Avoiding the Wrong Cleaning Products: What to Watch Out For

In the past we’ve explored how caustic soda is a potentially damaging material that is becoming more and more readily available to people wanting to clean their homes.

With more cleaning brands and products coming to market than at any other point in human history, it is more important than ever to ensure that you are picking the right cleaning materials to keep you and your family (and your cat) safe.

It is vital to know the signs to look out for so that you can determine whether or not using a specific product could have health implications, but how do you know what to use and how to use it safely?

(If you’ve experienced a health concern as a result of using a cleaning product, we’d advise you to remove the product from your household safely and consult your GP or other health professional.)

What to Watch Out For


2-Butoxyethanol is found in many common household kitchen or all-purpose cleaning products. Cleaners containing 2-Butoxyethanol are frequently linked to sore throats, but products with high levels have been linked to serious kidney and liver failure, especially in older people, so:

  • Ensure good ventilation whilst cleaning your kitchen, as this will reduce the threat of inhaling this substance
  • Replace the cleaning product immediately should a health problem arise (as with all cleaning products) and consider consulting your GP

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds are sometimes linked to breathing problems. They are most frequently found in polishes and pesticides, but can also be found in kitchen cleaners.

The materials you should particularly look out for are benzene, formaldehyde and acetone. It is a good idea for anyone to avoid breathing in too much of these chemicals, but this advice is especially true if you suffer from allergies or asthma.

  • Look for products that are ‘allergy-friendly’, as they are less likely to cause you problems
  • In fact, the British Lung Foundation suggests allergy suffers should avoid sprays altogether in favour of liquid cleaning products
  • We’d advise you to ensure that any area you are cleaning is well ventilated before using products you know (or suspect) include volatile organic compounds
  • As with all cleaning products, should a health problem arise, replace them immediately and consider consulting your GP


Phthalates are found in washing up liquids, air fresheners and dish soaps. They are used to add fragrance to cleaning products and they do not have to be disclosed on safety labelling.

Most phthalate-related problems are due to contact with the skin or inhalation, so:

  • If you are prone to asthma, avoid fragranced cleaning products where possible
  • For migraine suffers, ensure that you protect yourself with appropriate gloves to avoid some of the effects of using these products
  • As mentioned above, should a health problem arise, replace the cleaning product immediately and consider consulting your GP

Corrosive Drain Cleaners

Corrosive drain cleaners can be a seemingly quick and painless way to unclog a backed-up drainpipe. However, be very careful when handling these products, as they can cause skin irritation, severe burns or even internal damage should you accidentally ingest any. If you decide to use such products, ensure that you:

  • Ventilate the room if you are inside
  • Clear any pets, children or potential hazards before you start cleaning
  • Protect yourself with suitable clothing, including an apron and strong gloves
  • Consult a health professional immediately should problems occur

It is important to remember that not all cleaning products are required to list every substance they contain in their ingredients and safety labelling. With this in mind, it is always wise to ensure that you are adequately prepared and protected from the dangers associated with these products.

It is also vital to remember that, if health incidents do occur, you should consult your GP or a relevant health professional to ensure that you get medical treatment for the problem as quickly as possible.