Your pet’s health is necessary for a long and happy life.
With the onslaught of chemicals that face you and your pet day to day, how are you to avoid harmful toxins that can build up in the body and have damaging and lasting effects?
While you can’t eliminate all of the toxic chemicals that your pet comes in contact with, product choice can make a big difference when it comes to exposure, particularly when it comes to household cleaning – the culprit for some of the most dangerous chemicals in our homes.
As an eco-friendly and pet friendly house cleaning service, you’re pet’s health is our concern. This is why we only use environmentally friendly products when we clean your home.
If you’re cleaning your own home, choosing pet-friendly, safe options will ensure you are doing your best to reduce your pet’s exposure to these harmful substances.
Ingredients to Avoid: 5 Chemicals Harmful to Your Pet
These toxic ingredients are prevalent in many common house cleaning products, even those that are marketed as green or natural. While they may make cleaning easy and give you that fresh, clean scent, they could be giving you and your pet long term exposure to some pretty hazardous chemicals.
Watch out for these ingredients, which are known to be toxic to dogs and cats:
This highly alkaline product is especially concerning to pets as it is denser than air, which means those poisonous fumes are pet level. For your pet, who breathes in faster than you do, that means more toxins are absorbed into their system. Though naturally occurring, chlorine in high concentrations can be deadly to pets. Avoid bleach whenever possible, using oxygen “bleaches” instead in your laundry and for stain removal. Chlorine can be found in anything from laundry detergents to all-purpose cleaners.
Ammonia is a very alkaline natural product and many people choose it because it’s a highly effective cleaning agent. However, it’s simply not worth it when you consider that ammonia is also highly toxic to your pet, causing possible severe damage to eyes, skin, stomach, and even causing death with enough exposure. And your pet can be exposed a few ways: through inhalation of fumes or ingestion of product or residues. Ammonia is found commonly in oven cleaners, window cleaners, floor waxes, and fertilizers – often as ammonium hydroxide.
With the rise of cheap, DIY cleaners, some pure and “natural” ingredients such as ammonia are finding their way into homes again. If you have pets, keep these toxic cleaners well out of reach, or better yet, don’t use them at all.
Glycol ethers are effective cleaners because they help cut grease where just soap and water fail. However, these powerful chemicals are known to cause various cancers in lab rats, as well as birth defects, delayed development, and other effects, such as anemia, eye and nose irritation, and weight loss. Watch out: glycol ethers are common in many green, natural cleaners, as well as liquid soaps. You can also find them in paints, inks, perfumes, and cosmetics, among other things. Commonly listed as 2-Methoxyethanol, 2-Ethoxyethanol, and 2-Butoxyethanol.
Formaldehyde, while commonly known as a preservative and embalming fluid, is also found in many cleaning products for its antibacterial effects. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen in humans and can also cause a range of uncomfortable physical symptoms, including irritation of the mouth and throat lining. Exposure usually comes from inhalation, though you can absorb small amounts through the skin as well. The biggest concern for your pet would be inhaling formaldehyde through vapours in the air from cleaning products. Though it doesn’t have to be listed on your cleaner ingredient list, other names for formaldehyde include: formalin, formic aldehyde, methanediol, methanol, methyl aldehyde, methylene glycol, and methylene oxide.
Used for fragrance in household cleaners and deodorizers, cosmetics, packaging, toys, food, and many other products, phthalates are known hormone-disruptors. Since hormones control so much more than just reproduction in your pet’s system (and yours), phthalates have been linked to indirect symptoms such as weight gain, cancers, and developmental delays. You’ve probably heard of the commonly known phthalate, BPA, but there are many more.
Where These Harmful Ingredients are Found: The Common Culprits
Here’s where you are most likely to find the toxic ingredients listed above, and a number of other unsavoury chemicals that could be harming you and your pet.
- Bleach – Can be found in concentrated form or in a variety of household cleaners and detergents. Choose oxygen bleaches (hydrogen peroxide based) instead as a safer, eco-friendly alternative. Oxygen bleach works by releasing oxygen when it comes in contact with water, leaving natural borax or ash behind – which is safe for people, pets, and the earth.
