Product Profile: Cleaning Products

Product Profile Cleaning Products  MADE SAFE Blog

Toxic Chemicals in Cleaning Products

Conventional cleaning products contain very strong chemicals that have been linked to a range of human health harm  [1] from reproductive problems like fertility issues and birth defects, hormone disruption, breast cancer, asthma and other respiratory problems, and allergies.

Cleaning product companies aren’t required by law to list all the ingredients in their cleaners, so it’s common that buyers don’t even know all of the harmful chemicals they are putting in their home. However, this has begun to change recently thanks to third party vetting companies like MADE SAFE and Women’s Voices for the Earth who are dedicated to providing safer options for consumers. Unfortunately, most companies are still keeping fragrance ingredients a secret, where toxic chemicals like phthalates  [2] synthetic musks  [3] and styrene  [4] can lurk.

Ingredients of Concern

To help you navigate any chemical confusion, we’re identifying a few of the top material offenders commonly found in cleaning products:

Phthalates - Phthalates are found in many household items, cleaning products included. However, companies are not required to disclose what is in the scents that make their products so memorable. Consequently, you won’t find the word “phthalates” on the label. However, if you see the word “fragrance,” or “parfum,” there is most likely going to be phthalates in the product you’re purchasing. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and can cause skin irritation, so it is best to avoid contact with the skin when using products with phthalates. Phthalates are also commonly found in the synthetic musks that plague our household cleaners. [5]

Perchloroethylene “PERC” – Perchloroethylene or more commonly known as PERC, is found in most common cleaning products and is a known neurotoxin. PERC has also been labeled by the EPA has a possible carcinogen, which could eventually be the cause of some cancers. PERC can cause dizziness and loss of coordination; thus, it is better to stay away from products that have PERC in their ingredient list. [5]

Ammonia – Ammonia, commonly found in polishing agents for bathrooms, sinks, and glass cleaner, is a powerful irritant that attacks the respiratory system. Those who have asthma, or elderly people with lung issues and breathing problems will feel the affects much sooner than those without preexisting conditions. Those who constantly inhale ammonia, such as housekeepers, can often develop bronchitis and asthma. When mixed with bleach, it can create a poisonous gas. [5]

Styrene – Styrene is a synthetic chemical that evaporates easily but does not easily dissolve in water. Billions of pounds of styrene are produced each year to make rubber, plastic, fiberglass, and cleaning products. Styrene is irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes with its vapors being heavier than that of air. Styrene is also flammable and is highly dangerous to use in the house. [4] 

Product Profile Cleaning Products Infographic MADE SAFE Blog

Tips for Finding Better Cleaning Products

  • Shop for cleaning products with the MADE SAFE seal .
  • Look for products with all ingredients listed on the label.
  • Go fragrance-free.
  • Try to use a single multi-purpose cleaner for as many jobs as possible.
  • Reserve disinfectants for the situations that truly require a heavy duty disinfectant.
  • Make your own cleaning products. We love these DIY recipes from Women’s Voices for the Earth. [1] 


[1] WVE. (2020, January 10). Household hazards - cleaning products, Asthma & Reproductive Health. Women’s Voices for the Earth.

[2] CDC. (2021, April 5). Phthalates factsheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[3]  Washam C. (2005). A Whiff of Danger: Synthetic Musks May Encourage Toxic Bioaccumulation. Environmental Health Perspectives113(1), A50. 

[4]  National Center for Biotechnology Information (2023). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 7501, Styrene. Retrieved July 21, 2023 from

[5] Sholl, J. (2020, October 1). 8 hidden toxins lurking in your cleaning products. Experience Life. 

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