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Cleaning your home can also make you sick

Are you going stir crazy waiting for warmer weather? As long as you’re stuck inside, you might as well use the time constructively and get your home in order. Just be aware that all your cleaning and polishing has a potential downside: Harming the quality of the air, both inside and outside your abode.

That’s because many home cleaning products, from wood polish to air fresheners, can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—gasses emitted from various chemicals—and particulate matter, which are small, potentially unhealthy particles that can be carried by the air and inhaled.

Recent research has found that volatile chemicals in cleaning agents, among other products, contribute one-half of emitted VOCs in 33 industrialized cities. According to other studies, among household products, general purpose and floor care cleaners are some of the major sources of VOCs.

Air fresheners and cleaning sprays

Some VOCs react with ozone to create both formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and unhealthy ultrafine particles. For example, scented products, like air fresheners, can act as a concentrated source of indoor air pollution. Pine and lemon-scented products contain terpene, which, when in contact with smog, can produce harmful chemicals.

Similarly, studies have shown a significant association between the weekly use of at least two types of sprays and a high asthma symptom score. And, especially in certain older women, long-term frequent use of cleaning and air freshening sprays and scented products has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular health problems.


Do not mix cleaning products

Certain products, when combined, can form potentially toxic gasses. For example, mixing common household cleaners, like ammonia and bleach, can create an unhealthy level of ozone in your home. Also, be careful of products that are made with complex formulations, such as those that mix cleaning and disinfecting capabilities, like some kitchen or bathroom cleaners.


Watch out for residue

Residue from cleaning products can continue to react with any ozone present in the air, as well as adding to particles you may breathe. For that reason, use only the amount of cleaning product that is necessary, and rinse surfaces with water when you’re done with your chores.

One alternative approach is to avoid off-the-shelf cleaning products and make your own, using basic ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and baking soda. In addition, a smart air purifier with a HEPA filter, like Airmega, can help eliminate harmful VOCs and particulate matter from the air—and enable your home to be both healthy and sparkling clean.