Blog Action Day – Household Cleaners

Today is Blog Action Day, and as my part, I will be writing about our choice to rid our home of toxic cleaners. As you probably know, many of the most popular cleaners are toxic. Some of the ways you can gauge the toxicity of a product are by reading its ingredients or the warning label. It’s true! Literacy is wonderful!

Tip: If the label mentions causing dizziness and nausea or to “allow venting with fresh air” after usage, it’s probably toxic.

This summer, the Household Hazard Report described five hazardous ingredients typically found in common cleaning products and their potential negative effects on people and the environment. It did an excellent job of explaining why to avoid conventional cleaning products.

The report identified MEA, alkylphenol ethoxylates, phthalates, the glycol ethers EGBE and DEGME, and quaternary amine disinfectants as hazardous chemicals linked to the development of asthma and reproductive defects in the people that use them and their families. Not to mention what the toxic by-products of these cleaners do to our environment. (You can read more here.)

Here is a small sample of the conventional cleaners that include one or more of these chemicals (that can cause asthma and reproductive defects, YO.)

Formula 409
Simple Green products (interesting choice of a name)
Glass Plus
Mr. Clean
Spic and Span
Several laundry detergents (Tide Ultra, Tide 2X, Cheer, Dreft , Era, Ivory Snow, Gain…the list goes on and on. This was the most shocking to me.)

As you can see, most of the conventional cleaners are on this list. Frightening, no?

We made our decision to ban all of these products before the birth of Wito and we have never looked back. I’ll admit, finding products that clean as well as the conventional ones proved to be daunting at times, but one year later, we are 100% happy with our choices. (Which I will share with you. Right now. Because I love you and want you to spend your free time doing something else besides testing household cleaners.)

Whoorl’s non-toxic household cleaners (which is basically Method’s entire portfolio. Asterisks by the ones I can’t live without.):

*Method Naked Surface Wipes – I love these wipes! First off, let me say that a lot of my products are scent-free, however, Method does make several naturally-scented versions if you prefer. Just let me state for the record, CLEAN DOES NOT HAVE A SCENT. I know we have all been programmed to correlate lemon and pine with clean (it’s Pine Fresh!), but clean doesn’t smell like lemon or pine. Clean smells like nothing.

I use these wipes for the counters, Wito’s high chair, splats on the floor, etc. They are truly all-purpose.

Method All-Purpose Surface Cleaner – Same all-purpose cleaning ability, just in a spray.

Method Tub and Tile Spray – This is great for the bathroom shower and sink.

*Oxo-Brite – I would buy stock in this non-chlorine bleach. Use it in the laundry as a brightener, scrub the sinks and tub with it, anything that requires a little elbow grease will benefit from Oxo-Brite. I* also use it in places where I* would have previously used Comet. For instance, in the summer, our shower floor can get pretty grimy for our beach trips. If I* used the Method Tub and Tile spray only, I* could get it clean with a lot of work. Instead, I* just sprinkle some Oxo-Brite and it would be sparkling in 1/3 of the time. Seriously, I want to make out with this stuff.

Method Window Wash – Like Windex, but with healthy lungs!

*Method Stainless Steel Wipes – Holy mother. We have stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Before, I used all of those products where you rub it in and buff and rub and buff. BAH. I was so skeptical that these wimpy little wipes could make my stainless sparkle. Holy shit, you guys! It works better than any of those rubbing/buffing liquids or potions. Just wipe down and toss in the trash. No streaking, no smears, nothing. I don’t understand how it works so quickly and perfectly, but I shall perish if they stop making it.

Method Wood For Good Spray and wipes – Shiny wood is good!

Method Dish Soap – We use the Pink Grapefruit scented version of this one. (I like it, JANET.)

EcoSense Diamond Brite Automatic Dishwasher Detergent – Do you remember my dishwasher woes? LVgurl sent me an email about Diamond Brite, and it is by far the best I’ve ever used (toxic or non-toxic). You have to be a member of Melaleuca to buy it, but you can bypass the membership by purchasing on eBay. (At least that’s what I did.)

*Method Foaming Hand Wash – We blow through this stuff in our kitchen and bathroom. (Hi! We get off on washing our hands at the Whoorl household!) You can buy the eco-friendly refills at Costco or Target, too.

Method Unscented Laundry Detergent – Perfect laundry detergent. No scent and ultra-concentrated so you only use a little. Side note: I also bought the Method Baby detergent, but the baby powder scent was a little overwhelming to me.

Folex Carpet Cleaner – This is a water-based non-ionic surfactant with no hazardous chemicals. Works like a charm and you don’t have to rinse after using.

The best part about Method products is the availability at places like Target. You don’t have to go searching for an eco-friendly marketplace to find these. So, you really don’t have an excuse? Right?

I would love to hear your suggestions for non-toxic cleaners. Bring it on!

* In the interest of full disclosure, “I” meaning “the housekeepers”. Just keepin’ it real.

  1. Kristabella

    October 15, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Thanks for the advice!

    I never think about all the toxic stuff that must go into all those cleansers. The ones that are ALL currently in my house.

    I’m going to go work on going free of toxic cleansers in my house too.

