Household cleaners also release harmful gases

Household cleaners also release harmful gases ecological products release significantly less than conventional ones

An American environmental group has analysed 30 common supermarket products. The results also show why we are better off avoiding spray bottles.

The toilet should be really clean, the washbasin tap should shine and the sink in the kitchen too, of course. And everything should also smell nice. There is a wide range of special cleaning agents available for this purpose, which almost every household sprays and smears valiantly. Be honest: how many different household cleaners do you have in your cleaning cupboard?

But these products don’t just do what they promise, namely remove stains and bacteria. They can also be harmful, both to the user and to the environment.

More than 500 substances found


This is because the products release a large number of gaseous substances, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), when sprayed and scrubbed. These include hydrocarbons, chlorine gases, alcohols and fragrances. A new study by the American environmental organisation Environmental Working Grou recently tested 30 common cleaning products available in normal American supermarkets for VOCs.

Glass, toilet, floor, carpet and all-purpose cleaners were analysed. 14 of them were so-called conventional products, the others were labelled as organic or “green”. Comparable products with the same ingredients are also available in The Netherlands.

The researchers from the environmental organisation emphasised that they wanted to specifically investigate whether the “green” products were actually less harmful. For the tests, the number of sprays or gel portions recommended in the instructions were applied in a chamber in a special test laboratory. The resulting gases were immediately extracted and analysed. The cleaning performance of the products was not analysed.

The winners are fragrance-free eco-cleaning products

In total, these agents released 530 different VOCs. As promised, the “green” cleaning agents released fewer substances per application than the conventional ones, namely only half as many. The inglorious outlier was the organic room spray analysed. This produced very high levels of VOCs overall and was also no better than the conventional comparison product. The organic cleaners without fragrances produced the lowest emissions. They produced eight times fewer VOCs than the conventional products.

Of course, not every VOC is dangerous. However, 193 of the substances detected in the cleaning agents are classified as harmful to humans and/or the environment according to toxicity lists published by authorities in the USA and Europe. For example, substances were discovered that can affect the respiratory tract, liver or brain or cause cancer.

However, many of the VOCs released from the cleaning agents were released in such small quantities that inhalation was not dangerous. But there were also exceptions: For example, two conventional bleaching agents, such as those used to clean the toilet, released chlorine gases and formaldehyde. Even in low concentrations, these can burn the respiratory tract or trigger allergies, and can also cause cancer after frequent contact.

Some fragrances released, such as pinenes or limonene, which is found in lemons, are also not harmless, even in small quantities. They irritate the respiratory tract, trigger allergies and are harmful to aquatic animals. Once again, conventional products performed worse on average.

Other sources of VOCs such as road traffic, combustion or industrial processes release significantly more harmful VOCs than cleaning products. However, we are usually directly and regularly exposed to the latter. Previous studies have shown that cleaning products and their exhaust fumes can therefore be harmful to health in the long term.

People who clean frequently or almost daily at work or at home are more likely to suffer from allergies, respiratory diseases or lung function disorders. An international study carried out several lung function tests on more than 6000 test subjects. The women who had regularly used cleaning products for 20 years showed similarly poor lung performance to people who smoked 20 cigarettes a day for a year.

Based on the new results and previous studies, some recommendations for action can be derived, emphasise the researchers of the Environmental Working Group. For example, cleaners labelled as ecological are really better, both for users and for the environment. Above all, products without fragrances should be used. If possible, we should also use gels or liquids instead of sprays, as the latter release more gases and particles into our airways. And last but not least, room fragrance sprays should be avoided. Instead, it is better to remove the sources of unpleasant odours and ventilate sufficiently.

Do you have a problem with solvents or VOCs in your premises or would you like to know whether the total concentration of VOCs is below the guideline values?

Then ask us for a quote today!

We offer various measurement methods:

– TVOC measurement by one of our experts using electronic measuring devices

– Active sampling with a pump by one of our experts and subsequent analysis in the laboratory for over 150 different VOCs

-Passive sampling by you over a longer period of time with a batch and subsequent analysis in the laboratory for over 150 different VOCs