A clean, and healthy space is important for any home or business. It’s especially critical for commercial properties where liability issues are an everyday reality. While you certainly want to use potent effective cleaning products, some have high concentrations of chemicals that aren’t safe or have chemicals in them which aren’t always approved as being safe by the EPA

To make sure you are using the right chemicals in the right concentrations, it helps to know what to look for as well as what to avoid. This will go a long way toward ensuring that everyone who sets foot on your commercial property won’t be exposed to undue chemical hazards.

Common Cleaning Chemicals

There are several common cleaning chemicals that you are likely to find in some concentration in a lot of cleaning products. Understanding them, how they are used and the potential risk will help you make more informed choices about whether or not they belong as part of your property’s cleaning regimen.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is a common household cleaning solution that is often used as a whitening agent in laundry rooms around the world. It is also known to kill a lot of microorganisms. However, it also can be hazardous in a variety of ways. It is known to be irritating to the skin and can cause respiratory distress from the release of chlorine when it interacts with the surrounding environment. The odors given off by chlorine can irritate the eyes and skin. If it gets into a person’s eyes it can cause significant harm and may require immediate eye-washing.


Most commonly used in glass cleaners ammonia is also found in several general-purpose cleaning solutions. It can cause significant skin irritation and damage the eyes. It can also be irritating to the throat and lungs if inhaled. So, if you or anyone else on your building’s cleaning staff is going to be using an ammonia-based cleaning product, you need to make sure that they have the proper safety equipment and are properly trained in how to use them correctly.

Triclosan & Triclocarban

These chemicals are formulated into a wide range of different cleaning products including things like simple hand and dish soap to household and personal use products like toothpaste. Unfortunately, a growing body of research has linked triclosan and triclocarban to hormone imbalances as well as the potential for an increased risk of breast cancer.

Ammonium Quaternary Compounds

Sometimes referred to as “Quarts” this is a ground of ammonia-based chemicals that are used in a variety of disinfectant sprays as well as toilet cleaners. Research has found an increased risk of occupational asthma in people who frequently use Quarts-related products.


Originally found in textiles, plastics, and packaging materials nano-silver is also used in a wide variety of soaps where it imbues them with heightened, natural antibacterial properties. Unfortunately, nano-silver particles can potentially penetrate into the body where it can have a toxic effect on both the liver and the brain.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylate

It is a common component of a lot of detergents, as well as personal care products, and pesticides. Unfortunately, the chemical breaks down to nonylphenol, which can disrupt the hormone system and is toxic to aquatic life. To the point that nonylphenol ethoxylate-based products are prohibited in the European Union as well as California.


This chemical is typically common in household cleaning products, including Lysol sprays, oven cleaners, and bathroom cleaners, as well as leather cleaning products. Some carpet cleaning products also use significant concentrations of Butoxydiglycol, which can irritate and inflame the lungs as well as cause skin allergy reactions. A new body of research has also found a link to developmental and reproductive toxicity, as well as Butoxydiglycol, being a potential carcinogen.


Most commonly used in spot stain removers, and degreasers this cleaning solvent can be absorbed through the skin. Significant exposure can potentially damage red blood cells and irritate the eyes.

Alternatives To Hazardous Chemicals In Consumer Cleaning Products

The reality is that cleaning chemicals are rarely advertised in big bold letters. Other than perhaps chlorine bleach and pure ammonia, the most common cleaning chemicals are found mixed in solutions with others under a general-purpose label. This helps consumers understand what a particular product is best for, but it also means that a chemically conscious person should still take the time to read the fine print on the ingredients label.

All-Purpose Cleaners

All-purpose cleaners are designed to be good “All Around” cleaners for a variety of surfaces. Though can also present a number of hazards to be wary of. This includes chemical agents like diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), which can react with nitrates. This can create nitrosamines, which are carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin. Unfortunately, DEA and TEA are often undisclosed preservatives or contaminants present in cleaners.

Alternative To All-Purpose Cleaners

The is that a good scrubber brush with some water soapy water and little lemon or vinegar can replicate most of what a chemical-laden all-purpose cleaner can do. All while adding a refreshing natural scent to the air. Stuck on materials and residue might also benefit from the addition of a little baking soda to help scrub and lift the stuck-on grime.

Window Cleaners

Most glass and window cleaners have a significant amount of ammonia, which can irritate the eyes and airways as well as the skin. A few window cleaners also contain a chemical called butyl cellosolve, which can be damaging to the nerves.

Alternative Window Cleaner

Plain distilled water mixed with a small amount of vinegar can replicate a lot of what a chemical window cleaner with ammonia can do. The trick is to be meticulous with your wiping schedule and always use a clean, fresh paper towel.

Furniture Polish

Furniture polish is another common cleaning product with chemicals in it that can cause skin irritation and respiratory distress. Some also contain nerve-damaging petroleum distillates, which are flammable as well as dangerous if ingested.

Alternative To Furniture Polish

Depending on the type of furniture you need to polish a combination of white vinegar blended with a small amount of olive oil can replicate the effects of chemical-heavy furniture polish. All-natural wood oil can also be used to refresh the sheen and appearance of wood products and accessories.


Chemical-heavy cleaning products are just about everywhere. While they certainly have their benefits, they can also have potential drawbacks. Taking the time to read through the ingredients label will help you determine whether or not that particular product is right for your home or business. In many cases, organic or less abrasive all-natural options are available.