How conscious are you of the toxins used in your home? Do you ever really stop to think about all the chemicals and potentially harmful products we use on a weekly, if not daily basis, and the impact they could be having on your health? When I break down a regular day, from morning routine to cleaning and tidying around the house, plus laundry, I can list out at least 18 different chemically-based products I would use, and that’s before you consider the ingredient list of toxins in each one of these products. Just think, from the shampoo and conditioner, soap and face wash to the dish soap, plug-in air freshener and bleach or surface cleaners, these products have enormous ingredient lists on them, half of which we have no idea what they are.


To help you along this path and to take the hard work out, Roost in co-operation with The Life Sutra, Vanessa Woozley, is hosting a Make ‘N’ Take Cleaning Products workshop at Roost Café & Pantry on Tuesday 16 May from 7:30pm-9:30pm. We will be creating our own cleaning products to take home; each participant will make two 500mL bottles of cleaning products to take home and try out.


The difficult part for us, the consumer, though is knowing what to look for when we examine the labels of the products. The lovely people at Home Scents  have taken the guess work out of the equation. They have compiled a list of many of the harmful toxins, listed alphabetically, that are worth eliminating from your cleaning cupboard and home, and why they are worth removing.


2-butoxyethanol (or ethylene glycol monobutyl ether) and other glycol ethers. A solvent in carpet cleaners and speciality cleaners which can be inhaled or absorbed via the skin. Can cause blood, liver and kidney problems.

Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEs) synthetic surfactants found in cleaning and some personal care products, detergents and pesticides. They break down to alkylphenols, strong hormone disruptors. Ammonia is a natural compound, but is also manufactured as an ingredient in cleaning products, fertilizers and smelling salts. Considered very toxic if swallowed or inhaled. Known Asthma trigger and possibly Carcinogenic. Butyl Cellosolve (Butyl Glycol, Ethylene Glycol, Monobutyl) found in multi purpose cleaners, glass and oven cleaners, spot removers and air fresheners. Highly toxic when inhaled and linked to reproductive and neurological issues. Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite)… used as a disinfectant. Toxic if swallowed. By-products linked to respiratory problems and some cancers. Never mix with other cleaning as poisonous gases are released. Undiluted, will burn skin and clothes. Harmful to animals and planet.

COCAMIDE DEA Foaming agent for shampoos and bathroom products. Is an allergen and can cause contact dermatitis. High irritation potential.

Diethylene Glycol— DEG Found in anti-freeze, brake fluids, dyes and some Laundry products! WHY? Toxic to humans and animals: can lead to renal failure. In personal care products, DEG is, usually, replaced by a less toxic ingredient. ALWAYS by a TOTALLY SAFE item is the right way to go, surely?

Formaldehyde A preservative used in personal and household cleaners. “Known to be a human carcinogen.” Some reports say that it’s banned in the EU: not true. Also irritates eyes, lungs and throat. It is used to kill bacteria, preserve dead bodies and manufacture other chemicals. Lovely stuff!!!

Mineral Oil Petroleum derived hydrocarbons; used as cheap base in some products (less today than in the past). Is moderately comedogenic (Tending to produce or aggravate acne.) May also interfere with normal perspiration and other skin functions.

Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) or Triethanolamine (TEA) Added to some detergents to make them non-irritating to the skin. Can react with other chemicals to form a known carcinogen, nitrosodiethanolamine, which has been linked with stomach, oesophagus, liver and bladder cancer. Considered a possible carcinogenic and linked to asthma, rhinitis, eczema and anaemia.

Nanoparticles Ultra fine particles possessing certain properties due to their very small size. This may include the ability to accumulate in the body and to trigger potentially harmful chemical reactions. Concerns about their use in skin care and cosmetics. Currently, nanoparticles (such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles) are most commonly used in sunscreens.

Parabens Used as preservatives to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life. Methyl paraben may degrade releasing methanol, a potentially toxic chemical. Their estrogenicity and tissue presence are a cause for concern regarding breast cancer.

Phenols Found in air fresheners, laundry products, disinfectants and more. These chemicals cause skin irritation, muscle weakness, tremors, paralysis, respiratory arrest, pulmonary distress, liver and kidney damage and even severe burns. A real Nasty. Phosphates— found in laundry detergent and some cleaning products. Phosphates in streams, rivers and oceans kill marine life and alter the ecological system. Phased out of many products because of this danger, they’re still found in some. Phthalates— found in a wide variety of products, including plastics, toys, personal care products and cleaning supplies, mostly as fragrances. Phthalates are possible carcinogens and have been linked to reproductive issues in male rats.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate A common detergent in cleaners and shampoos. Prolonged exposure likely to cause skin irritation and dryness.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate A very close relative of Sodium Laurel Sulphate but the ETH\ stands for Ether. Like SLS, this ingredient is widely used in soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other “foam up” items. Both are esters of Sulphuric acid. Laureth is often contaminated with Dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Synthetic Colours Divided opinions on this one. Some reports may be slightly damaging, others say they are cancer causing and induce allergies. Some colours now banned.

Synthetic Fragrances These mystery mixtures can contain hundreds of untested chemicals, including toxic ingredients like phthalates and synthetic musk – both hormone disruptors. Fragrances are also among the top five allergens in the world.

Triclosan The main ingredient in most antibacterial products. Kills both good and bad bacteria and contributes to bacterial resistance, not good. It’s also been linked to endocrine abnormalities, asthma, allergies and eczema, and it has been found in both umbilical cord samples and breast milk.

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