Cleaning Products And Your Lungs: What You Should Know


A fact that few people know is that household cleaning products can do as much damage to the lungs as cigarettes.

The act of cleaning your home can be dangerous; when using commercial cleaners, you are exposing yourself to the harmful chemicals within them.

Recent research has found that women who have worked as cleaners or regularly use cleaning products have shown greater declines and lung functions when compared to women who didn’t use those same cleaners.

This is a phenomenon that is mostly affecting women, as there aren’t many men who work as occupational cleaners as there are women. The usage of chemicals has been linked to higher asthma rates, COPD, and other respiratory diseases.

Chemicals To Avoid

There are plenty of chemicals to avoid in cleaning products because of the varying adverse effects they can have on humans, but these particular chemicals below can affect the lungs.


A widely-produced chemical, ammonia is used in many cleaning products. People are exposed to the gasses and vapors that ammonia creates when used, and it is highly corrosive.

Ammonia gas is light but can form vapors in the presence of moisture; the inhalation of these vapors can burn the throat and respiratory tract, causing both long and short-term lung damage. 

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is commonly found in many household cleaning products; it’s used for disinfecting and whitening. Inhaling chlorine bleach can be harmful to the lungs and other organs.

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Studies have found that even using chlorine bleach just once a week can increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The more dangerous fact about chlorine bleach is that it can react with other household chemicals to form harmful vapors; when chlorine bleach and ammonia are mixed, chlorine gas can be created.

Since it has the same pungent odor as chlorine bleach, it can be challenging to detect within your home, but the failure to detect it can be deadly.


VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and they are compounds that are man-made and emitted as gasses from solids and liquids. Concentrations of VOCs are higher indoors than outdoors and include a variety of chemicals, like;

  • Turpentine

  • Toluene

  • Chloride

  • Methylene

  • Formaldehyde

Some VOCs are proven or suspected carcinogens and, when inhaled, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea.

They cause reactions within the airway and have been linked to various pulmonary diseases, as well as the development of asthma in children.

Aerosol Propellants

Aerosol propellants come from aerosol sprays, which dispense a mist of liquid particles. Commonly, these propellants are in air deodorizers and sprays; they commonly have VOCs and masking agents, which can cause lung problems when inhaled.

The inhalation of the chemicals from aerosol propellants has been linked to asthma and COPD, as well as other lung diseases.

Safer Alternatives

Common household cleaners may be the easier choice because of how readily available they are, but there are safer alternatives and steps you can take in your life to remove lung irritants. 

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One of the alternatives is creating your own cleaning products. This way, you control what ingredients you use.

  • All-Purpose Cleaner: 2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of water, and a spray bottle. Essential oils can be used for scent.

  • Carpet Cleaner: 1 cup of water, half a cup of white vinegar, one teaspoon of salt, and a spray bottle.

  • Glass Cleaner: Warm water, spray bottle, white vinegar
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Avoiding Scents

Avoiding the use of products with scents can be difficult; sometimes, when a product is listed as ‘unscented’ or ‘fragrance-free,’ it can still contain masking agents. 

To avoid masking agents, try:

  • Keeping your home well ventilated. Sometimes these masking agents are unavoidable, but a well-ventilated home can reduce indoor air pollution.

  • Opt for scent-free products. 

  • Choose non-toxic cleaning products.

  • Keep cleaning products sealed in containers or stored away in a closed cupboard. 

  • Make your own cleaning products. There are eco-friendly cleaning options you can create in your home, and this way, you can ensure they are free of masking agents. You can also use natural essential oils for scent.


If you still plan to clean with regular cleaning products, then there are techniques you can employ to keep both you and your family safe.

  • Wear a face mask: Though a mask won’t fully protect you, it can help reduce the inhalation of these harmful chemicals. Sometimes wearing a face mask can make breathing difficult, so be mindful of your breathing.

  • Clean in well-ventilated areas: Clean within an area that has open doors, open windows, or fans. The flow of air can help clear the room of harmful fragrances.

  • Dust: We commonly begin to use cleaners once dust has accumulated. To avoid this, dust regularly with a microfiber cloth or a duster; dust also can irritate respiratory issues, so you’ll also be removing that irritant. 

  • Control Moisture: By controlling the moisture levels in your home, you can avoid the growth of mold and the use of harsh chemicals for it.

While it’s unfortunate that so many of these chemicals are present within our cleaning supplies, being knowledgeable about them gives us the power to choose better products.

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