What started out as a casual conversation with a friend about the dangers of many household products turned into an investigation on their effects on the body – YOUR body, YOUR health, YOUR family’s health and the creation of a Safe Non-toxic Alternative.

My research uncovered that using everyday household cleaners, air fresheners and bug repellents can result in a multitude of health problems, some that you may be blaming on ‘pet, dust or seasonal’ allergies.

The first thing I found astonishing is that cleaning product companies do NOT have to list their ingredients on the label, they just give their website. Visiting their website, I found it nebulous, vague and unclear. Searching for the ingredients list was like searching for a needle in a hay stack. Eventually I found the ingredients, NOT on their website, but by googling Safety Data Sheets for the product.

I warn you, this may take you 20-mins to read, but I am going so far as to say it’s ESSENTIAL reading, your health depends on it. And I’m not being dramatic just for effect! Which I’ve been known to do 😉

You see, over time, the chemicals in your daily household products can build up in the body, in your tissues, organs and even whole-body systems e.g. Nervous system. Just using these products ‘sometimes’ can trigger an immunological reaction resulting in headaches, skin rashes, sneezing, red watery itchy eyes, sore itchy throat, congestion, sinus problems, tightness in the chest and even difficulty breathing, and that’s just to name a few.

Here is what I uncovered: the COMMON INGREDIENTS found in your everyday cleaning products

SODIUM DODECYLBENZENE SULPHONATE can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, irritating the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Long term exposure may result in dermatitis.  Found in kitchen and bathroom cleaning sprays and liquid cleaning agents.

SODIUM TETRABORATE DECAHYDRATE is basically borax. Commonly used in air-fresheners and cleaners. The jury is still out on borax. Good or bad? There is conflicting information out there. But inhalation may result in …shortness of breath, sore throat, coughs and nose bleeds. In America, the FDA banned borax as an additive in foods. The European Chemicals Agency has named it as being ‘of very high concern’. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

FRAGRANCE is added to nearly all cleaners and air-fresheners so things can smell ‘clean’. What does ‘clean’ really smell like, I wonder…?? Anyway, companies do NOT have to list the source. Mind-boggling, hey? Something we use in our homes, day in and day out and there is no mention of what’s in it! Let’s look at what the research says. A 2007 study in the ‘American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care’ revealed that frequent use of household cleaning sprays is a risk factor for asthma as fragrances were found to linger in the air1. Another 2009 study conducted at the ‘University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’ showed long-term use of cleaning products is recognized as a common cause of new-onset and aggravated occupational asthma2.

DIPROPYLENE GLYCOL BUTYL ETHER also found in Mace spray and brake fluid; and your household cleaning products – eek! The compounds can be absorbed into the body by inhalation and can result in irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and symptoms such as dizziness and headaches. Long term use targets the respiratory and central nervous system.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL can affect the…” Integumentary system (Skin), Urinary system (Kidneys) and Respiratory system (From Nose to the Lungs)”. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry3. And knowing all of that, it is still approved for sale. Crazy?? YES!! According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry… Propylene glycol breaks down in the body in about 48 hours. However, studies of people and animals show that if you have repeated eye, skin, nasal, or oral exposures to propylene glycol for a short time, you may develop some irritation”. I wonder what their definition of ‘Short-time’ is?  Day in and day out??

SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES) a detergent and surfactant causes eye or skin irritation in experiments conducted on animals and humans”4. You can find this ingredient in your home spray cleaners, toilet cleaners, shower cleaners etc.

AMMONIUM CHLORIDE used in glass cleaning and bench cleaning sprays produces strong fumes that are potentially damaging to mucous membranes such as eyes, nose and airways.

HYDROCHLORIC ACID is found in toilet and shower screen/tile cleaners. It’s corrosive and its fumes can result in asthma like symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness5. Skin contact can blister and burn skin.

TRICLOSAN is a common ingredient in antibacterial cleaners and hand sanitisers. Apparently, an individual can only absorb a small amount of triclosan through the skin or the mouth. However, in a 2004 study of participants aged 6yrs and older, Triclosan was detected in the urine of nearly 75% of the people tested6. So, on one hand they say it is only absorbed in small amounts, but it is found in urine of nearly 75% of people. Wtf? Other research indicates that, “There is some concern that widespread use of triclosan and other biocides can alter antibiotic resistance in bacteria”7. Amazing hey, the very thing meant to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay may make it stronger!

