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If your cleaning products are leaving a toxic residue in your air, your home is not clean—or healthy. Here are six common household cleaners that could be leaving your home worse off when you use them—even though they make your home sparkle.

  1. Antibacterial cleaners that contain triclosan. That’s a form of dioxin, which has been linked to maladies from weakened immune systems to birth defects. Critics say anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners kill the good bacteria along with the bad, which prevents us from developing a healthy immunity to all kinds of bacteria. As an alternative, use regular soap for hand-washing and dishes. It kills 99.4 percent of germs without putting our health at risk. By comparison, antibacterial soap kills 99.6 percent of germs. 
  2. Air fresheners. They smell so good, but if their main ingredient is formaldehyde, that pretty scent could causing allergic reactions, skin rashes, headaches, sinus irritations, and even depression and dizziness. To clear your air, open the window; turn on your kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans for a few minutes, or burn some fresh sage in a small stone dish. If your house smells bad, don’t mask the odor with an air freshener. Find the source of the problem and clean it up.
  3. Dishwasher detergent. Most contain a form of highly concentrated chlorine, which can cause skin irrigations or even burns, and injure eyes. Choose a phosphate- and chlorine-free detergent like Caldrea or wowgreen.
  4. Oven cleaners. It’s no surprise to anyone that these are among the most dangerous household chemicals in households. They contain sodium hydroxide (a derivative of lye) so corrosive it can eat through the top layer of skin and cause severe tissue damage. Your oven’s self-cleaning function might not be the most energy-efficient, but at least it’s chemical-free. If you’ve got an older oven, try making a scrub out of baking soda, coarse salt and water.
  5. Bleach. A strong corrosive, bleach can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. If you swallow it, it will make you sick. Never mix bleach with acid toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia, as the combination will produce a fume that can be deadly. Instead of using bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing two cups of water, three tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
  6. Bathroom cleaners. Often when we hear about household poisonings, bathroom scrubs are the culprit. They’re highly toxic, and we use them in a small, enclosed space. You don’t need them to remove toilet bowl stains: Pure vinegar will do the job. For the sink and shower, dilute it vinegar with water to remove soap residue. Try nature-made borax to clean tiles.

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