We're going to discuss 5 common toxic household products that you may not have even realized were toxic to begin with.
Toxins and chemicals are all around us in urban and even suburban environments. We can’t avoid it all, and there’s much to learn about what is truly harmful and what may be more benign.
But there are some household products that most of us use regularly that I think should make the cut to be cut, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
Here’s a short list of common toxic household products, and healthier alternatives to consider using instead. Be sure to comment below if you’d like to see more of my favorite swaps in future blog posts.
1. Lotions, Soap and Other Skincare Products
Certain chemicals found in personal care products like lotions, body wash and other skin care products mimic our bodies’ natural hormones. Because our natural endocrine system itself needs only small changes in hormone levels to see significant changes in functions and processes in the body, even tiny amounts of the chemicals present in those personal care products can have major effects on our endocrine function.
These chemicals are easily absorbed through our porous skin and through particles in the air we breathe. Their effects can range from immune function to brain and reproductive function, and more.
Some of the common ingredients we can find in personal care products are phthalates and triclosan, as well as parabens that prevent bacterial growth and extend the shelf life of some personal care products.
What’s more, the FDA doesn’t have a standard set of rules to define these products as “clean” or “safe”. As consumers, we have to do research ourselves, and it is critical that we do as women (on average) put over 150 different chemicals on our skin daily. Men are not far behind.
Swap for a brand using natural, hormone-safe ingredients like my personal favorite, Hugh & Grace. “Natural” doesn’t always mean hormone safe, but that’s a great start. Outside of that, plant-based and paraben-, phthalate- and BPA-free (BPA would be in the plastic container) are important to look for. I love this brand (they make soap, body oil and face oils) for these reasons and their commitment to hormone-safe products, but of course you can shop around and see what works for you.
2. Laundry Detergent
Conventional Laundry Detergent can also be highly toxic and contain many of the above endocrine disrupting chemicals. Beyond that...you know those promises to make your whites whiter? You know how the liquid is bright blue in many cases? Ever wonder why?
They often use brightening agents, which are really just chemicals that make the fabric appear less yellow, whiter and brighter, but don’t actually make the fabric any cleaner. And those chemicals stay with the fabric and may be toxic to humans and cause reproductive effects. Think about those Tide pods - if it could seriously harm or even kill a child who ingested it, do you really want those chemicals on your skin and in the air all day?
My favorite swap for commercial detergents is Branch Basics. They commit to products that are human-safe, plant-based, natural, fragrance free, no harmful preservatives, biodegradable, non-gmo and not tested on animals.
3. Non-stick Pans
Non-stick pans are convenient and make cleaning up easier, but at what cost? Non-stick pans often contain PFAs, which are chemicals used to create this slippery surface that accumulate in the body and environment, and don’t break down easily.
According to the EPA, “There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans” such as reproductive, liver, kidney, thyroid, immune health. I don’t even want that near my skin, let alone interacting with my food at high heat. Yuck.
Swap standard non-stick pans for cast iron, stainless steel, or ceramic. Some brands I like are Madein (stainless steel) or Our place (which does not use PFAs, and uses non-toxic ceramic coating instead).
Wheat flours aren’t necessarily toxic to everyone, but even those of us without Celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity may have (and usually will have) reactions in our gut that disrupt our microbiome. This leads to many issues down the line from skin issues, gastrointestinal issues, immune function issues and even more serious effects like autoimmune diseases and cognitive decline in some cases. I still have wheat in small amounts here and there, but mostly try to avoid it in my regular recipes.
5. Candles and Air Fresheners
Conventional candles are usually made with paraffin wax which is a byproduct of petroleum. Some studies show that burning this wax may release harmful chemicals like toluene, though the studies don’t seem to be published in peer-reviewed journals.
At any rate, fragrances and other chemicals in those candles and air fresheners are often synthetic, and substances I’d rather not breath in if I have other options. Which of course, I do. And even with the need for more studies to prove negative effects, I’d rather be conservative when it comes to breathing in something derived from gasoline
We can simply avoid burning candle, but we actually do have better options if we want that cozy glow. Choose natural beeswax or soy based alternatives - many small and local companies make these, so it’s a great way to support local businesses. We can also use essential oils in diffusers.
The best option in my opinion, is to keep lots of plants like the snake plant that are known to filter toxins from the air, or use air purifiers like the molekule to filter out some of the toxins we really can’t avoid in city and even suburban life.
How to Get Started
This can be a bit scary to think about and it might even make you run to throw out everything you own. But before you do that, the best thing for your wallet and the environment is to avoid being wasteful and not just start throwing out all of the toxic household products that made the list.
My approach is typically (unless I think something has the potential to be super harmful) is to use up what I have, and aim to replace each item with the natural, non-toxic version once it’s used up and ready to be replaced.
Slowly but surely, you’ll move through your home and eventually, you’ll feel great about all the products you use!
For a complete guide to run through each room in your home and make these swaps, plus tips on how to organize each room as you go, check out the e-book I created with my friend and the CEO of Done Neatly, a luxury organization company.
Start removing toxic household products from your home today.