  2. Catherine

    October 15, 2007 at 7:05 am

    I just wanted to say thanks for the info!! I never really thought too much about eco-friendly cleaners, but since all this stuff is available at Target (my FAVORITE store) I’ll start getting it!! I do recycle but that’s about it, so this makes me feel like I’ll be making more of a difference. Thanks again for the tips!! You rock, Whoorl.

  3. erin rae

    October 15, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Nice roundup Whoorl!

    Does this mean you don’t have a dishwasher? Quelle horreur! If you do in fact have one, I’d love to know what dishwasher detergent you use or what others use and love?

    I’ve tried the TJ dishwasher soap and it left our dishes dirtier than they went in :-(

    ACK! I forgot! Adding it right now. And yes, TJ’s detergent is pretty damn bad.

  4. Emily

    October 15, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Great list! A product I use is Natural Spa hand soap (in pomegranate!). The ingredients are all-natural, biodegradable and non-toxic. We buy it at a local sustainable store, but I know you can find it elsewhere– especially those of you in bigger cities!

  5. Fiora

    October 15, 2007 at 7:17 am

    We use Seventh Generation for almost all our household and personal care uses http://www.seventhgen.com/index.php
    Also, for personal care I use Pangea Organics…luh huv this stuff!

    As always love your blog!

  6. erin rae

    October 15, 2007 at 7:22 am

    And just thought of another…

    I’m having a hard time parting with my Bar Keeper’s Friend. It’s oxalic acid, which obviously isn’t nice… but the lure of shiny perfect All-clad keeps my addiction high.

    Whoorl or readers have any great tips for keeping your stainless cookware gorgeous?

  7. Kami

    October 15, 2007 at 7:40 am

    I love Method products but I actually use very few cleaners now. I have been introduced to Norwex products and with most of them, you need no cleaners at all. Just water.

    Here’s a link:


    I have their micro fiber cloths, window cloth and veggie cloth (for scrubbing the crap off your fruits and veggies before consumption). All clean fabulously with just a little water. I was very sceptical about the window cloth but honest, it works fantasically.

  8. metalia

    October 15, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This list is amazing. We use a lot of the Method products as well, and my mom gets the Melaleuca stuff (which we promptly steal every time we visit).

    Have you ever tried the Mrs. Meyers cleaning products? We LOVE them, particularly the All-Purpose Cleaner and the Counter Top Spray. They work beautifully, and smell great. Drugstore.com usually has the best price, and they always have free shipping on orders of $25 or more.

  9. Clara

    October 15, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Delurking to ask: do you know if All Free & Clear is one of the laundry detergents to include the harmful chemicals? Couldn’t find a list of the detergents. Thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking of getting rid of my cleaners and buying more eco- & kid-friendly products and just may do so tonight with your info.

    The detergents are on page 30 of the PDF I included. All Free & Clear is not listed. :)

  10. Nilsa S.

    October 15, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for the info. As I slowly become more environmentally friendly, I will surely use your list as a resource. Thanks for doing the research and testing for the rest of us!

  11. Dawn

    October 15, 2007 at 7:58 am


    Dude, you are so right.

    I like the 7th generation laundry soap too.

    Dr. Bronner’s makes free trade castile soap in some *yummy* scents.

  12. schmutzie

    October 15, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I am a huge fan of Method cleaners, because the scents are not overpowering and my house doesn’t smell like chemicals when I’m done.

  13. Natalie 42

    October 15, 2007 at 8:04 am

    I am shocked at all those detergents! WTH?! Thanks for the list. I hardly ever use wipes…I feel like I’m wasting way too much. Like when I use paper towels, but the rest of the list I will definitely look in to! I worry about mah puppies who lay all over the floor after I clean them. It just can’t be good for them.

  14. hello insomnia

    October 15, 2007 at 8:05 am

    We had a Seattle Mom Blogs Party where there were tons of awesome Method cleaning products passed out. One of the Method reps talked about Comet as one of those toxic products. Maybe you could add it to your list?

    I added Comet. However, I want everyone to know that this is a very small sample of toxic household cleaners. Just because it’s not on the list doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic.

  15. chan

    October 15, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Hi, whoorl! Just a respectful note to be wary of method’s eco-friendly marketing tactics. They use potassium hydrate in many of their products (harmful if inhaled; toxic if swallowed); chemical preservates (very little); unnatural color; and soda ash (irritating if touched or injested). It’s misleading for them to suggest that none of that stuff is harmful, when it’s the same stuff that’s in their competitors’ products. The answer they give on their website to the FAQ, “Are your products toxic?” is ambiguous and more than a little disturbing: “Non-toxic can describe an ingredient or an entire formula. It is used for a formula when all of the ingredients meet a certain level of non-toxicity, or when the modeled sum of all of the ingredient toxicities is less toxic than a widely accepted threshold for safety.”

    On the bright side, however, there are a ton of effective cleaning products you can make with water, baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice (among other things). Here’s a good website with various concoctions: http://www.pioneerthinking.com/homecleaning1.html

    All best!

    Thanks for your comment, Chan! I am currently dealing with this same sort of marketing issue regarding organic milk. It drives me crazy and I end up spending WAY too much researching and NOT enough time enjoying my baby. I realize there will always be limitations and criticism regarding all products, but at this point, I am willing to throw my hands up and focus on doing the best I can with the resources available.