Now more than ever, we’re aware of toxins in our homes and the harm they can cause. But after we purge the cabinets, they can still lurk in surprising places. Are you certain that your toilet cleaners are safe? It turns out that some commercial cleaning products can do more harm than good.
Health Problems & Commercial Toilet Cleaners
Commercial cleaners often use toxic and caustic chemicals. These can directly cause acute health problems — in other words, health issues that appear during or immediately after use, including skin irritation, respiratory problems, watery eyes, and chemical burns.
According to Philip Dickey of the Washington Toxics Coalition, toilet bowl cleaners are among the top three most dangerous cleaning substances commonly found in households.
Caustic Chemicals Can Damage Lungs
The worst ingredients are those with high acute toxicity. These include chlorine bleach and ammonia, which create fumes that can be breathed in and come into indirect contact with the eyes.
They’re so dangerous that people with asthma, heart, or lung problems should never use them. Despite this, they’re present in most commercial toilet bowl cleaners.
Another concern is that the caustic chemicals in these cleaners can have a dangerous reaction if they come into contact with other chemicals, creating gases that can damage the lungs or even cause death.
For example, when combined, the two chemicals mentioned previously — bleach and ammonia — create a deadly toxic gas. This is more likely to happen if you use multiple cleaning agents.
Harmful Fragrances May Not Be Listed
Even ingredients that seem innocuous can cause health problems. Most toilet bowl cleaners contain powerful fragrances to help mask bathroom smells, but these can be problematic for anyone with allergies or respiratory issues.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety, roughly one-third of substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. Because they’re considered trade secrets, companies aren’t obligated to list these ingredients.
Low-acute toxicity ingredients are safer in the short term but can still have long-term health impacts. For example, they might contribute to cancer or cause hormone disruption. In general, opt for natural products whenever possible.
Commercial Toilet Cleaners & Your Plumbing
Commercial cleaners can also wreak havoc on your plumbing. The chemicals can create cracks in pipes and disintegrate your toilet’s plastic and rubber pieces, leading to messy and expensive problems within your home and potentially compromising your health due to mold, mildew, and sewage leaks.
Green Alternatives to Commercial Cleaners
You may wonder about your options now that you know how harmful commercial cleaners can be. Not cleaning your toilet at all? Wearing a hazmat suit?
Luckily, many safe alternatives exist for achieving a clean and odor-free toilet. You may already have some of them in your home. These include white vinegar; baking soda; hydrogen peroxide; borax or washing soda; tea tree oil; lemon juice and/or essential oils; and castile soap or liquid dish soap.
These solutions are all non-toxic and biodegradable, so they’re safe for your plumbing and won’t harm the environment. Plus, you can use them on other surfaces in your bathroom — think sinks, tubs, floors, walls — without worrying about endangering yourself or your family.
- Vinegar: White vinegar is an all-purpose cleaning product that is great at disinfecting and deodorizing. Despite its powerful scent, it will leave your bathroom smelling fresh. Simply pour a cup into the tank so the water deodorizes whenever you or your family flushes.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can help with any unpleasant odor in your bathroom. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and scrub with a brush.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Pour 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide into your toilet’s water tank to disinfect and whiten the bowl.
- Borax or Washing Soda: Mix one tablespoon of borax or washing soda with warm water and scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. This will help remove stains as well as inhibit bacteria growth.
- Tea Tree Oil: Adding 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to a gallon of water creates an effective yet gentle cleaner for both sinks and toilets (just don’t use it on marble).
- Lemon Juice or Essential Oils: A few drops of lemon juice or essential oils in the water tank deodorizes and leaves a refreshing scent.
- Castile Soap or Liquid Dish Soap: For tougher stains, scrub with 1-2 tablespoons of castile soap or liquid dish soap mixed with warm water.
- Denture Cleaner Tablets: Drop tabs into the tank so the toilet cleans itself with each flush. You can put a tablet in the bowl and let it rest overnight for tough stains. Then come morning, you flush, and the stains disappear.
These natural alternatives will do the trick without exposing you to harsh chemicals. Plus, they’re often cheaper than commercial cleaners and as easy to use. With all this in mind, why not make the switch today? As your local Orange County plumbing contractor, we wish you good health and success!