventional dry cleaning involves the use of perchloroethylene or “perc’. Short-term exposure may cause eye irritation, light-headedness, confusion, lung problems, and temporary liver damage. Chronic exposure may damage the kidneys, liver, and the central nervous system. Perc is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


The following Green Cleaning Kit includes wonderful products you may already have in your kitchen cupboard. They are easy to make and have the added bonus that you actually know what’s in your cleaning products. However if you are time poor like me, my research confirms the Abode cleaning range followed by the EcoStore range the are top two commercial brands of cleaning products which contain the least amount of ‘nasties’ that may affect you or your family’s health.

Green Cleaning Kit Alternative

If you want to avoid the ‘nasties’ gathering your green cleaning kit is easy and very economical with all ingredients being readily available.

  • Bicarbonate of soda is a fantastic all-round cleaner. To make a cream cleanser paste just mix 2 parts bicarb to 1 part detergent (look for a detergent that contains the healthy alkyl polyglucosides).
  • White Vinegar (naturally fermented) has fantastic disinfectant properties. For a mould spray mix 80% vinegar with 20% water in a spray bottle. Spray the bathroom, leave for 30 minutes and then scrub.
  • Eucalyptus Oil makes a great spot cleaner. It is also a great silverfish repellent. Wipe out the inside of all your drawers with eucalyptus oil and pop a few drops on cotton balls to leave amongst your clothes.
  • Lemon juice is a deodoriser and a mild bleach
  • Tea Tree Oil cleans, disinfects and is anti-fungal
  • Clove Oil is a wonderful shower cleaner as it kills mould spores. Add 6 drops to a spray bottle of water. Spray entire shower, leave for 30 minutes and then scrub.
  • Microfibre Cloths and Mop to dust, wipe surfaces and floors and clean windows.
  • Scrubbing brush and elbow grease

“Because it’s Not a Rehearsal”
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