BENZISOTHIAZOLINONE is used as a preservative and antimicrobial in room air-fresheners. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates it as a HIGH concern due to its irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs. A 2013 study8 showed that when combined with Citral and Triclosan (also used in cleaning products) had a negative effect on lung epithelial cells, inhibiting cell growth. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (EU) says due to a lack of data it should not be used in personal care items. But apparently it is ok to spray around the home and inhale it?? Seriously??

Also, Formaldehyde can be used in small concentrations as a preservative in cleaning products and air fresheners. It can interfere with the ability to smell by coating nasal passages with an oily film.

I really could go on and on. There was a heap more ingredients, but you get the picture, right?

And the effects of these chemicals on the Gut Microbiome have not even been researched yet but knowing its detrimental effects on the body it’s hard to imagine it doesn’t affect the microbiome, considering we are more bacteria than cells.

So, what to do?

BIN all your cleaning products – you and your family’s health is paramount here.

What to use instead?

You can try plain white vinegar and bicarb of soda, with a splash of lemon juice or essential oil. It’s simple, cheap and effective.

However, I used the bicarb/vinegar method for a couple of years but found it wasn’t suitable for all surfaces e.g. wood, leather; and boy it can be messy!

So, I set off to work in the Voi Lab to develop an alternative.

My aim was to develop an Organic Cleaning Do-it-all to replace the shelf of products used in most homes. Something safe, non-toxic and highly effective on ALL surfaces.

After one-year with multiple testing participants the result was… OCD Spray.

As the name implies… OCD Spray really DOES IT ALL, from pillows to floors. It can be used as a cleaner, air-freshener and naturally deters pests. It is sold as a concentrate reducing waste. A 50ml bottle of concentrate makes 15 x 500ml bottles making it cost effective at $5.20 a bottle.

OCD Spray ingredients….

CLOVE an antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral oil. It kills mould rather than just bleaching it.  Clove oil has an anti-inflammatory effect on the respiratory system and can help clear the nasal passages. It is used as an expectorant (promotes the secretion phlegm) and has been used for centuries to treat various respiratory disorders. As a bonus, it’s an excellent natural Insect Repellent as its vapour is too potent for the olfactory senses of many insects.

EUCALYPTUS is another oil excellent for relieving respiratory problem symptoms such as cough, sore throat, running nose, nasal congestion, bronchitis, and sinusitis. This wonderful oil – sourced right here in Australia – has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. It has been shown to kill bacterial germs in the air keeping rooms clean and sterilized naturally. A 2013 study showed that in just 4-days patients treated with Cineole (Eucalyptus oil contains 60% cineole) “showed significantly more improvements of the bronchitis-sum-score than those of the placebo group” 9.

LEMON has natural anti-infection, antiseptic, antifungal and disinfectant properties. One of the most popular fruits in the world it is used to relieve symptoms of colds and flus and gives desserts a beautiful taste and aroma. Lemon essential oil can be used on any surface as an all-purpose disinfectant.

TEA TREE OIL (TTO) is sourced here in Australia (Melaleuca). It has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, and insecticide properties. And if you’ve ever had a whiff of it you’d know why! Potent little bugger! Pathogenic bacteria and microbes lurking in your home don’t stand a chance against this oil. Making it an excellent oil for kitchen and bathroom surfaces. As a bonus Tea tree oil is a great insect deterrent. A 2011 study10 concluded that TTO was effective as a deterrent to the different stages of the Australian sheep blowfly larvae. Not that you have larvae hanging around the home but you do have flies that lay larvae! The study showed that TTO aroma stimulated larvae to leave the wound, and its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties aided in wound healing.

ROSEMARY is touted as one of the most popular essential oils. Apart from its ability to boost mental activity, I am in love with its ability to help relieve stress. A Japanese 200511 study showed that it can decrease cortisol levels in saliva. Cortisol, our ‘flight or fight’ response to stress wreaks havoc on the body over time. So, by using the OCD Spray in your home you will probably feel a lot calmer 😉 But Rosemary’s wonderful effects don’t stop there. It works extremely well to remove bad odours (keep an OCD Spray in the toilet!!). Its inhalation has shown to improve the body’s immune response can increase the strength of the immune system and help and can help to ease symptoms of chest and nasal congestion, allergies, colds and flu.

