The Dirty Truth about Cleaning: Choose Safer Supplies this Semester!


Emma Lagreze-5452

During yoga tonight, belly down with my nose pressed against the mat, I inhaled a long, slow, steady breath preparing myself for the next gravity-defying act I was told to perform. There was salty sweat dripping into my eyes and hair stuck to the side of my face yet all I could think about was how my mat smelled like citrusy deliciousness (thank you to my favorite brand for making an all-purpose cleaner smell so fresh).


Then the instructor told us to put our lips to the mat and although I was past the point of caring about sweat on my lips, I was grateful that I hadn’t used one of the other 128 all-purpose cleaners that scored an F on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning ( Growing up we’re told to disinfect and sanitize and keep the big bad germs away, but what we aren’t told is how toxic our cleaning products may be and how easily ingested. Why is “Harmful if Swallowed” an acceptable disclaimer on our cleaning products?


The Organic Consumers Association notes, “the alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) often used in detergents and cleaners have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen” and many ingredients (which manufacturers are still not required to disclose, never mind put on their packaging for easy access) are pesticides, hormone disruptors and even known carcinogens! As for “fragrance”, if it’s not an essential oil or actual citrus (you know, from a fruit), it’s most likely a cocktail of chemicals.

So how will you prepare for this coming school year’s messes? Well, you could boycott all cleaning of your apartments, houses and dorm rooms…or play it smart and purchase the household cleaners that do more good than harm. The Environmental Working Group’s website ( is a great place to start. You can look up the products you use now and find some safer alternatives. Remember…your cleaning products probably aren’t so clean.

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