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No one wants to live in a dirty home. After all, viruses, bacteria, and other germs lurk in spaces that haven’t been properly cleaned, which threatens the health of your entire family. However, using the wrong products can cause more harm than good — especially if you use cleaning ingredients that have been linked to cancer.


Unfortunately, there are several additives used in common household cleaners that may cause cancer, including those advertised as green- or natural-cleaning solutions. Some, such as sprays and aerosols, release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air when used, which can lead to mild issues, like headaches and skin irritation, or serious health complications, including cancer. Others are dangerous if they’re ingested, either as you clean with them or after they’ve lingered on your home’s surfaces. 


It’s important to carefully read ingredient lists when choosing cleaning products to use in your home. When you’re shopping for cleaning essentials, be on the lookout for these ingredients:


Ingredient Carcinogen Classification* Types of Cleaning Products with Ingredient
Aerosol propellant May contain carcinogens, per the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Air fresheners
  • Disinfectants
  • Foam cleansers
  • Pesticides
Benzene Human carcinogen
  • Bleach powders
  • Furniture wax
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Powder laundry detergent
  • Varnish removers
Dichlorobenzene (also listed as paradichlorobenzene and p-dichlorobenzene) Possible human carcinogen, per the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Air fresheners
  • Moth balls
Formaldehyde (also listed as formalin) Human carcinogen
  • Clothing detergent
  • Hand soap
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Powder dishwashing soap
Methylene chloride (also listed as methylene dichloride and dichloromethane) Probable human carcinogen
  • Metal tarnish removers
  • Paint removers
  • Rust removers
  • Varnish removers
  • Wood cleaners
Naphthalene Possible human carcinogen
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Mothballs
  • Upholstery cleaners
Nitrobenzene Possible human carcinogen
  • Floor polish
  • Furniture polish
  • Hand soap
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
Perchloroethylene (also listed as PERC) Probable human carcinogen
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Dry-cleaning products
  • Stain removers
  • Upholstery cleaners
Petroleum distillate May contain carcinogens, per findings from research conducted by the European Union
  • Air fresheners
  • Hand soap
Thiourea Carcinogenic classification unknown (more research needs to be done)
  • Metal polish
  • Metal tarnish removers
Triclosan Under review by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Air filters
  • Hand soap
  • Liquid dishwashing soap

*Carcinogen classifications are assigned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), unless otherwise noted.


Green Cleaning Solutions


If you’re having trouble finding products that don’t contain ingredients that are linked to cancer, it’s easy to make your own natural solutions. Whether you want to make green cleaning products to keep your children, senior loved ones, or pets safe and healthy, grab a few of these essentials, and use our guides  to make your own all-natural DIY cleaners and other cleaning and safety products:


Baking soda Coarse salt Rubbing alcohol
Castile soap Cornstarch Soap nuts
Citronella Essential oils Vinegar
Citrus juice and rinds Grain alcohol Witch hazel


It’s important to note that there is one solution you should never make: never mix bleach (or any product containing bleach) with ammonia. This combination produces a gas that can be fatal when inhaled.


When you clean your home, your goal is to make it a safer and healthier place to live for every member of your family. Keeping an eye out for truly green cleaning products — or making your own — that don’t have potentially-harmful ingredients will help you create an environment that’s as sanitary as it is safe.