LAVENDER oil has superior antibacterial and antiviral properties but I think the stand out for this oil is its ability to calm the nervous system. Excellent for those of you that are frazzled from working or day, or from the kids. And for all you women who find it hard to sleep – good news – use your OCD Spray to clean surfaces in the bedroom because a 2011 study12 showed that inhalation of lavender oil showed a significant decrease in mean heart rate (HR) which means the nervous system is significantly calmed by the inhalation of lavender which equals better sleep. Further studies show that many essential oils, such as lavender, can bypass the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapeutic agents to the brain13 exerting positive benefits on the nervous system. As an added bonus mosquitoes don’t like the smell so no more ‘mozzies’ flying around your ears at night keeping you up 😉

SAGE is one of my favourite oils for cleaning. I love the aroma, maybe because it reminds me of Italian food. It has amazing properties… antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal. A 2007 Study 14 tested the antimicrobial activity against 13 bacterial strains and 6 fungi. It revealed that both Sage, and Rosemary, had important antibacterial activity against bacteria’s such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, S. enteritidis, and Shigella sonei. Making it an excellent addition to the OCD Spray. Also, its inhalation can help relieve congestion caused from colds and flu.

THYME another oil I am obsessed with. Maybe food related too?? It has superior antiseptic, antibacterial and insecticide properties. But probably why I love this oil is because of its ability to inhibit bacterial growth. Thyme essential oil is a wonderful expectorant helping to ease congestion. Much like lavender it is also used in aromatherapy due to its stress-relieving abilities. As an insecticide, it targets moths that tend to overtake your pantry. Use OCD Spray to wipe down pantry shelves and keep the moths away.

Finally, there is a Solubiliser in the mix. Solubiliser is necessary as it combines the essential oils and the water you add, without it would separate and you’d get oil globs on surfaces. I use a Natural Solubiliser made from fatty alcohols and glucose from vegetable origin and is ECOCERT Certified, preservative free and free of impurities.

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  1. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2007). http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/rccm.200612-1793OC
  2. (2009). Evaluation of cleaning activities on respiratory symptoms in asthmatic female homemakers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19205284
  3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov
  4. Final report on the safety assessment of sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 2(5): 1–34.  doi:10.3109/10915818309140713.
  5. Medical Management Guidelines for Hydrogen Chloride. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR). Atlanta, GA. (2014) Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014: chap 153.
  6. Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Fourth Report. (2003–2004). 2009 Report https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/fourthreport.pdf
  7. Aiello A.E, Larson E.L, Levy S.B. (2007). Consumer antibacterial soaps: effective or just risky? Clin Infect Dis 2007;45 Suppl 2:S137-S147.
  8. Kwon, et al. (2013) Cytotoxic effects of air freshener biocides in lung epithelial cells. Environmental Health Research Department, National Institute of Environmental Research, Korea.
  9. Efficacy of cineole in patients suffering from acute bronchitis: a placebo-controlled double-blind trial. (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842692/
  10. J.T, James. P.J. (2011). Insecticidal and repellent effects of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil against Lucilia cuprina. Veterinary Parasitology. Volume 184, Issues 2–4, 23 March 2012, Pages 271-278.
  11. T. (2005). Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Department of Oral Physiology, Meikai University, School of Dentistry, Japan. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2005.12.012
  12. L.W., Cheng.S.L., Liu. C.F. (2012). The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Article ID 740813 http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/740813
  13. E. Perry. N. (2003). Aromatherapy in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders. Clinical and Neuropharmacological Perspectives. https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00023210-200620040-00001
  14. Bozin, B et al. (2007). Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Properties of Rosemary and Sage (Rosmarinus officinalis L. and Salvia Officinalis L., Lamiaceae) Essential Oils. Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Novi Sad, Serbia. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007, 55 (19), pp 7879–7885. DOI: 10.1021/jf0715323
  15. Other sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC twenty-four seven. Saving Lives, Protecting People. https://www.cdc.gov/

One comment

  1. Jess says:

    Wow what a great reference to refer to. It’s amazing how suppliers don’t have to specify the source of Fragrance they use! Thankfully I’ve been onto this for a few years and using your wonderful products, but it’s a great reminder of these harmful ingredients that we are potentially exposed to each day. Thanks Nat!

    • State: WA
    • Country: Australia

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