- Laundry Detergent – Harmful chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), 1,4-dioxane, NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) are harmful to pets, and are one of the most common causes of skin allergies in cats and dogs. Some of these ingredients don’t even need to be listed on your detergent. The resulting skin irritation these chemicals create can manifest in hot spots, dry, itchy & flaky skin, and constant biting and scratching, which can be frustrating for pet and owner alike. These symptoms can appear simply from irritants or harsh chemicals in laundry detergent, and can also include raised, itchy, red spots and even lesions on your pet’s skin, especially in areas with more skin exposure.
- Toilet Bowl Cleaners – Dogs and cats love drinking (or playing around in) water from toilets. Toilet bowl cleaners, particularly ones that stay in your toilet and clean continuously can be toxic to pets, and they might not know enough to stay away. Choose a pet-safe toilet bowl cleaner and avoid stick-on products. Close your toilet lid to further prevent your pet from playing or drinking in the toilet.
- Automatic Dishwasher Detergent – While harmful phosphates have been banned in all household cleaning products in Canada, there are still ingredients to watch out for. Dry chlorine (bleach) is a major component of many detergents, which can dry out and irritate skin.
- Oven Cleaners – Oven cleaners are highly toxic, particularly the fumes, which your pet is likely to inhale at least some of. Ammonia is the main component in oven cleaners, and while natural, it is not safe and can burn on contact. Use a baking soda paste instead for stuck on grease paired with a semi-abrasive sponge.
- Window Cleaners – While they may seem simple and harmless, window cleaners, like oven cleaners, often contain ammonia.
- Carpet Cleaners – Every pet owner struggles with removing stains and odours from carpets. But concentrated chemical cleaners is not the way to go if you have pets. They are less effective and more harmful to dogs and cats (and you, too), and are not as effective as the right natural solutions. Carpet cleaners often contain ammonia and an array of other toxic chemicals, including 2-Butoxyethanol. Your pet gets a lot of contact with the carpet. The exposure to these hazardous chemicals is just not worth the risk.
- Drain Cleaners – Ammonia again is the main culprit here. While your pet isn’t likely to get close to too many drains, drain cleaners often give off highly toxic fumes while they are working. These fumes can spread far and wide if they area is not secured and properly ventilated (close the door and open a window).
Safer, Natural Alternatives
There are so many natural and safe alternatives out there that you don’t have to rely on heavy-duty, toxic chemicals. Try these safer, natural solutions:
Vinegar and baking soda work wonders on many simple messes around the house.
Have a sink drain that needs to freshen up? Try using baking soda followed by vinegar (1:1 ratio), leaving it for 10 minutes, and then chasing it with boiling water. This can control odour and eliminate some common residue. If it’s a bathroom drain, use a mechanical hair removal tool or try a snake or plunger for stubborn clogs.
For clean windows, ditch the commercial spray and use an old trick: spray dilute vinegar on windows and wipe clean with newspaper. It’s safe, cheap, and works!
Pet safe cleaners are out there on the market. However, just because it’s labeled green does not mean it doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. That being said, it’s
still likely a safer bet than traditional chemical cleaners.
Microfiber cloths, abrasives (such as borax), and other mechanical cleaners are a safer alternative to chemical cleaners. With the green technology out there today, often these alternatives do not mean more work for you, contrary to popular opinion.
Enzyme and bacterial-based pet cleaners are the best for cleaning organic pet messes, such as vomit, diarrhea, urine, and blood out of fabric surfaces. These solutions actually break down and eliminate the offending stains and odors, and in a completely natural way.
Sources and More Information
Amy Dyck is the blog writer and social media manager for Homes Alive Pets, which specializes in natural pet care, offering tips and articles on pet nutrition, health, and solving pet issues. She’s been working in the pet industry for 12 years, and writing about all aspects of pet ownership for 8 years.