Cleaning Products and Ingredients to Avoid

Cleaning Products and Ingredients to Avoid Cleaning products are a multi – billion dollar industry in Canada and the array of products available makes it difficult to know what is safe to buy. The good news is that most products contain generally benign ingredients, but there are definitely some to avoid.

Products to avoid

Plug-in air fresheners: After a positive trend away from fragrances, the industry is again bringing back scents in dozens of different ways, including devices that plug in.

Some either emit puffs of a scented solution or use an electrical current to warm a scented oil and slowly evaporate it. The problem is that if you also use an electronic air cleaner or otherwise have high levels of ozone in your home, the ingredients can combine to form formaldehyde. Even if you don’t have an electronic cleaner, scented products degrade indoor air quality without adding any benefits. Ventilation is a better option.

Ingredient NTA a carcinogen and environmental pollutant:

Trisodium nitrilotriactetate (NTA), a builder used in detergents, is often found in institutional laundry detergents and cleaners. But only one major manufacturer, Unilever Canada, uses it in a consumer product-Sunlight powdered laundry detergent.

There are various forms of NTA used in industry. All are listed by the International Agency for research on Cancer as possible human carcinogens. NTA is also considered an environmental pollutant because it van re-mobilize heavy metals that have settled into sediments back into the liquid waste stream. That’s certainly an issue in those major cities in Canada that still have only primary sewage treatment.

NTA is a key ingredient in two Sunlight products, White Bright Sunlight Laundry Detergent and Sunlight Ultra Laundry Detergent. NTA is not an ingredient in other Sunlight laundry products, including liquid detergents and HE detergents intended for Use in high efficiency (HE) washing machines.

Bleach (sodium hypochlorite):

While not considered a carcinogen or reproductive toxin, this is another ingredients to avoid as much as possible. The chlorine used to make bleach is toxic to produce and bleach itself is acutely toxic to fish.


They were generally removed from laundry detergents three decades ago when it was revealed that streams and lakes were becoming choked with vegetation nourished by phosphate-rich wastewater. But no action was taken on dishwasher detergents and most of the products from major manufactures contain 30-40 per cent phosphates. Products from companies such as Seventh Generation and Nature Clean that avoid the use of phosphate and chlorine-based sanitizers are a beter environmental choice.


This is the active ingredients used in dozens anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps.It produces carcinogenic chloroform in contact with chlorinated water and can form carcinogenic dioxins in the presence of sunlight. It is also a endocrine-disruptor known to interfere with thyroid hormones in amphibians. In human health, the widespread use of anti-bacterial preparations may by contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.


Also known as ethylene glycol butyl ether, this is one of many glycol ethers used as solvents in carpet cleaners and specialty cleaners. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and may cause blood disorders, as well as liver and kidney damage. Acording to the fact sheet issued by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, it may also cause reproductive damage on long exposure. Environment Canada includes 2-butoxyethanol with another related chemicals, 2-methoxethanol, in the CEPA-toxic list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

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